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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!

Futbol + Volleyball: Futevôlei, A Brazilian Passion

Futevôlei is a blend of soccer and volleyball and (according to legend) was invented in Rio de Janeiro. In lieu of using your hands or arms like in volleyball, the players’ chest and head are turned into the primary surfaces of play. Futevôlei is a 2 vs 2 game played on a regulation sized volleyball space. Most public courts in Rio de Janeiro are in the sand along the beach. All of the courts in Rio come with picturesque backdrops worthy of sitting back and relaxing to take in the view. But if the vistas aren’t enough for you, don’t worry, because you will be amazed by the grace and skill of the futevôlei jogadores.

IMG_2001-2Futevôlei is played up to 18 points. The serve switches sides after one team has made 6 serves; sides rotate after both teams have completed their set of services. Got it?  It is like volleyball…well kind of, but not really. Futevôlei is the pinnacle of soccer-related sports. You need to have impeccable control of the ball with your feet, thighs, shoulders, head, and most importantly, your chest! Much in the same way a volleyball player “sets” the ball with their hands, futevôlei jogadores can do the same with millimeter precision using their chests, heads, thighs, shoulders, and even a foot stretched behind their back.

IMG_1892-2Futevôlei is not a game where you can expect instant success. It’s extremely difficult. Even if you have played soccer your entire life and can juggle a ball 100 times with ease, futevôlei is still a game with game-specific techniques and skills that need to be honed over months or years. I hope that I am not deterring you from playing; I’m just giving you some words of warning so that you’re not too hard on yourself when you start training.  The first thing that is strange for 11 vs 11 soccer players is the way in which one uses their chest. Usually, a soccer player is taught to trap the ball with their chest. Coaches have probably taught you how to bring a ball under control by concaving your chest to cushion the ball and place it in front of your feet on the ground. Futevôlei demands the complete opposite. You need to be able to bend at the knees, lean back and pop out your chest in a manner that accurately propels the ball to your teammate. It will take your brain a little while to rewire your instincts and then a whole lot longer to perfect the timing, force, and accuracy of the pass. Practice till your chest turns the glowing red color of a Brazilian sunset.

Using your head is a lot easier to adapt to as you just need to head the ball upwards instead of downwards.  However, the foot pass is a little different from the technique you learned in soccer. The best control is with the inside of your foot, but not your instep.  Have you seen hacky-sackers? Well that is the technique you want to emulate. You lean back a little, and in a smooth upward motion, stroke through the middle of the ball. The thigh is pretty easy to adapt to also. Some players throw their foot out instead of tucking it under them.  You are basically smoothly swinging through the ball and trying to loft it to your teammate with accuracy to their chest or head.  The gameplay is identical to volleyball with 3 touches, alternating between players before the ball is returned. It is similar to bump-set-spike in volleyball. However there is no stigma attached to returning the ball on the first or second touch if you find your opponent poorly positioned. Players cannot touch the ball more than once, without the ball touching another player.  The net does not reset your touch and unlike volleyball or tennis, if the ball touches the net on the serve it is still in play!  Serves are done with as little spin as possible so that the wind can more effectively mess with the ball’s flightpath. Perhaps counterintuitively, spinning the ball on the serve actually makes it easier for your opponent to predict its path.

IMG_1893Well, there you have it. Now you know the basics of futevôlei. Next time you are in Copacabana, Ipanema, Botofogo, or Flamengo, cruise down to the water on a beautiful day and keep an eye out for the old men wearing speedos (sungas). They will be dark as leather and rippling with muscle from years of playing on the sunny beaches of Brazil. Take some time to watch, get a feel for the game, and learn from the masters. Then, when you’re feeling ready, go out there and join in on this classic of Brazilian sport culture.

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

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 Footballing Guide for Tourists

Brazil is undoubtedly soccer’s spiritual and cultural heart. And with World Cup 2014 coming to Rio this summer, that footballing heart will only beat louder. Soccer, which is locally referred to as futebol, is central to Brazilian life. And within Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is the place for total soccer immersion. I went down to Copacabana, the birthplace of Beach Soccer (futebol na praia), where goals litter the iconic beach.

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Carioças, the nickname for Rio natives, are passionate about futebol.  To get their fix, many wake up at the crack of dawn and head down to the beach to attend fitness programs that emphasize beach soccer.  One morning, I woke up early and set out for Copacabana to observe and get coaching ideas and training tips. If you pay a small fee (and are able to wake up early enough!), you could probably join the programs and play.

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As the sand gets extremely hot under the midday sun, you will not usually see people playing during the day.  The one exception to this rule is when it is overcast.  When cloud cover cools the sand down to a tolerable temperature, more teams train during the day.  Unfortunately (or maybe not so unfortunately), gloomy days in Rio are exceedingly rare.  So rare in fact, that Brazilians don’t seem to know how to react to rain.  During stormy weather, it appears that everyone forgets how to drive.  I’ve suffered through the most horrendous storm-induced traffic jams while in Brazil!

In addition to futebol, many groups of Carioças practice futevolley in the early evening. Kids in uniforms dominate the best fields because their clubs pay to reserve the space. Sometimes I have seen adults training on the beach as well. These are the members of the organized workout groups that I mentioned earlier.

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Now, I hope that I have not given you the wrong impression about Rio beach soccer culture.  Although the organized groups that I mentioned above require membership fees to play, there are plenty of opportunities for free pickup games for tourists!

Hate playing in the sand?  There is only one place to go in the South Zone of Rio to play on (synthetic) grass: Complexo Aterro.

I went down to Complexo Aterro in search of pickup games.  When I arrived, there was a group of guys from the local neighborhood.  They meet at the Aterro complexo de futebol (link above) before 8:45 on Saturday mornings.  One guy, almost like a coach, but more like an organizer, wrote my name down on a list. It is first come, first served and seniority is also a factor if there are lots of people in attendance. Usually, gringos are substitutes.  7v7 or 8v8 games end when 10 goals are scored, which usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours.

Guys pay about $10/month and get a red and blue uniform.  For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, no one ever has a ball except the organizer. The guys that pay the monthly fee get priority over people who don’t.  As native Brazilians are chosen first, you will probably be a substitute unless there are no locals around. When it is overcast, there are not too many people in attendance.  But if it is sunny and hot, tons of people show up.  The heat makes playing much more exhausting on the AstroTurf and so multiple substitutions are required.

The game starts at around 9:00 Brazilian time. When the first team scores the 5th goal, it is halftime and it’s time for some liquid refreshment.  There is a nice man who is always around selling water.  He sells on credit so you can pay him later and don’t have to fumble for your wallet during the game.

As I said before, the first team to 10 goals wins. But when it is scorchingly hot, the game sometimes will end after only 8 goals.  This ensures that none of the players keel over from dehydration and heat stroke.  If there are lots of people sometimes 7v7 becomes 8v8 or 9v9 with subs, depending on the number of available players. The larger games only increase the amount of bickering and complaining that occurs between players.

When you sub off, your day is done!  The substitutes can enter either team, red or blue.  A sweaty jersey and shorts may be offered to you, but I wouldn’t suggest wearing them unless you like bathing in another person’s sweat!  I bring my own clothing so I can keep my sweat to myself.

I hope that I have given you a useful introduction to pickup soccer in Rio.  If watching the best footballers in the world compete at the World Cup in Rio doesn’t inspire you to get out there and play some pickup, then I don’t think anything will! While the location and rules may change, the love for soccer is universal.  I’m sure that with a little effort, you’ll be able to fulfill your dream of playing soccer in its spiritual birthplace.

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Good luck and play hard!

Story from Casey Grady

Edited by Evan Hofberg

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!