“You’re Brazilian, and you’re wearing an Argentina jersey,” a visitor points out to Paul, (which sounds close to “Bo” in Portuguese). “Yeah, but it’s from a South American team,” replies the husky boy, 8 years old.
“But Argentina and Brazil are rivals,” counters the observer.
It turns out the younger set are disillusioned with Neymar Jr., the main star in the Brazilian soccer galaxy. They have switched part of their allegiance to Lionel Messi of the neighboring country.
“He (Neymar) is selfish (egoista). He doesn’t pass the ball to his teammates,” explains Matteus, 8 years old, of his disenchantment with the Brazilian striker. The boy speaks native English, as well as his dad’s Portuguese. He grew up here in the United States, and he’s translating for his friends. “I like (Cristiano) Ronaldo (of Portugal), Pele, Coutinho (of Brazil). Also, Ronaldinho (a throwback for Brazil).”
Meanwhile, Matteus’ dad is in goal for the red team, which is building a steadily increasing lead over the blues on this warm Thursday evening. Marcio makes an easy stop. “That’s not a save,” asserts his son. “It was kicked right at him.” Later, Marcio makes a diving catch of a hard shot to his right. “That’s a save,” nods Matteus, who isn’t giving his dad any slack on this night.
It turns out Marcio, one of the first 18 to sign up for a playing spot on the phone app WhatsApp, thus securing a place in the friendly scrimmage this week, twisted his left knee recently. He normally plays mediocampo (midfield), but the black elastic band protecting his sore joint signals a need to give his knee a break with this turn in goal.
The Brasileiros range in skill and experience all the way up to former stars on their respective school-age teams. Rodrigo, friendly, gray on the sides, recounts, “I studied marine biology in college. I played for my university’s biology department team and traveled around Brazil playing other universities’ Biology teams,” naming Brasilia, the capital, Sao Carlos (near Sao Paulo), and Londrina (in Parana state inland from Rio de Janeiro).
Rodrigo’s experience was the exception: Most athletic teams outside the U.S. are not attached to schools. Rather, in the majority of cases, athletic teams are independent. As Marco, 42-years-old, from Rio, who owns his own juice company here, explains, “We just go to school to study and graduate, not to play sports.”
Most of the men a visitor to the Ski Beach game chats with hail from Rio, on the country’s lower east coast on the Atlantic, or Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, a state hugging Uruguay at the southeastern tip of Brazil. Marcelo, from Porto Alegre, says he came to the U.S. in 2006 and has been playing in the weekday friendly ever since.
Of Rio Grande do Sul, Marcio, Matteus’ dad, says, “We’re the Texas of Brazil. We’re independent. People walk around wearing guns. We keep a traditional culture. We’re known for our barbecue. We have a Hispanic culture that combines Uruguayan elements with Brazilian.”
Meanwhile, Fabio, tall and athletic, with long, curly locks, in contrast to most of his countrymen who sport a more conservative look, roars up the right side to blast a rocket into the upper part of the goal. The reds go up, 4-2, to be quickly followed by a 5-2 goal, and they appear to have the advantage on this evening.