24
Jun

Trecker’s Brazil Travels: Games, protests take time off

image

Photo: Jamie Trecker/FOX Soccer

By: Jamie Trecker, FOXSoccer.com

 BOA VIAGEM, BRAZIL

It’s the Festa de Sao Joao this weekend here on the Brazilian coast. Up and down the miles of beachfront, people are setting off fireworks, lighting bonfires, roasting various meats and generally being silly.

The Festa de Sao Joao is nominally a religious holiday. In Portugal, the Feast of Saint John is a major occasion on the calendar; apparently the same day stops traffic in Goa, India. Here, it is a mid-winter party also called the “festa junina,” which translates exactly to what you think it does. Up here, it is a two-week carnival – it rivals Carnival in importance in the state of Pernambuco – and it is celebrated with country festivals and large outdoor concerts. People also dress up in a simulacrum of “country” attire, which in the cases I’ve seen, means wearing hats with fake pigtails and penciling on freckles.

While there may be some religion involved here this weekend (and I am perhaps the wrong correspondent to ask about such matters) what I have seen is go-for-it, hoedown partying. Saturday, horse-drawn carts carrying stacks of firewood came into the center of Recife’s beach neighborhoods, and dumped cords right onto the sidewalk. Some of them remained there, to be set alight after sunset. It’s a bit jarring to walk by a blaze on a sidewalk, especially when it’s right outside a welding supply store, but that’s apparently all cool this weekend. They did look festive.

Read More

14
Jun

Trecker’s Brazilian Travels, Day 3: Tire Fires and Protests

image

Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

BRASILIA, BRAZIL

It’s not every day that you walk over to a stadium to be confronted by plumes of black smoke, shooting hundreds of feet into the air. But that was the scene this morning outside the Garrincha, here in Brazil’s capital.

Protests have been roiling Brazil this week, and there’s a good reason for it: the World Cup has cost the public here an incredible amount of money – and Brazil’s cost of living keeps on rising. A hamburger from a chain restaurant costs double what it does in the United States. You don’t want to know how much a bottle of beer is. Even a small fluctuation in prices has a big ripple effect in a country that has only recently lifted 40 million people out of abject poverty.

There is something in the air here, and it’s not just smoke: people are fed up. When the corruption and waste surrounding the World Cup first came to light, it was greeted with a shrug, a sign of business as usual. But when it became apparent that almost all the money was going into stadiums – and very little was going into building things people could actually use on a daily basis – things changed. Many Brazilians – despite their love for the sport – are finding it hard to get on board with an event they see as solely for the rich.

Read More

12
Jun

Trecker’s Brazilian Travels, Day 1: Appropriate starting point

image

Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

BRASILIA, BRAZIL

Dawn. The city lies below the 757, an outpost on a craggy steppe. It looks like a toy, or maybe a prop until the plane descends further. The arcs of the city form two giant wings – or perhaps Orion, clutching a bow and firing an arrow toward Brazil’s coast.

Brasilia was to be Brazil’s great leap: a city that erupted whole cloth,  perfectly planned. It was to be a utopia of sorts, but it is not. It is, however, an architectural marvel, a modernist edifice that fifty years after its construction has the power to shock and amaze. It is also one of the places I had always wanted to visit.

I’m here because the Confederations Cup, something of a modernist construct itself, will kickoff here this Saturday. There is a lot of pressure on the hosts both on and off the field. Brazil’s staging of the 2014 World Cup has been somewhat star-crossed; budgets have been blown, strikes have been waged, protestors have marched and there is a weary sense that the government funds have been looted by this tournament.

Read More

23
May

Trecker’s Travels, Day Fifteen: Women’s UCL Final

Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

STAMFORD BRIDGE - There’s no Rafa, but Megan Rapinoe just went down the tunnel, kitted out, like all the Lyon players, in a chic white pantsuit. Lyon came dressed for business.

The women’s Champions League final is here tonight, and while it feels like an afterthought this weekend, there is little doubt that Lyon are taking this game very seriously. The Wolfsburg players came out in sweats and busied themselves by taking pictures and posting them on Instagram. Patrice Lair, Lyon’s non-nonsense coach, was having none of that and took his players into a huddle at the Shed End.

Lyon are wild favorites in this game: they are the back-to-back defending UWCL champions and come in riding a stunning run of form. The scorelines they have posted Europe seem like a bit of a joke: they’ve conceded only two goals while pasting teams 9-1, 11-0, 12-1 and 8-0.  At home, they are 20-0-0 in their league play and have an eye-watering goal difference of +115. Lair’s seriousness may have something to do with that.

And Rapinoe has a chance to make history tonight, becoming the first American to start and win a Champions League medal. Jovan Kirovski has a medal, but he did not start for Dortmund back in 1997; Ali Krieger has a medal, but the Champions League didn’t exist when she suited up for Frankfurt. (Rapinoe was delighted to learn this, joking that she finally has something to tease Krieger about.)

If things break her way, Rapinoe will also beat Neven Subotic, expected to start Saturday for Dortmund, to the punch. Subotic, as you may know, is the former USA U-20 player who was grossly mishandled by the U.S. national team program, and ended up declaring instead for Serbia.

Read More

22
May

Trecker’s Travels, Day Fourteen: All quiet

image

Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

LONDON - The city is quiet, pummeled into depression by a spring that has been anything but spring-like. The markets that line Camden Town and London Bridge, selling summer dresses and tank tops, have been despairing of takers. Most of their time has been spent sitting about, smoking cigarettes and swearing baroquely.

The Germans are coming, or so the papers tell us each morning. The problem is, they aren’t here yet, and when they get here, it’s unclear exactly what they will do. For reasons known only to UEFA, the Champions League fan fest won’t open until Thursday, and it is about as far from Wembley as one can get – it’s across London in Stratford. And news about the tournament? Well, once suspects that since no English team is in it, the less said the better.

In Trafalgar Square, across from the National Gallery, one of the viewing boards was just being put up. But there was little hint of any of this in Wednesday’s papers. The news was of Tony Pulis’ departure, Wayne Rooney’s curious choice for a baby name and the tale of Manchester City’s latest foray abroad. (The Sun, never one to miss a chance to put the boot in, had Frank Lampard doing just that in an “exclusive” interview about Rafa Benitez. Go on, Frank!)

image

Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

The fact is, London doesn’t seem very cheery about the prospect of this Champions League final. We heard tales of how 200,000 fans were going to descend on the city – and then little else. Did they not come? One enterprising vendor set up a stall with Germany’s national treat, the currywurst, only to find that at high noon, he was left reading the newspaper with a lot of left-over sausages. He and his cart had vanished by the time I returned this afternoon.

It all feels a bit anticlimactic. And yet, there is a game even further under the radar.

Read More