Dirty Tackle's Ryan Bailey is in Rio de Janeiro covering the 2014 World Cup for Yahoo Sports. In this irregularly dispatched diary, he will share his experiences of Brazil, his thoughts on the games and his overt humblebrags...
Why are Brazilians so good at football?
It's a very common question, and one which is often given a two-fold answer: a nationwide passion for the game that makes it inescapable, and youth training techniques that focus on skill and close control. During my time in Rio, I have seen how seriously Brazilians take the game — I write this piece as the country grinds to a halt for a national holiday to watch the Selecao play in the World Cup quarterfinals — and have now have first-hand experience of futebol.
On Thursday, I went to the Flamengo neighborhood to see the 16-year-old son of one of our local guides train with his team. I was asked to join in with a pick-up game and duly obliged — despite the 85-degree heat and the daunting prospect of facing Brazilians half my age.
I have played on football teams for as long as I can remember, but this was a truly unique experience. All the kids were focused on short passes. The preference was always to pick out a teammate nearby, rather than hoof a long ball or take on a defender. No one tried to blast a shot from 30 yards and there was no unnecessary aggression. Essentially, it was nothing like the style of football I grew up with in England, and completely in line with what I have learnt about the Brazilian way from authors and coaches like Simon Clifford.
It was a fascinating experience. And I was only nutmegged once.
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to meet a man who knows a thing or two about the Brazilian style of play: Kaka.
The former World Player of the Year participated in a real-life version of popular DT franchise Ask Kaka, in which he spoke of his admiration for Ronaldo and his appreciation for MLS. Just a few days later, he touched down in Florida to be revealed as Orlando City's marquee signing.
This week I also managed to wangle an invite to a party held by Rio Ferdinand's #5 Magazine and a luxury Swiss watch brand. It was a surreal experience, not least because the guests at the intimate event included Alan Shearer, Dwight Yorke, Ian Wright, Ruud Gullit, Robbie Savage and everybody's favorite insane billionaire Flavio Briatore. These kinds of extravagant parties are held up and down the Copacabana every night, and it was eye-opening to witness one from right side of the velvet rope.
At one point in the evening, Ferdinand performed a guest DJ slot. By which I mean he plugged his iPhone into the PA and skipped through some choice tracks (he opened with Jamiroquai and closed with UB40). In the picture above, you can see Rio on the "decks" and the BBC's flagship gentleman Gary Lineker sitting in front of him.
I'll sign off today with the observation that the protests in Rio have not flourished in the manner many have expected. A heavy police presence has kept the dissenters at bay, while most marches that have emerged been peaceful.
An anti-FIFA demonstration that took place along the Copacabana on Friday, at the same time that FIFA's antiquated delegates were leaving their luxury hotel for the Maracana. The most eye-catching part of the samba-fuelled march was a very evil-looking version of World Cup armadillo and Ronaldo hugger Fuleco. Happy nightmares. everyone!
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