THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME
Have you ever dreamed of taking a trip to a place you never thought would ever be possible?
Well, I not only have thought of it… I did it.
As a young man in college I took what I called, “the trip of a lifetime”.
I have always dreamed of playing soccer against the best of the best and that dream finally came true in 2011.
Out of 500+ college young men, I was chosen to be a part of the 16-man roster that our college was sending to Brazil.
I am going to Brazil as a young collegiate soccer fanatic? Wow!
I mean we are talking about the greatest players that have ever played the game of soccer were from Brazil!
- 3 World Cups with Brazil
- 72 goals in 92 games
- Scored 1,281 goals in his soccer career which is more than any other player in soccer history.
- 12 world cup goals in 14 games
- A sensational dribbler with an outstanding show
- The most joy coming from any other player who has played soccer. He always was smiling.
- 2 FIFA world player of the year awards
- He had so many creative and insane ball skills of any other player who has played the game. Literally if there was a soccer god, which there is not, he would be it.
- Scored 33 goals in the 97 games on the Brazilian National Team.
Ronaldo (Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima)
- 3-time FIFA World Player of the Year (1996, 1997, 2002)
- Nicknamed “The Phenomenon”
- Scored 62 goals with Brazil playing in 98 games
- Made it in the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame and Italian Football Hall of Fame. Soccer Free Kicks
It was a dream come true for me to be chosen to go to Brazil that is for sure!
So, if you love soccer you will really like this story…
My 3 biggest highlights of the trip were…
Gas Station Soccer Game
It all started out with a drive to Atlanta before our long 16 hour flight into Sao Paulo. All 16 of us guys plus 2 coaches crammed ourselves and our luggage into two white twelve passenger Chevy Express vans.
The trip already was a hit because when you have 16 college soccer guys in one vehicle, you know that the aroma inside that tight area won’t be sweet smelling perfume…it is not going to smell great at all. (Haha Just Kidding).
However, when we got to the Atlanta Airport, we started playing the old “GAS STATION SOCCER GAME” while we waited to board our plane.
Now you may be thinking, GAS STATION SOCCER GAME?
What is that?
The gas station soccer game originated back in 2007 when 16 guys took the same Brazil trip we did. They decided it would be fun to all get in a circle and juggle with a mini soccer ball while waiting patiently for the coaches to get gas and to take a breather from their long ride.
Here is the catch though. You only get two touches per juggle. If you went over that amount you lost and left the circle. And if you made a bad touch and it wasn’t playable by another player, you lost as well.
This has become an annual tradition with each Brazil trip as each team took traveling breaks and you better believe we were going to keep that tradition alive on this 2011 Brazil trip.
We made a spectacle of ourselves at Atlanta international Airport too…All 16 guys circled up again to play THE GAS STATION SOCCER GAME in the middle of the airport. Man it was such a highlight and it improved our touches on the ball tremendously.
My number 2 highlight of the trip was…
Pick-Up Futsal Games
This was a huge highlight of my Brazil trip!
If you don’t know what Futsal is, it is a game of soccer played on a basketball type court, with a smaller/harder ball, and a total of 5 players on each team. It is a much faster soccer game and is great for mastering your foot skills. This is how Ronaldhino became such a great dribbler for he was always playing Futsal.
If you are from Brazil and you play soccer then you play Futsal. We got to play Futsal in high schools, parks, dirt fields, and even in a jail. Most of the Brazilians actually play in the bare feet.
First, the high schools were filled with people who treated you as royalty and wanted to praise you any chance they got. We handed out these cards with our pictures and everyone was begging us for our autographs. I felt like a celebrity even though I was just a simple soccer player from America.
In fact, there was this moment in one of the games where a friend of mine hustled to save a ball from going out of bounds and ended up falling into a crowd of girls. Let’s just say we lost him for a while and it took two of our players to literally grab his legs and pull him out of the crowd of girls all while the girls were hanging on him for dear life. The girls literally were freaking out because one of the American soccer players landed on them and they got to touch him.
Second, we played Futsal in the parks which were filled with little kids who had no money to buy any shoes, yet they still made most of us look bad on the court with their amazing foot skills. It was kind of sad actually to see some of these kids with nothing and not well taken care of. All they were looking for was someone to talk to them and play with them.
Third, we played on dirt fields which seemed to be filled with dirt tornadoes and everywhere you played it felt like you were going through a sandstorm. Not to mention the awful injuries that would happen if you so happened to fall on the ground. This definitely challenged our foot skills since we were so used to playing on a court where you could stop and go and make cuts as you please. The dirt fields were slippery and made it hard to control the ball at times.
Finally, and probably the most exciting part of Futsal was to say I played Futsal with a bunch of inmates in jail. Pretty crazy! Huh?
The security process we had to go through was extensive, but understandable. I still can’t believe they allowed 16 guys to come in and play Futsal with them on the cement court. Maybe it was because we had an amazing message that we wanted to share with them, the “Good News” that Jesus Christ loves them and gave His life for all who will believe in Him and that He deeply cares about them no matter who they are.
Futsal is a big deal everywhere in Brazil. Almost every Brazilian soccer player has played futsal growing up. Brazilians are experts at the Brazilian toe poke which is used in Futsal in many situations. This is where the player literally shoots the ball with his/her toe to have a quicker and more powerful shot.
In fact, Pele, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho all grew up playing Futsal and used the toe poke many times, which explains why they are known for their amazing foot skills.
I don’t recommend using the toe poke method while in normal cleats in an 11v11 game, but the art of the Brazilian toe poke is pretty sweet when it comes to Futsal!
Check out the Futsal toe poke in the this video:
Last but not least is my number 3 highlight of the trip…
DARED TO EAT CHICKEN HEARTS
Growing up I was the pickiest eater!
If there was a Guinness World Record holder for the pickiest eater my name might have been at the top of the list.
I hated everything but junk. I didn’t eat vegetables. I loved boxed meals all the time and you would never ever see me try anything new.
To this day I am a picky eater. Not to the extreme of when I was a child, but I still am picky, however, I have come a long way thanks to my wife.
I say all of that to lead you into the day we visited a Churrascaria.
What in the world is a Churrascaria?
In Brazil, it is known as a Brazilian steakhouse. I mean think of any kind of meat and they will have it at this Brazilian steakhouse. So, basically in the Portugal language it is similar to the American word for Barbecue.
Our waiters would bring out different cuts of meat in all different shapes and sizes on these massive metal skewers. They took their knives and cut through the meat as we watch the meat just fall off onto our plate.
However, there was this one kind of meat that couldn’t be cut and looked very interesting. It was the size of a quarter and it was in the shape of an oval. I don’t think I ever saw anything like it before. It smelled good but the way it looked was straight up nasty.
As we finished our plates and were filled to the brim, one of my soccer buddies picked up this interesting looking meat and dared me to eat it.
IT WAS A CHICKEN HEART!
Remember, I am a picky eater. I don’t try things that are new. I straight up said, HECK NO!
But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He got the entire team to chant, EAT IT…EAT IT…EAT IT!
I mean…I don’t know about you, but when 16+ guys are chanting at you the competitive soccer player in me couldn’t turn down this dare.
I would have either been remembered as the player who chickened out (pun intended) or the one who conquered his fears of trying something new.
So, I stabbed that chicken heart like my life depended on it, closed my eyes and hoped for the best. The outer layer was pretty tough but as I bit into it juice flowed out and surprisingly it tasted better than what I was expecting.
So I guess the moral of the story is…
FACE YOUR FEARS
This entire trip was a blast and it couldn’t have gone better than it did. Starting with the gas station soccer game tradition to facing my fears eating a chicken heart, I would say this trip was the trip of a lifetime. At least it was for me anyway.
So often, people don’t get opportunities like this to travel and make a dream possible. I got that opportunity and can tell you that it changed me in so many ways.
As I saw those kids with no shoes and ragged clothes, it gave me a perspective of how blessed I really am.
As I went into the jails and saw the inmates, it opened my eyes that soccer can be used to bring people together and have unity even when they are possibly at the lowest points of their lives.
And finally as I ate that gross looking, -better than I thought tasting chicken heart- it revealed to me that fear can be faced if we have the courage to face it. You may be afraid while facing the challenge that is set before you but if you can have the courage to face the challenge fear will never stop you.
Let me encourage you to leave a comment below and tell me a time when you faced your fears and became an overcomer!
If you can’t think of a time when you have faced your fears maybe I can help you with that. If so, feel free to contact me and let’s talk about it. I would love the opportunity of helping you through what ever you might be going through.
Coach Phil is the founder of SoccerSkillsU.com and a private training coach. He is passionate about coaching young people and helping them to step up their game on the field. His personalized training style helps the student of the game have a seemingly unfair advantage over their opponent. Learn more about Coach Phil on his About Me page or follow him on his local site at Soccer Skills Coach Citrus Heights. You can also follow him at Custom GoalKeeper Gloves