|Lalo with the Palmeiras mascot, which is a parakeet (who plays pretty good soccer at halftime)|
There is so much to say about my return to Brazil after 10 months away. I cannot possibly cover it in one blog. So, my first blog will cover the most important: soccer.
That there is a joke: as some of you know from my old blog Brazil in My Eyes, I am not a soccer aficionado. There is a multitude of reasons for that, mostly to do with the play-acting, lack of replay fairness and well, too many tattoos. Seriously, calm it down, Messi, or there will be no real estate left on your body.
But of course, Messi is not ours; he is not Brazilian. So here in Brazil I cheer for Palmeiras, the team of my husband and his Italian family. Lots and lots of Italian-descent fans. Lots of emotion, lots of really interesting swears. Some are not as interesting swears. The most common one is used interchangeably with the words "the" or "a". In fact, I was first convinced that the team had not changed at all from when I last saw them two years ago: all of the players on the field have the last name: "filhodaputa". Miss a shot? :FDP! Ref misses a call "FDP!" My 9-year old caught on to all the swearing for the first time--at age 7, he didn't get it, but now the questions were fast and furious on "what does "caral**" mean? But I get ahead of myself.
The last time I was with the heroes in green, they were temporarily playing at Pacaembu, the world's cutest and most decrepit stadium. You can meet it here (my former blog) if you wish. I loved Pacaembu--the views of the city, the crumbling concrete seats, the Ionic columns at the front door. Alas, we have a big new stadium. Big. Beautiful. May I say it? It looks like a US stadium, except perhaps BETTER.
So it's now the Allianz Parque Palestra Italia. Allianz is the German company which fronted the bucks, and Palestra Italia is the name of the old stadium. Directly translated I see that Palestra Italia is "Italian Lecture". I do not know the source of such a name, but it works for me--if this is an Italian lecture, I am buying.
Listen, kids, there are CUSHIONED seats. We were about 20 rows up at midfield and I could see the players sweat. We were very close to the field. Not true at the old Pacaembu. True perhaps at the New England Revolution but only because they play at Gillette, which is not exactly a soccer stadium. Also they have 20 fans so it's pretty easy to see.
I have to say that getting into a soccer stadium in Brazil is one of my least favorite things. First you have to pass through massive masses of massing humanity. All wearing green or white. 95% males. All gathered on a side street buying cheaper beer out of coolers, snacking on questionable food (see the cat barbecue here), buying $10 knock-off soccer shirts (yep, we got one for Lalo) and milling about. Massing. Try keeping track of your small child in this. Skeery. No violence. Just lots of people. Lots. Last night's crowd in the stadium: 32,000. Outside the stadium, at least a couple thousand more.
When you finally get to your gate, it's time for your "revision." I have grown used to being pat down by a female military police officer. Some are pretty rough, some, like the one last night, patted down my sides and waist and just said "have a good night!". Then run your fidelity card (yah, my husband is card-carrying loyal to the green ones) and zippy-zip, you're in!
When we got to our seats, most folks were already in. The teams had been introduced and it was time to stand for the Brazilian Anthem. Except it was not the Brazilian anthem. It was the Anthem on the big screens and on the speakers but the entire crowd sang "Palmeiras" along with all of the words. Seriously, a whole anthem with the words Palmeiras or Meu Palmeiras (my Palmeiras). The video I took was terrible but someone got a good one here. I thought the whole thing rather sacrilegious or disrespectful perhaps of the country's anthem, but I don't sing it anyway, so what do I care? I tried not to laugh too much.
My neighbor with Palmeiras and fire tattoos up and down his arm and a bicep bigger than my head sang very enthusiastically. He was quite a good chanter and singer the whole night. I liked him except when he accidentally elbowed me in the head after the third goal--then I literally saw stars. Here is the photo I thought was in focus when I took it but turns out I was very very fuzzy myself:
I will spare you all the play by play on the game. Suffice it to say that there are lots of good young players on the Palmeiras team of today, and my favorite "old guy" Prass is the only one I remember from two years ago. He is the goalie, and he just made the Brazil Olympic soccer team at age 37. Ah, there is one other old guy on the team, José Roberto, who at age 41, has LOTS of energy. Also, he has really good hair.
|Jose Roberto. Great hair.|
So Lalo made me choose my favorite player who is not Prass. Not sure why I wasn't allowed Prass as I actually own a Prass jersey but whatever. I had to choose a new guy. Just then, Jesus got a goal. Yes, it's true! My neighbor started yelling "Vai Jesus!!" (Go, Jesus!) and I thought, say, the Catholics have come out in numbers. Oh, there is a 19-year old player named Gabriel Jesus. He is now my favorite non-Prass. Who can resist yelling "Go, Jesus!"? Not me.
|Jesus. No, I am not swearing|
Lalo chose an 18 year old named Roger Guedes. Yes, Roger. Why this strikes me as funny, I don't know. I now have a glass of wine while writing this so that may be why. Lalo chose Roger because he has blond hair...and yeah, he also is pretty good. Very good. He apparently got a couple of assists on goals but I was busy avoiding the elbow of doom from the neighbor.
|Roger Guedes. Does he look like Lalo? See below.|
All right, so the game went on and on and on and we cheered and we swore and we jumped around, etc. At halftime they took out an inflatable pig with big teeth for a tour of the field (umm, what?) and the parakeet balanced a ball on his claws. Then our brand new player went out on the field and said hello. Mina, I think it is. Colombian, I think. Could not understand his intro video.
|Okay, out of focus but that is a giant inflatable floating green pig with fangs.And Mina. I've got nothing.|
Game over (yeah, I skipped a bit). Palmeiras 4 - Figueirense 0. As we are filing out past a couple of long-time (ahem, older than 60 years) fans, the first man looks at Lalo and his blond hair and says "Roger Guedes!!! and Lalo looks a bit nervous. I said, yes, this is Roger's younger brother. The older guy's friend then looks at Lalo, grabs Lalo by both sides of his head and kisses the top of his head. Apparently by being blond, Lalo has saved the team. We walked out a bit faster.
Outside everything was ending in pizza (another blog post explains that phrase of "tudo acaba em pizza") and seriously it did. There were piles of pizza boxes, and people were buying them up and carrying them off to wait for the metro. God love a Palmeiras game and its Italian fans. But BH, the Brazilian husband, was after something else: "pernil" sandwiches.
Pernil is ham but you have no idea how this sandwich is not an American ham sandwich. Warm ham chopped off the bone with a paint scraper (I am not kidding), shredded with same paint scraper, and served on a crusty roll with tomatoes and onions. O.M.G. All served out of the back of a tiny hatchback by a woman and her husband (he took drink orders--beer or Coke-- and moved around plastic stools for people to sit on). I cannot even begin to tell you the yum.
And so we were off home in a taxi where we listened to the talk radio about the game and cracked jokes with the Palmeirense taxi driver about their rival team Corinthians. A really good time was had by all.
So happy to be back. More soon.