Today was unfortunately our last day in Rio and we are off to home tomorrow! While it is extremely sad, I feel we had a fitting farewell.
Our first stop was at the International Broadcast Center where we learned all about the process of producing and broadcasting the World Cup. While it really wasn’t my area of interest it was still interesting seeing how the beautiful game is broadcasted into the homes of millions of people throughout the world. One of our unexpected stops was in the television studio for Televisa, a Mexican television station that was covering the World Cup and we got to check out their set
Then after the IBC we headed back to our hotel for an authentic Brazilian barbecue prepared by our driver Daniel. Daniel is truly a jack of all trades, he’s a great cook, a police officer, a driver, an event promoter and as we would soon find out a great soccer player. We had delicious food and ended the barbecue with a little ceremony to thank Rodrigo and Daniel, the dream team that helped make our time here so amazing!
But of course, no Brazilian celebration is complete without a friendly soccer match that we roped Rodrigo and Daniel into! And let me just say that each of them are probably about 40 years old and wiped the floor with us! But it was a whole lot of fun and definitely a workout, and here is some proof that I have a little athleticism left in my body…
And if that didn’t tire us out enough, we decided that one final fans of volleyball was in order! While my team lost the soccer match we cleaned house in volleyball, which is my sport anyway. Even in the sand, after years off the court, it appears I still got something left in the volleyball tank!
It’s hard to believe that this experience is over, and I will post in a couple days summing up my whole experience but to make it short, this truly was the experience of a lifetime and one I will NEVER forget! Thank you Rio! See you again soon (hopefully).
Today we headed to our third and final match at the iconic Maracana stadium to watch Belgium play Russia.
While I didn’t really have a dog in this fight as Professor Hamakawa would say, it was still another amazing opportunity in Maracana. While sitting in the stands we were surrounded by Belgian fans and one offered to paint my face with their flag, so of course I had to say yes!
With their flag on my face I quickly caught Belgian fever (if that’s a thing). Most of the game went scoreless until the 85th minute when Belgium scored and won 1-0!! I got high gives from Belgians all around me and they embraced me as their own!
It was a great way to say
goodbye see you later to Estadio do Maracanã!
On our way home from the match we stopped at a giant festival celebrating Brazilian culture. We had more delicious Brazilian food, heard Brazilian music and saw a little Brazilian dancing!
We finished off the day by watching the US vs Portugal game back in our hotel where we hoped to see the US secure a spot in the round of 16 with a win over Ronaldo and his Portugal squad. Admittedly, I did not have much faith in the US to get past Portugal, and they almost proved me wrong. The match was back and forth with the US and Portugal trading goals. Then Clint Dempsey put the US ahead 2-1 and the clock was winding down. The ref added 5 minutes of stoppage time and at about 44:30 it looked like the US was about to pull out the upset. Then Ronaldo got the ball and he did what he has done time after time, made a great play. With one of the most beautiful crosses I’ve ever seen he set up his teammate for a goal as time expired. It was deflating for US fans but at the same time, nobody can deny the perfection of that pass. It’s not called the group of death for nothing…
Tomorrow is our last full day in Rio, and I have to stop typing their so my tears don’t damage my keyboard.
So today was a relatively short day but still one filled with heartache on the pitch!
First off was our delegation friendly where we played a game of 5-on-5 soccer in honor of the World Cup. After taking an early 4-0 lead I was feeling pretty confident in my team. Then the other team battled back for a 10-9 victory. In the end we all had fun and had a nice little workout! But I still hate losing!
Then we went to attend our 2nd of 3 World Cup matches pitting the defending world champions Spain against Chile, a team not many thought had a chance. Before we even got into the stadium we were stopped by a group of entertainers and we got a workout in as they taught us some dances to warmup for the game!
Walking into Maracana I quickly saw I was outnumbered as a Spain fan as the stadium was filled with Chileans. Still I felt confident in my team, a confidence that quickly faded as they lost 2-0 and were knocked out of the World Cup! My heart still aches but I will forever bleed red and yellow for La Furia Roja! Viva España! Campeones Siempre!!
Even though I hate seeing my team lose there is a silver lining here, I no longer have to split my time between Spain and Argentina and can devote all my attention to Messi! Argentina para Los campeones del mundial!
So my first official day in Rio has come to and end and I can say the bar has been set extremely high! Even if this was my only day here I would be happy, fortunately I still have many more. In just my first day here I’ve had the experience of a life time!
It all started with the drive from the airport. The first thing that was very evident was the vast gap between the classes. If you think there is a wealth gap in the US, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Rio. One minute we are looking at brand new stadiums and state of the art residential and business buildings and right next door are the favelas barely standing on their own. Can’t wait to explore this a little more!
Then came the moment I’ve dreamt about; watching Lionel Messi lead Argentina in their match against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Not only did I get to watch my favorite athlete in the world play I got to do it in the LEGENDARY Maracana Stadium, the temple of soccer. I am still in disbelief that I was able to watch it and be so close to the pitch!
Other than the fact that Argentina won 2-1, I got to see Messi score a goal in true Messi fashion, by making it look easy! At times I felt I could touch him he was so close, just look!
In tonight’s excitement I hugged strangers, jumped up and down with them and sang songs I didn’t even know the words to. Regardless of whether the people around me tonight were Hispanic, Brazilian or Bosnian, tonight’s only language was football. One day in and my dream has come true, can’t wait to see what’s in store from here on out!