Day 2: Friday 18th July 2014I left you as we approached Heathrow and pick up no more than 24 hours later, which seems a lot longer. We are in Brazil! Years of planning and we are here at last!
There was a minor delay on our connecting flight to Frankfurt but no real issue as we had a decent gap before the main haul to Rio. Immense discussion in the airport about the merits of the respective neck pillows on sale – memory foam or bean bag. It didn’t really matter for Taggy in the end. I bought two for a bargain £20 and he left the blasted thing on the plane in Frankfurt without ever using it. Good luck on the 11-hour Rio flight you muppet!
Good news for JMT. He’s only bagged the prime position on the Frankfurt flight between Taggy and Mel, fully engaged already in giving the youngster the advice to make his career as special as possible. JMT looks at me with forlorn eyes and indicates his imminent retirement from football to spend more time with absolutely anyone else!
At Frankfurt some of the chaps found pizza in one of the small cafes, others didn’t. That was Germany!
Rio flight. It’s real, we are on a flight to Rio de Janeiro. That’s the exciting bit. Downside is over 11 hours. Lufthansa not bad as an airline but hope that the entertainment schedule has changed before we head back as I exhausted the good stuff. Sleeping pills were the answer but I had my pillow! I was more comfortable but didn’t really sleep. Must have been the garlic butter I tucked into thinking it was yoghurt.
JMT seat update – this time he’s next to Tis. Feel for the lad! Still, he will know when or when not to wear a cravat.
And then, as if by magic, the light of Rio twinkled below us. As we emerged at the airport, we saw familiar faces in Ricardo and Eric, less familiar ones (at this stage) in various camera crews who are filming the historic event for posterity. Glad to see it. We will want as much footage as possible between us. This is, after all, a monumental event. It really is.
En route to Xerem on Fluminense's bus
A nice treat, a trip on the Fluminense first team coach, very luxurious, for the journey to our digs. At 6am dawn is breaking in Rio so, as we drove along, we were treated to a glorious Rio sunrise and glimpses of the famous beaches we intend to visit.
Traffic (more later) is jammed heading into town so we’re lucky to be heading in the opposite direction. Rio is huge and my initial impression is that everything seems to be crammed in together – roads, business premises, advertisement boards colonial style architecture and the lower end of the housing market virtually in the same square metre! Some places in the world look half-built. That lower end of Rio looks like it’s been built, lived in and then is half pulled down. You saw the documentaries before the World Cup. To me they have huge charm. The bustle and spirit of the residents seems to show through. Walls covered not so much in graffiti but Banksy style paintings. I like it.
A room with a view - the mountains as seen from Xerem
Xerem is the Fluminense Academy. It’s up in the mountains about 25 miles out of Rio. No Copacabana hotels for us but a beautiful mountain view to greet us. A small village and not much more. Players will love this. Basic accommodation – room, bed, bathroom. JMT update – not rooming with any of the management so things are definitely looking up!
Although we’re all tired, it’s right that we should get onto Brazilian time as soon as possible so rather than sleeping, after breakfast (more bread comments Grimesy) we head 400 metres to the Academy hostel where there is a swimming pool. It’s hot, sunny and muggy so it’s very welcome. Everyone dives in to temperatures differently described as ‘just what I need’ to ‘gender-changing’.
The boys take a dip to loosen up
Jess and then Tis lead the players plus Taggy and myself in water aerobics and exercises and then a few races. Thanks to my early swimming career I’m well placed to show this whippersnappers a thing or two! Best dressed man and fastest in the pool. Have I peaked too soon on tour?
Christy gets grilled by Brazilian TV on the Pym connection with namesake and 1914 tourist Dick Pym
After a spell wifi-chasing in the Academy foyer there’s lunch and then the first light training session of the tour. Busy first day! More TV crews and a fantastic time with kids from an Onda Solidario project which has taken kids from all over Rio and given them sporting opportunities.
City get a big welcome from Onda Solidario
Their fun and biscuits (my mate Wiggsy coined that phrase) today was to join the players for a training session, loads of ball skills and then shooting practice. Come on Christy, you could have got down to that shot from the 8-year-old! Lots of photos and footage. Absolutely worth it. The players were magnificent with the kids and they loved. Footage shown on Brazilian TV and it went wide on Twitter as well. Another Taggy tweet. He’s good!!!
Liam Sercombe and Aaron Dawson in the foreground, training with youngsters from the favelas
Highlight of the training session after was Pat Baldwin’s juggle and volley into the top corner (of the goal not the trees for any cynics out there!) Proper Brazilian.
I mentioned Rio is big and full of traffic. One tip. Do not, whatever you do, have an accident or require an ambulance transfer to hospital at rush hour or any time really in Rio. We caught up and overtook one with a flashing light twice at one stage. Took us two hours to get to Laranjeiras for a meeting about Sunday’s game!
Once there, though, the history shone through. Architecture again. Beautiful. The ground and the pitch just as you imagine from those 100-year-old photos. Probably the same palm trees! It’s a big sporting complex, tennis courts, a full diving pool and a 50-metre swimming pool where a water polo match was being played. The best bit, when we were pitchside, was to look up and see the Christ the Redeemer, fully floodlit on the hillside, overlooking us.
We are really in Brazil!
Day 1 – Destination: Rio
Day 3 – Flying into the centenary match
Day 4 – 100 years in the making
Day 5 – A day of rest
Day 6 – Project visit in Juiz de Fora