Postcards From Rio: Part 4
UW women's soccer coach Lesle Gallimore provides this action-packed recap of the last three days of the Huskies' trip to Rio de Janiero, Brazil:
Brazil. Day 6
We had a free morning and no game on the horizon for two days, so everyone went for a good hard run when they got up. Mostly towards Copacabana Beach, which is the next beach north of where we are staying in Ipanema.
Then there was a bit of beach time before lunch, followed by some shopping and more beach time as our departure from the hotel was delayed by a few hours.
We did eventually leave the hotel by bus to head to yet another beautiful beach, this one on a bay and called Flamenco Beach. We met up again with the coach and Amy's friend from Team Chicago, Alex Mathias. Alex spent almost two hours giving our team a Beach Soccer lesson and running a 4 versus 4 beach soccer tournament with the group. A lot of them had already taken to playing pick-up games on Ipanema, but Alex was able to give them some good instruction on lifting the ball out of the sand and dribbling (juggling ) the ball in the air to pass and shoot off the volley. It was fun to watch, and as I have grown accustomed to, our team in bathing suits playing athletics creates quite a spectacle for the locals at the beach. Just when you think nobody is watching, a goal is scored, and a roar erupts from the locals making you think you are in Maracana Stadium! It is pretty cool.
After the beach we showered, had the girls dress up and bring a warm wrap to dinner as there was a little surprise in store for them. We dined another local Brasilian buffet and charrascaria (various rotisseries cooked meats on a skewer that they bring to your plate throughout the meal and ask if you would like a slice). Tonight was fun because there is actually a class of 22 students from the UW staying in Ipanema at a youth hostel. Their professor, Jonathon Warren, teaches Latin American Studies in the Evans School at UW and is in our hotel. They coincidentally had a long table next to ours at the restaurant. Our team and the other Huskies mingled during and after dinner and shared their different stories. It was great to be amongst fellow Dawgs all the way in Rio!
We went back to the hotel to catch the bus to head to our mystery destination. We had our guides, Jon, Antonio and Andre, convince the team that they were going to go and visit the rest of Old Rio by bus to finish the tour that had been abbreviated earlier in the trip. Andre was very good at pointing out City Hall, the Library, the Natural History Museum and other things that he said were "Old School" and looked just a little different at night. You are probably even getting a little bored reading this. To their credit, the team did not moan too much and acted just polite enough that we were happy for them when we arrived at our destination.
Earlier in the week, Antonio was able to purchase and arrange for discounted tickets (they are usually 150 Reads and he got them for 75 R...which is about $40.00 U.S.) to a festa (party) that happens once a year for two nights in Rio on the first plateau of Sugar Loaf Mountain! (There are two stops, the second being higher and smaller).
We arrived and were whisked away by Andre down a red carpet and through security like VIPs; we were searched and given tickets and then lead to the cable cars. These glass cable cars give you a 360-degree view on the way up and this alone was worth the price of admission, but it got better. The team slowly but surely figured out this was something special. There were probably 5,000 people there that night and we arrived at the beginning of the party at about 9:30 p.m. There were multiple dance floors and booths and a concert hall. Most of the activity was outdoors. There were food and drink vendors so we could sample all of the local goodies as the night wore on. The dancing began in one area and it was mostly current popular music, hip-hop and techno stuff played by a D.J.
Suddenly there was crowd movement at a bit after midnight and we all just let moved with the crowd into the main concert hall. A very famous Brazilian percussion band, Mono Blanco, was appearing live. Somehow, some way, our entire group of 30-plus made it to the front of the stage on the floor. The power of music is great as you didn't need to be able to understand Portuguese to enjoy this band. There were 19 male members of the band and all but three were playing some type of percussion. It was clear the locals loved these guys and they played for hours! We all danced, sang, and enjoyed being part of the local scene. We actually almost, kind of, sort of, blended in!
I have to give kudos to Mike, Rose, Jim, Amy and Miranda for helping keep track of our team. Just because we were having a good time we didn't want to let down our guard and have something bad happen. Everyone was very well behaved and we left Sugar Loaf Mountain in the wee hours. Off to bed we went, everyone with a story and a smile on their face. It was for sure an epic night and one to remember. The view of Rio at night from Sugar Loaf is one I'll never forget. I hope to come again.
Day 7, Saturday, June 20:
There is not really a morning to speak of, as most people didn't rise till about 11 a.m.; some were more adventurous and got up before 10 a.m. so as not to miss the breakfast buffet. Eventually everyone congregated on the beach to relive the previous night's adventure.
The usual vendor extravaganza ensued at the beach, only the bikini shopping was wearing thin and now it was all about henna tattoos. I will just let you know here, I have partaken in neither. Some more beach soccer broke out as did Jim in a sunga (unsure of spelling, but it's a Speedo) in Brazil colors, he also rented a board and did some surfing. Mike Dillon did not partake in either of these two things and he, Amy and I are really hanging well together in Rio!
We left the hotel in the late afternoon to again meet one of the previous coaches, Igor from Team Chicago, for a little futsal lesson. Futsal is 5 v 5 soccer played on a type of court. This one was in a local neighborhood that was a little daunting, but like a lot of places we've been, a bit surreal. We walked from the bus up this steep hill through a neighborhood and suddenly this open-air court appears. We meet Igor and the lesson begins. This was great for the players as the game of futsal teaches you to use different surfaces of your feet and tactically your support of the ball is important. The goals are smaller and the ground harder for the goalkeepers, so hats of to Jorde and Kari who played the entire time, dove around, made a lot of great saves and basically sacrificed their bodies for the good of the cause.
Futsal was outstanding and the players worked really hard, rotating in and out and competing to win as they always do. It was really fun to watch. There was one little damper on the activity as two of the players' bags were stolen right underneath our noses. Oddly enough it was Kari and Jorde's bags which contained cameras and money. Fortunately a lot of the pictures had already been downloaded. As much as it sucked, it was more amazing than anything as 6 of us; Jim, Jon, Amy, Mike, Rose, Makenna Brinster and I were all "guarding" the bags. Literally we thought we had the pile of them surrounded. There were a few locals who had just finished playing who stayed to watch and they kept their distance and chatted with us. The players came up for a water break and then headed back to the court. Jon did notice two guys that came and sat closer and then left. It wasn't until the session had ended that we realized Jorde and Kari's bags were missing, complete with cameras, credit cards and cash. Jon quickly realized that their bags and probably dropped down below the large steps where we couldn't see them and these two guys slid a foot over to snag the bags and leave ... unbelievably bold and stealthy, it was actually as impressive as it was agitating. All cards canceled, money gone, most pictures had been downloaded already so that was good. Anyway, for all we have heard about Rio and its dangers I would have been surprised if we left here without incident. We are seven days in and down three cameras, two wallets ... for a group of 30 I'm guessing we're below the average with a couple days left. We are on alert and aim to keep our losses as they are and keep reminding ourselves that everyone is still healthy and safe which is of course, more important that "stuff".
Another ridiculous dinner and we eat much later here than most of us are accustomed, 10 o'clock or so. Tonight we had to tell people to take the toothpicks out of their mouths at the table as several of them were dozing off! We are worn out but the end of the trip is in sight and everyone is having anxiety about it ending. Nobody wants it to be over! Boa noite ... good night.
Day 8, Sunday, June 21st...first day of winter here and Father's Day at home:
Game day today and our third game of the trip. We left the hotel at 8:30 a.m. and drove for almost two hours. We were up in the hills somewhere still in the state of Rio de Janeiro, but in a more green, lush and mountainous area. One that you would suspect had more insects ... more on that later while I pause to scratch on of my 46 bites. Eek.
Out of nowhere popped this random grass soccer field with a few locals awaiting our arrival. Our players dress in a small cement building and watched as some younger girls in street clothes started to gather as well. This was apparently the team we would play. They were a younger team than in the other games, mainly 15-18 year olds.
It was a hot day and the level of the game would not necessarily be what we had hoped for, but the atmosphere and challenge of the environment made for a great experience, as have most things here in Brazil. Our opponents played an extremely high, flat defense and our team did not initially adapt and we were called offside more times that I cared to note. We eventually figured it out and were able to score three goals in the first half: two by McKenna Waitley and one by Kate Deines. We changed the majority of the team at half and put restrictions on how they could score: one-touch finishes and goals from crosses were the only thing allowed. We did some decent things but the long lay-off between games did not serve us well as far as a level of play. Jane Mitchell scored a nice second half goal and it ended up 4-0 for the Huskies.
Another frenzy of jersey giveaways took place post-game and the opponents wanted jerseys for their friends and family as well. It was crazy and we had to drag the team back to the bus for the long ride back.
We had just enough time upon return to shower, eat and catch the Brazil-Italy game as well as be updated on the U.S.-Egypt score. All were happy as both teams advance to the semi-finals of the Confederation Cup. Many players skipped the game to shop at the weekly Sunday market. Money flying as usual!
It was then off to our second pro match at Maracana Stadium. We saw Andre's local favorite, Flamengo, play Internacional, which was currently in second place. Flamengo had lost their last game 5-0 and the first game we saw was a snoozer, so we weren't holding out high hopes for a great game. We were wrong! The atmosphere for Flamengo was way better than for Fluminese, and the game itself was much better. 4-0 Flamengo and a hat trick for Adriano! Great goals, great atmosphere, and many Flamengo jerseys purchased by the team!!
Another huge dinner, Jim a little under the weather, everyone nursing bug bites, but everyone with smiles, although fatigued smiles, on their faces in anticipation of another great day. Tomorrow we have our final game in the afternoon and a morning treat. Stay tuned as it promises to be a lot of fun down the stretch!
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