Days 11 & 12: Sunday 27th/Monday 28th July 2014Our final day in Brazil saw the weather start badly and just get worse! With the flight not until the evening and the journey home cutting out any chance of proper training before the Swansea game on Tuesday night, the players enjoyed a double training session of both ball work and, well, physical torture it seemed to me!
Before the rain set in and in the gathering gloom, the finale was a run up the hill from the training pitches to the Academy main building not once, not twice but three times. Give all due credit to the players, they completed the gruelling task. That hill was steep, I can tell you, brutal in fact. I carried a box of water up it and was breathing heavily half way up, although I hope my 5-a-side manager, Big Ron Badger, isn’t listening or my own fitness and therefore place in the team will be in doubt. He’s wondering already where I’ve been for the past couple of weeks!
We settled in for the last meal of beans and rice and the heavens opened. You couldn’t see the hills next to you, it was that bad! Any thoughts of a final attempt to visit the Christ the Redeemer were pointless. If you were 10 yards away from it, you still wouldn’t see it. So on with packing and cramming two trophies, goodies we’d been given and shopping into our bags. On the way out, we’d taken a huge bag full of kit and things we needed in Brazil but the cost was immense so, for the return journey, we tried to cram everything into standard baggage, which translated meant I tried to cram everything into my bag, only handing out a meagre amount to others to bring back. Most surprisingly I got in past the Lufthansa check in chappie despite it being rather overweight but at least my upper body strength has improved dramatically (Big Ron Badger take note!)
You may well have seen pictures of it already but we gave our hosts at the Academy some gifts and the players, as had always been the case since our humbling visit to Vila dos Sonhos last Tuesday, donated any spare kit they could to the children. Each and every player requested that this should happen, such was the impact it had on them but, if you’d been there, you would understand in the blink of an eye just why. Fortunately, kit lady Lou has this season’s new kit for them to collect tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Cat & Fiddle, so the players won’t be training in bibs and skins!
Fond farewells were bid to Eric and Ricardo and for the first time on the tour, Junior the coach driver was bang on time. With delicious irony we discovered the Academy had some tea so we left there to head to the airport with a cuppa in our hand and the rain absolutely lashing down. Oh how we wished we’d been in Britain to enjoy the heatwave! When we landed in Heathrow, it was raining. We can’t win!
The journey back was pretty good actually. The long leg from Rio to Frankfurt around an hour shorter thanks to the prevailing trade winds. The entertainment selection was unfortunately the same as for the journey over. I’d exhausted the good stuff in the 11 ½ hours. Slept instead and then did a Taggy, leaving the neck cushion at Frankfurt but it had done its job by then.
Not as bad as Rip van Wheeler who dozily left his bag on the chair at the gate at Frankfurt when we boarded the final flight leg to Heathrow. Luckily his colleagues bailed him out. Not Woody, though (see the Day 9 journal and the case of the missing Wheeler!)
I must just pass on a story, the catchphrase of which became popular in the latter stages of the tour. Our guide, Luan, who played for eight minutes at the end of the Rio Cricket Club match, has been such a tremendous fellow and of undeniable help to us. But, in true Brazilian style, sometimes it didn’t quite go all the way. His grasp of English would let him down and we’d see a bemused face trying to make sense of what we were saying. However, the pinnacle of his achievements was when Luan, our beloved guide and a Rio resident himself, was leading a trail of weary travellers miles along a long road, insisting there would be cafés galore appearing at any time. A tatty old thing was finally reached with coffee of questionable source and quality. So much for Rio café culture or so we thought. Not 50 yards away, on a parallel street, there it was – shops, vibrancy, cafes and all you could wish for in a city, hence the phrase ‘an inch away from a good time’ (no jokes please, it was an accurate and, at the time, unsmutty description but I’m fully aware of where things could head with this one!) With all the fun and interesting organisation, that catchphrase isn’t a bad one actually to sum up much of our experience!
Good old Luan. There was a spark in there and sense of irony. Back at the Cricket Club match, Tis asked him to play up front in the style of Fred, the Brazilian number 9. Luan commented afterwards that he respected Tis as a manager so did exactly as he said, playing like Fred in the World Cup, namely running around doing nothing and missing an open goal!
We’re now trundling along the M4 on the final leg of the long journey home. What did I miss and forget to tell you about? Loads I’m sure but hopefully you’ve found it an interesting read!
How can I best summarise the trip? I’ll find it hard to do it all justice. I know I’m not the best or most professional writer around. There’s plenty in my head and there’s an undoubted skill getting it out and onto a page in some kind of form which makes sense to someone who wasn’t there. For no reason other than Pat Baldwin got us to do so and it seems a good idea, I’ll list words in no particular order which will trigger memories. I do hope you’ll have picked up enough in these blogs to get the feeling what’s behind the words.
I think that pretty much covers it. For the travelling Grecians and the playing group alike, it’s been a great success. We have seen and learnt so much, worked hard and had a good time too of course. No-one will ever forget being lucky enough to be in Brazil. We have cemented old friendships and developed many new ones and the club has got a hell of a lot of credit out of this trip, which should do us good in the longer term. We also got two trophies!
Thanks for reading. Back to work in the morning. Bring on Swansea!