Soccernomics in Brazil: How Socioeconomic Status Impacts The Beautiful Game

by Jonas Gerken

 I decided to go to Brazil for one main motivation: football. Real football. Soccer. The country is ripe with football culture. Jerseys are sold in every shop; games are on televisions in every eating establishment; pitches exist in almost every neighborhood. Brazilian fans have been known to go to extremes for their national team, including jumping off of buildings, both in defeat and victory. In Brazil, torceda (supporting a team) really is coração (heart).
   In Brazil I played for a team called Orlando City, an academy or development team created and sponsored by the Orlando City soccer team based out of the United States. It was a fun team to play on, and I got to play with my host brother which helped strengthen our relationship. The Brazilians that I played with were very talented, some of the best on the island of Florianopolis, but paled in comparison to kids from around the country. When we played in the Copa Floripa, the largest tournament on the island and in Santa Catarina, we scored just two goals and lost every game by a dividend greater than three. But the kids I played with in Brazil did something that kids in the US soccer system stop doing after they are about fourteen: they play for fun.

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By the Beach, In the Sea

by Rujen Amatya

During my bridge year in Florianopolis, Brazil, I had a goal: to visit all the beaches on the island. This proved to be an extreme challenge because the island of magic has more than 40 beaches. I could not visit all the beaches. Thus, I decided to go for the most beautiful beaches which are on the east coast of Florianopolis. These are also the beaches with strong, big waves, exactly fitting the waves that I liked. 

My home, Nepal, is a country full of mountains and hills, rivers and lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers. Born and raised in a place with such a diverse topography, I often found myself climbing mountains, hiking the trails between the hills, swimming in the rivers and getting soaked under waterfalls. I thoroughly enjoyed what Nepal had to offer but never did I expect to find this new exploration in Brazil.

It feels wonderful to spend time on the beach near the sea. Just watching the sunrise or sunset makes me feel happy. The sound of the gurgling waves hitting the shores is melodious. As these waves gently soak the sand, the acetylene blue sea simultaneously changes color. While the waves continue, the fragrance of sulfur along with the cool breeze refreshes me. While I walk along the beach, the feathery sand sticks to my damp feet and I carry it all the way up to my destination. I had never felt this kind of attraction back home. I was in love with the sea.

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Where Even Am I?

by Leonardo Ruiz-Sanchez

When I first arrived to Campeche beach, I was left amazed with the outstanding beauty of Florianopolis, considered the island of magic. Now, months later, when I go on a morning run, I pass the beach and I am used to seeing the ocean with its waves and the few people that have awoken early to enjoy them. It is wild that this is sometimes part of my daily routine when a couple months back I had never experiences the salty waters or the sand that never seems to leave even after leaving the beach. It seems almost normal and I feel the urge to make myself aware of everything, so it can be appreciated. I keep asking myself, “Where even am I?”

This can be a simple or tricky questions depending on how it is approached. It’s always easy to state the obvious: I am in Brazil. I am waiting for a bus. I am going to my apprenticeship. Although this is the truth, it is not the whole truth. There are so many other sides of my experience here that are so difficult to convey. They are what truly make it all unique.

I am in Campeche, Brazil, where it takes seven minutes to walk to the beach. In the mornings, the beach and its quiet cool winds and the low crunching sounds of my shoes on the sand create a safe space for me. Much of my reflection occurs with the sounds of waves crashing in the background. Even though the ocean took my favorite pair of eyeglasses, I still fell in love with it. I am unsure how I will feel when I am forced to leave this very crucial part of my bridge year experience behind.

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Food Insecurity in Brazil

by Dominique Landinez

Here I was, splitting a banana tree with a machete in the countryside of São Paulo. The pieces of banana tree, filled with water, were being strategically positioned in the dirt to aid the other crops for the rainless days. The other crops– chinese and lamb lettuce—would use the banana tree as a sort of back-up juice box. These were the kinds of small scale agriculture techniques that farmers in São Luiz do Paraitinga were using. This family grew all of their food right outside of their house. Their garden looked disorganized, with many different kinds of plants growing together in close proximity. The different kinds of crops and fruits were growing together symbiotically to protect one another from insects and other parasites. This technique may appear quite confusing to a city girl, but it was actually a very meticulous process that helped them avoid the use of insecticides —or any other chemicals for that matter. They took a lot of pride in their work. 

Today, 66 million people in Brazil are food insecure. Food insecurity, a noun, is understood as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.  Though food availability is sufficient for the entire population, widespread poverty has made it extremely difficult for people to purchase food. Therefore, the problem is not that of availability but rather, in-affordability which leaves several communities nutrition insecure. This problem is a difficult one to tackle. The Brazilian government has already implemented policies in attempt to aid this continuing problem.

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Realizations in Rio

by Savion Sample
I sat atop Morro da Urca, one of the highest and most stunning mountaintops in Rio, staring out across the city. I leaned forward and pressed my bodyweight against the steel railing, taking a deep breath of fresh Brazilian air. Here I was, after a grueling 6 hour bus ride, a short bike ride along the coast, and a tiring hike up the side of the mountain. I was standing on what seemed like the top of the world, with the entire city beneath my feet. I turned back around toward the rest of my group and looked at Jacque, our tour guide for that day. She led my group over toward the other side of the mountain – not to where the view of the city was, but to where we could clearly see the large mass of houses clumped on the side of a neighboring hill, on the outskirts of the main part of the city. I looked back over to her, wondering why she had taken us to view all the favelas. She began to explain exactly what I was thinking.

“Over the decades, the Rio favelas have been portrayed and associated in a very negative light”, she said. “They’re often referred to as  ‘slums’, ‘shantytowns’, or the ‘ghetto’.” She went on explain how favelas have been misconstrued throughout the decades. Summing up the favelas as just ‘slums’ just doesn’t do justice to the richness of the favela culture and history. The favelas originated near the turn of the 19th century, after Brazilian soldiers migrated down from Bahia, having emerged victorious from the Canudos war. They settled along the mountains in Rio. Not long after, recently freed African slaves began to settle along the mountains as well, being complete outcasts from society and not having anywhere else to go. Later, urbanization caused workers to move from the countryside to Rio, where they sought for more work. But without being able to find an adequate amount of work or a sufficient amount of money like they had hoped, these migrants were also ultimately pushed towards the outskirts of Rio as well.

That day, Jacque taught me a very important lesson. Favelas aren’t necessarily the circus show that always seems to be portrayed in the media. They don’t exist so you can safely buy your Favela Tour ticket and silently judge from a distance like they’re some kind of animals. In fact, the people who live in these favelas in Rio are the exact opposite. They are motivated, hard-working people who are self starters and get things done. They may have been completely neglected by the government, but they’re strong people who have spent decades building their neighborhoods and their communities. 

Brazil is a beautiful country, but it does have its problems. But despite all it, I know that when I look back at my experience in Rio, I know that I’m going to picture my first day there: sitting atop that mountain, staring across the horizon, staring down at the beauty of the city, but also down at the beauty built along those hills – the tight-knit communities sewn together from a long line of battered history and a rich culture.