Today was an interesting day. I awoke this morning and looked at all the options: Argentina closed practice session? Nope. France training session in Cape Town? That’s a plane ride away. Portugal arriving at Johannesburg airport at 8 a.m.? That would be fun – Cristiano Ronaldo – but they’d already landed and were likely at the hotel already. Brazil press conference with Lucio and Luisao? Only 25 minutes away at Brazil’s complex in Randburg? Yes. That would be perfect. Everyone loves witnessing the spectacle of Brazil and everything surrounding that team. Driving over to Randburg I was, of course, slightly concerned about the language barrier. There would be plenty of Portuguese being spoken, yes, but (like a true American), I figured a few questions would go down in English. After all, Brazil’s group includes North Korea, Ivory Coast, and Portugal – how else would media from those teams ask questions and write stories? The common denominator would be English – I was sure. I arrived at The Fairways Hotel, a gated compound, about 30 minutes early for the press conference. I watched as the room filled with 10 times the media usually present for the U.S. press conferences, and then I listened for 40 minutes as questions darted first towards Luisao and then Lucio – every single one of them in Portuguese. When it was over, the English guy sitting in front of me, with whom I’d been speaking while waiting for the conference to start, asked me if spoke Portuguese. I informed him I did not. He said I wasn’t missing much, that it was one of the team’s more boring press conferences. He also said not to worry, that it would be translated and online very soon. He was right. Here’s my favorite quote from the morning, although at the time all I heard was a foreign language as I stared at my computer screen in dismay. It’s Lucio talking about Brazil’s final warm-up game against Tanzania:
Today was an interesting day. I awoke this morning and looked at all the options: Argentina closed practice session? Nope. France training session in Cape Town? That’s a plane ride away. Portugal arriving at Johannesburg airport at 8 a.m.? That would be fun – Cristiano Ronaldo – but they’d already landed and were likely at the hotel already. Brazil press conference with Lucio and Luisao? Only 25 minutes away at Brazil’s complex in Randburg?
"It is not a competitive game, but our enthusiasm and will should be the same as in the World Cup. Injuries can happen any time, but we have to be careful and pay attention in training to avoid risky plays. When you are on the field to train or playing with fear of getting injured, it finally happens. I beg God to bless and protect us."
I took a video of Lucio and Luisao walking onto the podium. Not sure if the videos are making it into the video player, but I promise I’m uploading them.
After the adventure in Randburg – which was fun in its own way – I drove north to Pretoria where the U.S. was holding an open practice at Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria. The U.S. has been practicing there everyday and is scheduled to play one World Cup match in Pretoria. Don’t get too excited about the idea of an “open practice.” U.S. coach Bob Bradley had his guys run, do some stretching, do a couple of drills, and then called it a day.
They weren’t out there longer than an hour. U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, who has been out with a sprained ankle, took part in the hour-long session and then did at least a dozen 60-yard sprints afterwards. Since trainers were timing him and looking on, it appeared to be a sort of fitness test. Altidore’s ankle seemed fine. I took a video of it. You can check out that video as well (I think you can at least): It’s uploaded.
The U.S. distributed about 1,500 tickets to the open practice and welcomed 350 children from local organizations supported or facilitated by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
If you haven’t heard them yet, the noisemakers at this World Cup will be the vuvuzelas: a South African blowing horn. Origin of the vuvuzela is disputed, but here’s this fun bit of trivia from Wiki: “Vuvuzelas have been said to be rooted in African history, but this is disputed.People would blow on a kudu horn to call villagers to a meeting.Adding to the appeal is South African folklore that ‘A baboon is killed by a lot of noise.’ During the last quarter of a match, supporters blow vuvuzelas frantically in an attempt to ‘kill off’ their opponents.”
And, in conclusion, here’s my favorite quote from today. Today was interesting because it feels just a little bit too early to be full-blast about England, and too late to discuss anything else. So today was a little bit in between. But in the mixed-zone after practice (that roped off area where players are obligated to come speak with the media) a few folks from England asked U.S. goalie Tim Howard about containing the English attack, an attack including striker Wayne Rooney.
Tim’s response: “We’re going to have to defend like bandits, it’s all hands on deck.”
That’s fun. And it wasn’t in Portuguese.