Woke up today in the rain once again but it didn’t stop Duke Men’s Soccer from venturing out on another wonderfully eventful day. Meeting in the lobby at an unusually late hour of 8:30 am, many enjoyed the extra rest. Breakfast was especially sugary this morning with the majority of the team indulging in several slices of cake, as it was our first day in a while without a game in the morning. Boarding the bus at 9:00am we departed for Sugarloaf Mountain, one of Rio’s most intriguing and splendid sight seeing landmarks.
We arrived at the base of the mountain at 10:15 and were welcomed by dancing and singing clowns, jugglers, and Duke Blue skies. As we waited in line for the gondola, the championship round of rock, paper, scissors took place to determine who would be the lucky winner of writing today’s blog. And to my delight, I “won”! I got to write today’s blog. Take that Goldberg! Soon after we all loaded onto the gondola and road it to the top. The views were unanimously some of the best we had ever seen. Beaches, mountains, coves, waves, boats, favelas, bridges, and forests could be seen 360 degrees around us. It was a photographer’s heaven; the classic Brazilian landscape as seen on almost every world cup pregame show. And to top it all off Christo Redemptor (Christ the Redeemer) was looking over the entire view. Truly incredible.
When we descended, we made our way to a mall food court for lunch. After a quick bite to eat at Brazil’s finest dining, KFC, Alex Long decided to show off his Dance Dance Revolution skills to an audience of 50 in the mall arcade. It was a job well done when compared to other dancers on the team. However, a Brazilian woman showed us all really how to dance as she received a perfect score on the expert level. A round of applause for Long though for his valiant display of DDR and courageous participation.
From there, we went to a local futsal court where dozens of young Brazilian footballers were waiting to challenge Duke Men’s Soccer in a game of 5 v 5. But before the games began, we learned Capoeira, a Brazilian mix between dance, music, and martial arts. It is an art form first invented by Brazilian slaves hundreds of years ago.
As we were introduced to the basic moves and rhythms of Capoeira, we were partnered up and exploited for the entertainment of our Brazilian audience of a couple hundred. Johnny and Sau were the first to show off their moves as they combined Capoeira with moves of their own. Next up were Robby and Tom. They may have forgotten the Capoeira moves learned five minutes earlier, but they certainly put on a show. They looked about as “American tourist” as you can get. However their moves and willingness to participate were extremely admirable. They are two kids who are great world travelers and fantastic sports.
When the dancing was over, the football began. Although we played against young kids, their technical abilities were incredible.
A team of four Brazilian thirteen year olds took on Sean, Nat, Slotty, and Luis, four of Duke’s most valuable players. It was a technical group of players and a fun game to watch but the Brazilians came out on top. The games went on and on but the results remained the same, Brazilians on top time and time again. We will get them next time!
After the game we gave out “Blue Devil Army” shirts to all the kids, the majority of them around the age of 6, and took photos with them. They were very cute and ecstatic to meet us. I think we all felt very good to have been able to make a big difference in these kid’s lives. Sau made a few buddies (as always) amongst the kids and had quite a fan club by the end. We then made our way back on the bus and headed to the hotel. We were on our own for dinner tonight and a few of us went to a local Brazilian restaurant to watch the Honduras vs. Ecuador match. Dinner was amazing and we got some local ice cream afterwards. All in all it was a fantastic day. I am sad we only have 2 days left but the days keep getting better and better.
Today we drove just over an hour outside the city of Rio to play a friendly match against a local club, Arraial do Cabo de Rio de Janeiro. The end of the drive featured the bus pulling onto a gravel road and after about half a mile, backing up onto a side road a for a few hundred yards, eventually creeping into a vast, open field nestled between several enormous mountains and farms. The scenery was gorgeous, and it was a pleasure to play at such a site.
The game started under light rainfall, and we pulled ahead early with a 2-0 lead with two good strikes from Matt Slotnick. We played well for the remainder of the first half but were unable to convert any more chances to goals.
In the second half, the game’s momentum began to swing as Arrail do Cabo developed a rhythm, and eventually they made it 2-1 in about the 75th minute. Finally they equalized with about 7 or 8 minutes to go, and the final minutes saw both teams creating chances (one including the home side creatively using a tree along the goal-line to keep the ball inbounds on a corner kick), but neither could finish as the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
Overall it was a good experience for the squad. We were tested under foreign conditions and handled them well, and many graduated seniors spent their final moments on the pitch wearing a Duke shirt. Following the game, everyone had the rest of the day at their leisure (we were supposed to visit Sugar Loaf Mountain, but the weather delayed it until the following day). Many of us relaxed on the beach, walked around and visited local shops, and watched the England-Uruguay match.
It is always great to face international competition, and spending the rest day of the day on the beach and watching World Cup matches for recovery was the perfect complement to make another great day in Rio de Janeiro.