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Senda Ambassadors: Juliano in Brazil, doing pro tryouts with Portuguesa

 

At Senda, one of the things we enjoyed the most is to hear stories from Senda Ambassadors, and share their passion for the beautiful game, Fair Trade, and suing soccer as a vehicle for change. They often times send us their reflections on the trip, and we want to share the latest one, from our latest ambassador in Brazil: Juliano.

Here is the story he shared with us, and our readers:

” After graduating from Vassar College in the spring, I took a flight to Brazil to pursue my dream of playing professional soccer. The past few months have been a humbling experience, and I’ve learned so much about the world of soccer. I spent two months training with Portuguesa, a second division club in Brazil. The club has a rich history, starting with the Portuguese who founded the club many years ago. They’ve grown to be one of the biggest, most well known clubs in São Paulo, with a strong reputation for developing young players. I could write extensively about my experiences at Portuguesa, but there’s one humbling experience that stands out in my mind: the bus rides to training. Each morning we met at the club’s headquarters at 7:30 AM to get changed and take a bus to the training fields. The drive to the fields takes about 25 minutes, but the last five minutes were always the most important to me.

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The bus followed a road we take to train that has a clear view of favelas, Brazilian shanty towns.

The scenery was a daily reminder that the privileged world many of us live in isn’t the reality for millions of people; it was a reminder that poverty is real. Perhaps most remarkable was the paintings and decorations of Brazil’s colors on the streets left over from the World Cup. While the people of the favelas might be living in a lower social class, their love for the beautiful game of soccer is as vehement as mine. Once again I was able to understand the true power of soccer to bring together an entire nation. As a long time supporter of Senda, I told my teammates at Portuguesa about Senda’s mission.

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Senda Ambassador Juliano, on the left, shares the senda story and limited edition t-shirt with a Portuguesa teammate.

I explained to them the idea of fair trade, ‘comerço justo’ in Portuguese, an idea that isn’t well known as a commercial concept in Brazil. They reacted in overwhelming support. One of them told me, “Soccer in Brazil is a nasty business, constantly exploiting people. I support any movement to stop the exploitation and money mongering that exists in the soccer world today.” After Brazil’s heartbreaking 7-1 World Cup loss at home to Germany, the main dialogue has been a discussion about reshaping the Brazilian soccer system. The goals are to develop players for domestic play, and keeping and circulating money and resources through the Brazilian system, rather than shipping it off to Europe.

 

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My time spent as part of the soccer world here in Brazil has been an incredible insight into the world of soccer outside the U.S.A. The rich culture of soccer has so much influence on people’s lives, and Senda allows us the opportunity to explore that mechanism, to change people’s lives for the better. I am currently still in Brazil, looking for opportunities to play professionally.”

Senda Athletics’ Founder on BBC World News story

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Check out the BBC World News story that was published today about Senda Athletics’s founder Santiago.

Besides talking about his dreams of attending a World Cup since being a child, he was able to share Senda’s story and its vision to change the #Futbol industry!

Take a look and help us spread the word!

Pro-am Beach Soccer Santa Cruz

This past weekend marked the 10th annual Santa Cruz Beach Soccer Open presented by Senda Athletics. We set up our tent by the check-in and results booths and marked out the area for our juggling competition.  The juggling competition produced some great scores despite most players struggling to juggle barefoot in the sand. Even those players who said they are capable of successfully completing as many as 1000 juggles on grass with cleats found it difficult to reach a century of juggles in the sand. The record-holder using the mini-ball completed 156 juggles, the Size 5 champion reached 300 juggles, and someone managed to keep the giant 3 foot ball in the air for 17 touches!!

This year’s tournament included over 170 teams, topping last year’s total thanks in large part due to the addition of the micro division for six and seven year-olds. There were many champions from last year that returned to defend their titles and countless teams new to the competition that were looking for their first taste of victory!

Thanks to all of those who came out to the Pro-am this year. And to those who missed out, don’t worry because there’s always next year! Our next Beach Soccer Pro-am promises to be another great day of soccer, friends, and fun. Join us!

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Brazil World Cup 2014: A Senda Ambassador’s Life in Rio de Janeiro, Part 2

Casey Grady is one of our Senda ambassadors who is currently living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is passionate about football and tries to play pickup games whenever he has free time. Casey is investigating Brazil’s street football culture and reporting back to us on his impressions.

Copacabana Futevôlei

If you’re in Brazil this summer for the World Cup, there is a good chance you will be watching or playing football every waking moment. Even though football is the greatest thing to ever exist in the history of humanity, perhaps you will want slightly different activities from time to time (gasp!). So if you find yourself feeling a little bit of footy overload, I have just the cure – footvolley!

Footvolley, futevôley in Portuguese, was invented right here in Rio at Copacabana Beach.  It is a pretty big deal here in Rio and there are even professional teams and leagues that follow international regulations.  I won’t bore you with details about the rules. All you really need to know is that footvolley is essentially beach volleyball, except that players are not allowed to use their hands and a football is used instead of a volleyball.

Nets for footvolley are set up at each end of the Copacabana beach. Some near posto 1 in Leme and others between posto 5/6, opposite Leme, and almost to Ipanema). Copacabana has a posto about every half kilometer, which are important landmarks with lifeguard stations and pay bathrooms.

After watching footvolley for even a couple minutes, you will probably decide not to join in with these guys. Their skill is astounding, their shorts ludicrously small, their tans glorious, and their bodies artfully sculpted to attract beautiful women. They are so good with their feet that you may start to believe that playing volleyball with your hands is strictly for amateurs.

Futebol

Before jumping in on a footvolley game, I suggest honing your skills with friends. I think I will continue to practice on my own before I try my hand at playing a game with the locals. Unless you can use your chest to collect and rebound volleyballs with startling precision, you may be a little out of your depth at first.

I have also seen a lot of footvolley on the beach in Flamengo, where somehow the players’ shorts (tungas) are even smaller.

Beach soccer pickup (Futebol na praia)

When the sun drops, Copacabana comes alive with people exercising and playing futebol.  Go somewhere with a nice view to watch the sunset, then head out to play footy.  Being the birthplace of beach soccer, Copacabana has an amazing footballing infrastructure consisting of dozens of illuminated goal posts for volleyball and footvolley.  But be sure to bring your own nets!

Senda Fair Trade Soccer Balls Brazil World Cup 2014

At Copacabana you will certainly find the perfect type of playing field to match your specific soccer needs. The beach is lined with small, medium, and large nets, and even various sized pitches. The beach is wide and has plenty of space for futebol. The best locations have huge nets behind the goals and are usually dominated by organized teams at peak hours.  Watching these young men for even a few moments, you will quickly realize how skills they are. They make juggling and possessing the ball in the air seem effortless. They are true artists and the ball is their medium of expression. While you may be confident in your ability to juggle the ball on solid ground, the circumstances change dramatically when you must retain possession while mired in sand with a pack of footballers trying desperately to rob you of the ball.

If you can only juggle 2 times and have only one juggling trick, do not fear, for there are still pickup opportunities for you.  One fantastic thing about Brazil is that finding a game is easy because nearly every Brazilian man, woman, and child plays.  Most people are very relaxed and will be more than happy to have you join in. All you have to do is go to the beach in the evening and look for a group of people hanging out juggling or playing small games. Usually around 7:00-8:00 in the evening, a group will gather around posto 2, which is where I live. They start juggling, warming up, and then start a small game of 2v2.  These games are fast-paced and exciting and sometimes draw an audience. Inevitably, as the intensity builds, more players arrive and a game of 5v5 or 7v7 will begin. That’s the way things work in Brazil.  Here, a small game of keep away can transform into a full-fledged pickup game in a flash.

Pickup Futebol Basics:

- Everyone plays goalie eventually, with a typical rotation system in place. Once scored on, you rotate out of goal. If you are absolutely exhausted from running in the sand, no one will tease you if you wish to take a breather and rotate to keeper.

- Games usually last two or three goals. When the game finishes, the team currently sitting rotates in for the recently vanquished team.

- If you are knackered, you can easily have someone sub in for you.  There is always someone who wants to play.

- Games usually go on for 1 to 1.5 hours.  When everyone is panting and struggling for air, a group of fresh players will rotate in.

Best strategy to play?

The best way to play beach soccer in Rio is just to go out there with no fear. In the evening, grab a beach soccer ball, head to the beach, identify a group of players, and simply tell them that you want to play.

In the rare occasion that you do not see people already playing, walk the length of the beach until you do, or just start juggling and warming up near an empty pitch. This will signal to others that you want to play. Eventually a game will form, or at the very least, some kids will approach you to kick the ball around. The amazing thing about Brazilians is that they are really friendly and welcoming to strangers.  If you see a Brazilian without a smile on their face, perhaps their pet goldfish just died or they recently stubbed their toe. I have never been denied access to a game, but I look like Michael Bradley and Zidane had a child – a big, bald baby!  Teams have even let me practice with them because I was gutsy enough to ask. I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you are very confident in your skills and the coach seems laid-back.

Senda Fair Trade Soccer Balls Rio World Cup Brazil

Well, there you have it. That’s my take on playing futebol and futevolley on Copacabana beach. Although I outlined a rather complicated set of guidelines for getting in on the action, remember that nothing is better than simply heading out to the beach with nothing but a ball and your love for the game.

O Brasil é lindo maravilhoso, Brazil is magnificent!

Story from Casey Grady

Fair Trade in Action, Year 2: Delivering School Bags to Workers’ Children

In March of 2013, we were very excited to support our producers with a project to distribute school supplies to the workers’ children right ahead of the school year in Pakistan. This project put one hundred backpacks filled with pencils, pens, notebooks, and other supplies directly in the hands of schoolchildren. The delivery of the backpacks and school supplies generated a lot of enthusiasm on the part of both the parents and kids, and it was immediately apparent that this was a project that needed to grow! 

happy child with school supplies

The school bags project is a very symbolic initiative. As a part of an industry with a controversial history of child labor, we want to do more than just refuse to use child workers. We want to improve the lives of our workers’ children. To achieve this, we provide our (adult!) producers with fair wages to make sure that their children don’t have to work and and we help equip young students for school.

The success of this initial program has encouraged us to go even further to improve the educational futures of these children in 2014. To achieve these aims, we  partnered with Chicago Fair Trade, a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the Fair Trade movement and making sure that Chicago continues to be a leader in the international Fair Trade community. As soon as they heard about our campaign to provide our workers’ children with school supplies in 2013, they wanted to become involved to grow the impact. This year Fair Trade Chicago contributed to our  School Bags campaign, and together we were able to grow from 100 bags delivered in 2013, to 200 bags in April of 2014!

We are thrilled to be able to help support education in such a tangible way, and also to find others who want to be a part of this initiative. Now, two hundred more kids will be able to have access to brand new school materials as they prepare for a new year of learning.

Kids showing off their new school supplies from Senda's campaign

This is just a humble step towards improving the quality of life for our workers and their children, and we understand that there is still much more to be done. We will continue to work on growing our sales so that we can make a bigger impact. And we will work hard to actively listen to what workers have to say about these programs so that we can help improve not just their lives, but those of their children as well.

These types of programs are only possible because of our incredible customers, friends, and partners. Because of your desire to make a difference with the soccer equipment you choose, you are able to help improve workers’ lives. Thanks to you, 200 hundred children are now heading off to school better prepared to succeed!

A BIG thank you for your continued support of Senda and our Fair Trade mission. We are extremely pleased and so lucky to have you all as part of our team. I’m sure that our talented and hard-working Fair Trade producers are immensely grateful too!

Pakistani child proudly displaying his new backpack thanks to Senda's "School Supplies for Schoolkids" Campaign

Back to the Roots: Going home to Argentina for our latest campaign “Futbol is Art”

 

Last December I took a month-long journey back to my home country of Argentina in order to share the essence of soccer with Senda’s fans through our Futbol is Art campaign.

I had the chance to play pick-up soccer with our friends from Jogabo (the awesome app for players to track their stats and games), while at the same time making new friends as I visited the local neighborhood soccer pitch in La Boca, with my two cousins Francisco and Felipe.

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Local kids in La Boca taking a break during our game of pick-up soccer.

It was a powerful reminder of how something as simple as a soccer ball can help people form an immediate connection. Felipe, like myself is a huge River Plate fan, and the fact that he was willing to spend an entire afternoon in La Boca surrounded with Boca Juniors fans, and help us with our videos and photos was wonderful to see! It revealed the extent to which he loves the unifying message of Senda, and the day turned into an eye-opening experience for him. In a country where rivalries run so deep, sometimes for the worse, he put himself in a situation in which he was entirely unfamiliar. It was fun to play with him, and was a heartening experience for all of us to see that our common love for the game is stronger than any rivalries.

later that week, I was able to meet 2 legendary players from local powerhouse Racing Club de Avellaneda: Francisco Maciel and Martin Vitali. I did this while watching them play FootGolf near Buenos Aires  for a  TV show called This is Footgolf, which uses Senda balls for their challenges with local soccer players. Both players helped the Racing Club, which prior their arrival had been the laughingstock of the league, win the 2001 Apertura title, ending a 35 year draught that began in 1966!

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Left to right: Pablo Gonzales (FootGolf T.V host), Francisco Maciel, Myself, and Martin Vitali.

I also had the chance to visit the fields where Messi first began playing soccer in the junior divisions of Newell´s Old Boys, at the Malvinas Sports Complex in Rosario, Argentina. It was an incredible (almost spiritual) experience, realizing that I was in the same place where one of the greatest players ever to play the game of Futbol first began to kick the ball around as a kid, and fall in love with the game.

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My visit to the pitch of Newell´s Old Boys, at the Malvinas Sports Complex in Rosario, Argentina.

This trip was a great reminder of the influence that soccer had on my childhood growing up in Argentina! It also reminded me of the true essence of the game, especially when played by children who are simply trying to have fun, spend time together, and learn new tricks.

The important part of the game of Futbol is not simply the final score, but rather the people that you meet because of it, and the power that Futbol has to bring people closer together than they would otherwise be.

I think there is a lot to learn from that spirit, and I look forward to integrating it with our team into Senda’s message, and sharing it with all of you!

Senda Ambassador “Tony Salciccia:” From College Soccer Star, to going Pro

 

Meet Tony Salciccia, our newest Senda Athletics ambassador, and former UC Berkeley captain. He is an amazing player and person working to become a pro player who will share his training regime as he trains for try-outs in December 2013-January 2014. Here is his first blog post!

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I am a passionate person, when it comes to soccer and being apart of a program like CAL. The UC Berkeley soccer program has a tremendous history with a great family-like culture. I live, love, and work for the team. I studied the program before coming in as a freshman an even more so as I grew up a bear my self. Knowing a lot of the former players and team captains paved the way for me to become a team captain my self junior and senior years. Team captain is a great honor and fun task, pushing the team forward.

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What I miss most about college soccer are the training sessions early morning at our practice field up this hill on Dwight aka Golden Bear. Just to know the great players who trained there before you brings a certain boost to your energy levels. Waking up in the morning happy was easy knowing a training session was minutes away. Golden Bear was a place for me to get away from the real world and into my soccer heaven and go about working on team and self improvement.

I stay in contact with the guys who moved on and made the transition into the MLS. Some of the insight I get is to stay persistent and be ready for a opportunities when they come. It is going to take hard work and being a good person.

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Spotlight of Soccer series: Beach Soccer

Yuri Beach Soccer Shot

If you are a footballer, and you have played the game on the beach, you know how different and fun the game can be on the sand. That is specially the case when the water is warm enough for a swim right after a game!

Beach soccer started as an informal game that friends would play on the beach, mostly while on vacation. But with the growth of the sport, in 1992 the first official rules of  beach soccer were created. Since its first historical competitions, beach soccer has grown to be an international game, with the start of the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005.

Each beach soccer team consists of five players, including the goalkeeper. An unlimited amount of substitutions, from a selection of 3 to 5 substitute players, is allowed at any moment of the game, even when the ball is in play. A game lasts 36 minutes, and it is split up into three 12 minute periods. The pitch is considerably smaller than a regular one (about the size of a futsal field), and it should be composed of sand without any other objects which could injure a player. The game runs on a fast pace, with an average of over ten goals scored per game as players are able to score anywhere on the field. This makes for a fast pace game, with lots of action.

photo (1)We had the chance to discuss  beach soccer with Yuri Morales, who played for the United States national beach soccer team at the highest level. Yuri can be seen throwing bicycle kicks at virtually every Beach Soccer Tournament in the Bay, and he works with America SCORES Bay Area to inspire urban youth to lead healthy lives, be engaged students, and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world. He helps put together an Annual  Beach Soccer Blast Tournament in San Francisco every summer, with proceeds going to America Scores.

Yuri also played previously with the Danish professional football club Viborg F, the Portland Timbers right before they joined MLS.

Senda: How did you get involved with Beach Soccer?

Yuri:I grew up in Santa Cruz, so there was a beach going culture there. When I was playing with the Portland Timbers(USL division 1, before there was MLS) in 2006, my friend Ronny Silva was a member of the beach soccer team at that time and he was looking for players for beach soccer. There was a core group of players from Santa Cruz that were forming a core of the beach soccer national team based in training in Santa Cruz. So he asked me if I wanted to try playing beach soccer, and I did.

Senda: What aspects of “regular” soccer does Beach Soccer emphasize the most?

Yuri: There are tactics similar to grass soccer, but at the same time different because the field is so much smaller and fewer players. In terms of defensive tactics in some ways they are more similar to futsal than grass soccer in many ways. attacking wise you have to have very good technique to be successful, just like grass soccer. For beach soccer you have to be more focused on the technical because the ball is usually and ideally in the air, so you have to adjust your body in the sand. So you have to have very good techniques

Senda: What was your most memorable Beach Soccer moment?”

Yuri: The second time we qualified for the world cup in 2007, in Mexico. We beat Uruguay in an exhibition championship match. There was an arrangement that the champion of North America and the champion of South America would play against each other in an exhibition match. Uruguay earned second place in the previous world cup and they were a very strong team. We beat them in the last minute of the game. I remember because we won 4-3, and I scored the goal to make the game even at 3-3 as a substitute at that time. That was a really memorable moment for me.”

Senda – What did it feel to have the opportunity to represent your country in the World Cup?

Yuri: It feels great. I’d say that it’s a great honor, and I am very appreciative of the US Soccer Federal for sponsoring the team. They supported the team from the very beginning even when this beach soccer didn’t make much money. For them to stick with us I feel very supported by them. ”

Yuri FIFA Photo

Senda – “What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start playing Beach Soccer?

Yuri:Stick with it. Don’t give up. It’s like golf and snowboarding that the first few times you do it it’s going to be miserable. After that when you start getting the hang of it, getting your balance, and moving better on the sand it becomes more and more fun.”

Senda: What characteristics do you look for in a Beach Soccer ball?

Yuri: I like it to have a layer of foam so that when you kick it it doesn’t slap against your skin against your foot. When it has that layer of padding it can protect from that. Also the weight has to be just right. If it’s too light the ball would just fly away in the wind. If it’s too heavy it can hurt your foot. I think you guys did a great job with the Senda beach soccer ball. It could have a little bit more padding, but I think its a great ball.

Senda: Any fun Beach Soccer stories while playing the game?

Yuri:In 2006 in the qualifying tournament, it was my first trip with the national team. It was in the winter and it was in the Costa Rican rain forest. It rained all the time there. They built a little stadium and brought in sand, but they weren’t allowed to bring in real sand, so they brought in dirt. When it rained the dirt turned into mud, so we played the first couple games in just deep mud. It was my first beach soccer experience, and I did really well because I was used to playing in mud because in Santa Cruz in high school when it rained the grass field we played on was covered with mud. I did really well the first couple games, but it just kept raining, so the tournament was forced to move to a beach town in order to continue.”

Another story, I got to have granola next to Eric Cantona, coach for the French National Team, in 2006!  I was having breakfast in the morning and I looked over and there he was. We greeted each other and continued to have breakfast. I was a little star struck at that time.

Thanks to Yuri for taking the time to talk to us about beach soccer! 

Ball Testing with SJ Quakes Players: Senda Volta, Nike Seitiro, Adidas Prime

The Senda Volta, Nike Seitiro & Adidas MLS Prime

A goal that we always have at Senda, is to offer products that are as good as any other similar options in the market, with the added value of Fair Trade, and the opportunity for customers to Share the Game with others.

In order to ensure that, we work with hundreds of coaches and players to test our products, and get feedback. Recently, we had the great opportunity to do product testing with Sam Cronin, who is the starting Center Midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes, as well as Quakes trialist Josh Suggs, and former CAL Captain Tony Salciccia. During a beautiful South Bay afternoon we tested our top of the line Senda Volta, along with the Nike Seitiro, and the Adidas Prime Match balls. Our goal was to check where our Volta Premier Match ball stands , compared to the two most popular brands with the best leagues in the World.

For testing, we looked at 3 main indicators: performance during crossings, performance during shots, and finally overall touch and feel of the ball.

 

Test 1: Crossings

When making a series of long distance crosses for Sam, Josh and Tony enjoyed the responsiveness and precision of the Volta, which surpassed that of the Adidas Prime, and matched that of the Nike Seitero. In terms of long crossings, the Volta flies well in the air and it does not “shake,” like the Adidas ball does.

The Adidas Prime uses the same thermo-bonded technology as the Jabulani (official match ball for 2010 South Africa World Cup) which was a nightmare for most goalies because it moves a lot when it flies long distances, for examples in in crosses and free kicks. The Prime improved in this aspect, but it still curves in rather unpredictable ways, unlike the Volta and Seitiro models.

” The Volta ball was easier to get used to, and to strike in the air” Josh Suggs, San Jose Earthquakes trialist

Test 2: Shots

When it comes to striking the ball, the Volta felt a little bit harder than the Seitiro and Prime. Players said that this did not mean that it was more difficult or uncomfortable, just a ball characteristic that you notice after using all three balls. The harder outer surface can benefit players with strong shots when they strike the ball, offering more immediate power. Some players who don’t like harder balls might not like this aspect, and this comes down to personal preference.

The Adidas Prime is the ball that travels the most out of the three, but it can be quiet inaccurate because it gets more power only if a player strikes the ball “just right.”  That it is not always easy after winning  a 50/50 ball, hitting a ball at high speed, or in other game scenarios, and players preferred a ball that offered consistency in different scenarios, and not just clean shots.

Finishing session, using the Volta, Seitiro and Prime

Test 3: Touch

In terms of touch the Senda Volta is little bit harder than the Seitero and Prime, both which have a “spongy” feeling. The top-of-the-line Japanese synthetic leather used in the Volta resembles more the older Match balls used in the late 90’s, compared to the newer synthetic materials developed by Nike and Adidas.

When we asked for a fair final assessment, Suggs said that he honestly enjoyed playing with the Senda Volta the most.

 

“With a  lot of balls, it takes a long time to get used to them,” Suggs commented. “With the Volta one gets to know the ball rather fast, and it provides a consistent response in different game-like scenarios”

Although it was the first time that all 3 players where introduced to the Volta, they did not feel any inconsistencias with the ball, and they felt that it was up there with the Nike Seitero, and above the Adidas Prime when it came to overall touch, shooting, and making/receiving crosses.

 

From our end, after talking with Sam, Tony and Josh, and asking for their honest feedback, we feel that we have succeeded in making a top of the line ball that’s as good, if not better, than that of the two market leaders in soccer. That makes us proud. Very proud!

Meanwhile, we will continue to research the latest cover materials available for different types of match balls, to make sure that Senda is taking advantage of the latest technologies available to make the best performing product.

But whatever new materials are developed using technology, they have to be tested and approved on the field, where the magic happens. Technology, for technology’s sake is not the answer. The final word should come from players and coaches on the fields, and not just from the labs. Right now, it seems like we are in good hands with a Volta Match ball, that has some of the traditional characteristics one finds in Japanese cordley leather, which is one of the best on the World.

The story to make the best posible Match ball leveraging technology and embracing Fair Trade continues, and we will keep you posted!

Sam Cronin helped us test the 3 balls for precision, touch, and flight

Senda in Brazil



“O conhecimento do Brasil passa pelo futebol.”

Translation: “One’s knowledge of Brazil happens through football.”

-Jose Lins do Rego

At Senda, one of the things we enjoyed the most is to hear stories of how our soccer balls travel to far away places, and used in different locations we never really imagined. We love hearing from customers who end up becoming Senda Ambassadors, and share their passion for what we do, as well as their Senda balls, in places like Japan, Norway, Argentina, Morocco, Alaska, and South Africa. They often times send us their reflections on the trip, and we want to share the latest one, from our latest ambassador in Brazil: Juliano. Here is the story he shared with us, and our readers:

My experience with soccer culture in Brazil has expanded my outlook on the diverse nature of the sport. I grew up in the United States, but I am half Brazilian, and I’ve been to Brazil several times to visit family. Though I have spent a significant amount of time in Brazil, every trip is a cultural experience for me. I spent three weeks there, in December and January, visiting family and enjoying the coast of São Paulo. During this time, I played lots of pickup soccer, and visited O Museu do Futebol (The Museum of Football) at Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo.

The first time I played pickup soccer after arriving in Brazil was at a cement futsal court near my grandparent’s house. I arrived to the court just as a new team was taking the pitch. Curious and eager to play, I asked if they had a spot for one more to join them. The response I got was, “Demorou,” which best translates to “I thought you’d never ask,” or “You should have asked earlier.” It’s basically a politely aggressive way of saying “Of course” and welcoming me into their pickup game. The group was made up of a mix of some younger guys in their twenties, and some middle aged guys. To be honest, I expected the level to be low. I was wrong. These guys weren’t there to mess around. The intensity and passion by which they played was invigorating. It felt like the game was do or die; players protected the goal like their life depended on it, and every missed opportunity was a dagger to the heart. Yet by the same token, they had a certain light heartedness that made it clear that this was a pelada.

Pelada is the Brazilian name for pickup game, and it literally means “naked.” I don’t think there is a more perfect name for it. Pickup games literally strip the sport down to its core. People play out of pure enjoyment and passion for the game without all the business and money behind most sports today. In Brazil, peladas are more than a game. It is a culture unified by the sport of soccer, and a country that boasts the most international success in the history of the sport. The guys I played with were fanatics who had grown up with the sport. Their understanding of the game was developed through years of exposure. These guys were neither the most athletic guys, nor the most skilled, but they had a knack for the game. Playing in their pelada was a great way to discern how soccer is so engrained in Brazilian culture.

Another memorable experience from my trip to Brazil was my visit to the Museu do Futebol. An idea of Pelé, the museum was created as homage to the strong history of football within the country. It is located inside the Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, a public stadium where many of the biggest teams in Brazil play. I expected a small museum with a couple small exhibits, but found it to be a complete experience and more. I took two hours on the tour, but felt like I could’ve spent the entire day there. There were entire sections devoted to old soccer photos, Brazilian superstars and heroes, multimedia sections with radio and television clips, world cups, records, the evolution of soccer equipment and rules, referees, fans, and much more. Frankly I overwhelmed because there was so much soccer left and right. The incredible thing is that the exhibit was primarily about Brazilian soccer, with only contextual references the rest of the world. It is amazing that the sport has so much history in Brazil.

 

Playing soccer in Brazil has not only widened my worldviews, but also given me a unique look at the game itself. I believe that soccer is something universal enough to connect people throughout the world, and it also provides a special lens through which we can learn a lot about a culture.

I was introduced to Senda at a small-sided soccer tournament in Berkeley, California, and I was immediately drawn to the company. I am an avid soccer player and fan. I think that the Fair Trade model is something to admire in any business, especially in a worldwide market like soccer. Brazil is a prime example of a culture with a love and passion for the game that also faces problems of poverty and extreme inequality. Senda promotes a higher standard for soccer products, and encourages the society and sport to be just at all levels. Fair trade is an opportunity for people to take responsibility and make positive change through a medium that can be universally understood.