Photo: Jamie Trecker/FOX Soccer
By: Jamie Trecker
LEBLON BEACH, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
I first heard the screams from the beach. A gaggle of children were standing and pointing at the upper floors of the Sheraton. The second time I heard them, they were screaming and pointing in my general direction. The thing is: I was twenty-two floors up, on my hotel balcony.
I turned and looked to my left and saw a waving hand and an unmistakable hairdo.
As you will have gathered, I am staying approximately three doors down from Brazil’s hottest property. In one of those bizarre accidents that happens when you stumble into a tournament late, I have managed to be booked in the team hotel for Brazil. Journalists are normally kept far, far apart from teams, but evidently, Americans are considered harmless. Last night, Luiz Felipe Scolari was eating dinner across from me while Thiago Silva played with his very adorable young son. No one seemed to care that a tattooed guy wearing a FOX Soccer polo was sleepily trying to figure out how get a piece of fish off the bones.
The horde of local media is camped outside – considered more “dangerous” – sweating behind a chain-link line and flanked in the back by uplink trucks. They are hungry for content – any content. Yesterday, I saw one of them caressing Brazil’s team bus in an unsettling manner while doing a stand-up. On Saturday, a couple of them made a greedy-eyed line through the courtyard right for the bar.
Everyone wants a piece of the seleçāo. Scolari had to put up with two buxom women asking for his photograph last night in various poses before he could leave the table (admittedly, life could be worse) and every time a player wanders through the pool the servers fall all over themselves in an attempt to get an autograph. To say these guys are treated like rock stars or royalty underestimates the demand. Keith Richards could be passed out in a cabana in broad daylight and the kids would still be making a beeline for Julio Cesar.
Neymar is in a class of his own. He even has his own comic book, the second issue of which is on the stands now. In it, he teaches a bunny how to dribble, makes friends with a dolphin, falls in love with a female goalkeeper and has a number of aquatic adventures. His mother and father are happy and generous, and he is surrounded by a happy group of peers. That’s an idealized version of what was actually a pretty driven and grueling upbringing, but it’s part of the myth that now surrounds the young man.
And that, combined with his enormous, precious talent, is why everyone wants a piece of him. The shouts still ring out from far below on the pavement.
“Neymar! Neymar! Neymar!”
This piece is part of a series of pieces sponsored by the new Samsung Galaxy S 4 phone. The pictures that accompany this blog post were taken with it. Tweet me at @JamieTreckerFOX or use the #heytrecker hashtag @FOXSoccer.