One American’s Confederations Cup experience in Brazil

KakaDeMerit (ISIphotos.com)

                                                           Photo by ISIphotos.com

 

While most U.S. national team fans were watching Sunday's Confederations Cup final between the United States and Brazil at sports bars or in their own homes, there were a few American soccer fans who had the chance to take in the U.S. team's dream tournament run and Sunday's final from the land of Jogo Bonito, Brazil.

Long-time SBI reader and Colorado youth soccer coach Lance Williams was one of those fans. He has spent the past two weeks in Brazil and has been able to see the U.S. team's Confederations Cup run from a unique perspective.

Here is his story.

By LANCE WILLIAMS

As a people, Brazilians are wonderfully accepting and joyful.  They seem sincerely interested in our opinion of our team’s play and patiently listen as one might a child who thinks they have just discovered the world is round when we have known it for years. 

I have been in Brazil the past ten days as a member of Partners for the Americas Coaching Coaches program.  President Kennedy inspired the creation of Partners in 1963 and since then cultural exchanges have linked the hearts and minds of the Americas on topics ranging from agriculture to medicine and now soccer.  We have spent much of our time visiting schools, soccer clubs and recreation centers.  Along the way our hosts have repeatedly asked us about the results our team has posted in the Confederation Cup. 

For Brazilians, our loss to Italy was a forgone conclusion and the resulting 3-0 loss to Brazil was met with near apologetic casual questions.  When we routed Egypt, we were happily met with playful congratulations and the universal thumbs up. The result against Spain gave us credibility that bordered on real respect.

To say that Brazilians were concerned that their team could lose the final would be a gross overstatement, but the questions became more serious and the listeners more sincere.  We spent the morning of the match at the famous Inhotim Museum of Art and had to race back to Betchim to find a television in time.  The streets that usually teemed with activity were eerily empty as all of Brazil prepared for yet another World Championship Final.

We settled in with our Brazilian friends and enjoyed watching our team do a very good job of keeping their shape defensively.  If no other lesson is learned from this tournament I personally hope that we will continue to see our team defend with such elegance.

In the 10th minute we are rewarded with a miracle and our Brazilian fans cheer with us as we wave the American flag and dance in front of the TV.  Our team is defending well and keeping some possession the subsequent counter-attacking goal at the 27 minute mark has us on our feet again.  We dance, we sing and we believe.  The cheering from our Brazilian counterparts is less enthusiastic but polite.
Now we start to worry.  There is just too much time on the clock and Brazil is finding ways to put the ball behind our defense.  One minute into the second half and now we have a game.  The score line is 2-1 and the nail biting begins.  Funny enough there is more tension for our Brazilian friends as well and the room gets quieter.  Not nearly as much friendly chatter and the flag waiving is at a minimum.

My greatest worry every time I watch our team is that they will lose focus for moments of the match and get punished.  Although our organization has improved leaps and bounds; even though Spector and Demerit are revelations, even though our central midfielders are tackling back like banshees, it’s all a matter of time.  74 minutes in Fabiano earns that big contract and breaks my heart. Hope has left the room.  We try to cheer as politely as our Brazilian friends and soldier on, but it’s just not as much fun.
Then, it is almost predictable.  Kaka will have his moment.  He cannot be held back unless it is in the very literal sense.  Spector lets him sweep by and the corner is earned.  Elano to Lucio, back of the net, game over.  Lucio certainly deserved this moment and sadly we share it.  Although we put on a brave face and encourage our team to go forward this is Brazil at it’s best.  Passing, moving, possession and poetry, in our hearts we know it is done.  Time has run out.

We watched the awards presentation and envied the unity the Brazilians show.  They define passion.  Having watched the Brazilian children play on the fields that are central to each small town I know where this passion is born.  Having attended Cruzerio’s match at Mineirao Stadium last night I know where it is refined.  Having listened to the Brazilian people playfully argue whose pro team is best I know where it is nurtured.  This passion is what allows a team to overcome a 2-0 halftime deficit.  This passion is what allows a team to win World Championships.

Dunga’s team is impressive and yet so is our progress.  The questions tomorrow will be different and I look forward to them.  We stood toe to toe with the best in the world and showed we belong.  Tomorrow will not be about what we have accomplished so much as what we have learned.

I played club ball growing up and a good level in college.  I rounded out my competitive career in what we gratuitously called “semi-pro” before the conception of MLS re-defined American Soccer’s pecking order.  I am a USSF “A” licensed coach and former State Director of Coaching.  I have earned both undergrad and graduate degrees in Sport; soccer is no mystery to me, but having spent ten days in the country that “perfected” the game I can humbly say I have not mastered it.  In that perspective I am the poster child of US Soccer.  We have come a long, long way but the journey is yet young.

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23 Responses to One American’s Confederations Cup experience in Brazil

  1. PetedeLA says:

    Interesting perspective.

    Maybe a visit to Brazil should become compulsory to get a coaching license?

  2. ETJ says:

    Great article, thanks Lance

  3. MasterShake says:

    good read, kept me captivated.

  4. elmatador says:

    excellent story..wow….thanks for sharing, and I agree we’re very young but we’re making progress..

  5. K1p says:

    Thanks for this.

  6. Turtle says:

    “We watched the awards presentation and envied the unity the Brazilians show. They define passion. Having watched the Brazilian children play on the fields that are central to each small town I know where this passion is born. Having attended Cruzerio’s match at Mineirao Stadium last night I know where it is refined. Having listened to the Brazilian people playfully argue whose pro team is best I know where it is nurtured. This passion is what allows a team to overcome a 2-0 halftime deficit. This passion is what allows a team to win World Championships.”

    Great piece of writing.

  7. This Guy says:

    Excellent read!

  8. Eric Griesheimer says:

    We need more fans, coaches who feel like this…who scream when the US scores, curse and scare our dogs when we get red carded etc. Its a cultural really, the more people we have who feel like this the better our developement as a soccer nation.

  9. JohnK says:

    Great Perspective.

  10. Marc Maxey says:

    Thanks Lance!,

    I also attended at trip with partners of the America’s this summer. Please see the following Blog:

    link to metroleaguesoccerus.com

    This experience allowed me to meet with Youth Development professionals from youth and World Championship clubs in Rio Grande do Sul.

    abracos’

    Marc Maxey

  11. ag nigrin says:

    Thanks Lance…now if only we could get more of our American coaches down to Brazil…the USA might learn even more.

  12. KCB says:

    Nice piece. I’ve always respected Brazilian fans compared to many others around the world. There was actually a Brazilian-American (he said he was both, so I’m just going with it) at the watch party I was at and he was politely excited when the US scored, but understandably more excited when Brazil scored their 3rd to win.

  13. understood says:

    cool story!

  14. Boguslaw Joganauvski says:

    “We watched the awards presentation and envied the unity the Brazilians show.”

    Unity as in all the Brazilian players turning their jerseys backwards during the awards ceremony so you could see their names? As I said to a couple buddies at the time, an action like that is disgusting and repulsive but also so quintessentially Brazilian that it’s almost comedic. I don’t think class and respect for the game are valued that much in Brazilian football.

  15. doug says:

    @ boguslaw

    if you are using that premise, then what do you think about Landon Donavon’s goal celebration where he pointed to himself and said “me, me, me?” calling the shirt turning “disgusting and repulsive” is a bit, how do you say, over the top. besides what is more “unifying” than the ENTIRE TEAM turning their jerseys around. also, to say Brazilian footballers dont have class and respect is to say that water is not wet and the sky is not blue. doesnt make much sense when you think about it. you wanna see a “no-class outfit”, check out Spain following the US win. Those guys couldnt get off the field quick enough

  16. Angel says:

    Nice story, I love it as a fan who was angry, Full of joy and had tears yesterday when we were so close to be champion, But once again we go outplayed in the second half. I don’t want to be another Mexico that always get close but no cigar. Like Landon say yesterday “we don’t want to play respect anymore we want to play to win” but if Bob Bradley is that guys to take us there what can we do. But it will be nice to bring someone who can take us to another level and become champion.

  17. Brett says:

    I’ve always thought that playing with the passions and hopes of a nation on your back invariably makes you stronger, more determined, and less inclined to make excuses. That is the spark our national team is missing.

    And Angel, at this point we should hope to be “another Mexico”. They have lifted the trophy (in 1999) we were so close to making our own, and were so disappointed to see slip away.

  18. dbex says:

    Lance: thanks for a well-written and thoughtful article. Hope you follow it up with another after you field today’s questions and comments. For another perspective frmo Brazil, I got an email today from my stepfather in Rio (he’s Brazilian), relaying a call he got from his brother, the family’s soccer fanatic and a rabid Brazil fan. Here’s what his brother had to say:

    “The game was spectacular. Americans have this dead serious approach of getting things right, and are using it on soccer. They are coming into the international scene faster than anyone could ever expect, and are becoming a general threat. I am glad that this team will be in the next FIFA cup.”

    And my mother said: “While we didn’t watch the game, every time Brazil scored a goal there were huge shouts and carryings on all over the neighborhood, so we knew what that meant.”

    Hope we hear more from you….

  19. Wow, thanks for all your compliments. This trip truly has been a life changing one. I see with new eyes. Today was a lot of fun. We did a presentation to a group of physical education teachers who work with at-risk youth. They definitely had questions about the match :-) True to Brazilian culture they were genuinely respectful and had their fun too. We also visited a school we had been to previously and had a chance to talk to some of the high schoolers there. Huge grins, while flashing 3-2 with fingers and slapping us on the back. At no time have I felt anything but sincere friendship from the Brazilian people. Great stuff…and can’t wait to come back! THANKS IVES!!!…you have simply the best soccer blog out there. Anyone who wants to ask more questions can reach me at lance@northerncoloradosoccer.com
    Obrigado,
    Lance

  20. Fantastic insight.

    Brasil has something…

    I coached a heavy young kid new to soccer one Spring, one of those players on the roster who I coached sheerly out of good intent, knowing that I can give a positive experience to him, even though playing him will make it much harder to win games. He played equal minutes and didn’t do well but he seemed to have fun, and that was mission accomplished.

    He was back on my roster the next Fall a little leaner, but suddenly passionate about the game. He had to talk his Mom into letting him come to the weekend games instead of going to his Chinese lessons. Amazingly over the course of 6 months he had gone from a team weakness to a real strength. His skills & fitness were better, but much more importantly he now had a fantastic passion for the game, it drove everything else. He sucked up anything I could teach like a sponge in the desert.

    I was pretty pleased with myself as a coach, I’d really given the joy of the game to someone, and clearly I had done something for them as an athlete. Or so I thought.

    One day there was one of those “where did you spend your Summer vacation” conversations going on, and I found out my passionate young player had been out of the country all Summer.

    In Brazil.

    Played everyday, it seems, got infected with the passion for it. It changed him.

    I’m not sure how we replicate that here in the US, it sure would make a difference to the extent we could.

  21. coque says:

    excellent stuff, great article.

  22. Argi says:

    Nice article but try living in Brazil for one year and then your opinion might change. Next time take BB to Brazil because he stinks.

  23. Alex B says:

    Having watched the Brazilian children play on the fields that are central to each small town I know where this passion is born. Having attended Cruzerio’s match at Mineirao Stadium last night I know where it is refined.