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Junpiter Futbol Living Brazilian Football Dream

Mario Gotze chested down the ball down drifting in from his left. With a split second of balancing himself despite the intimidating ambience in the ten over thousands Argentinians-packed iconic Maracana, he smashed the Adidas

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Mario Gotze chested down the ball down drifting in from his left. With a split second of balancing himself despite the intimidating ambience in the ten over thousands Argentinians-packed iconic Maracana, he smashed the Adidas Brazuca with his left across the goal, into the net beyond Argentina’s Romero’s reach. Stadium erupted and the rest is history.

Although I was up in the middle of the night watching this exciting game Live on television, my excitement started a week way before the tournament kicked off!

It was certainly once in a lifetime experience for me, as a football lover, to be in Brazil to breathe some real football. Needless to say, to catch a World Cup game in Brazil was like fulfilling 2 dreams with a shot! To a true football fan, especially flying half the globe to indulge in this World Cup fever, it could probably be the best thing ever happened in his football-loving life.

23hrs of flight journey from Singapore to Dubai, then continued to Brazil’s capital, Rio de Janeiro where I set up my base camp. The journey was indeed torturing but I’m glad that I have made the right choice by flying with Emirates! Food was good and most importantly, the vast on-flight entertainment did me a great favor by occupying me all the way to South America. Did I mention that I was on the same flight to Rio de Janeiro with former World Cup winner & Italy Captain, Fabio Canavaro!

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Embarking on such a backpacking trip, the best decision which I have made was to stay in Maraca Hostel. The unique football-theme hostel, located in Tijuca was just a 15mins walk from the iconic Maracana Stadium. Staffs from the hostel spoke decent English which certainly put me at ease during my stay. Due the World Cup, the hostel held parties and showed Live football matches at the Hostel’s yard with great turn up, latino music and boozes! That really gave me an idea of how the Brazilians partied in their country!

Although the surrounding of the hostel was full of eateries, there was this Tijuca Shopping Mall located nearby which I particularly fancied. The mall actually served all my needs during my short 6 days stay there such as fast food chains McDonalds and KFC, good restaurants which served good and affordable beef steak, hair salon which I went for a haircut and a couple of sports retailers which satisfied all my football merchandises need! 

Facing any crisis of accompany shortage while traveling alone? Not in my context! As I have expected, I met loads and loads of new friends who were there in Brazil for the same reason – World Cup! For example, my room mates consisted of superb friendly Colombians, Argentinians, Mexicans and Chileans! Everyday, we would be having breakfast together, sharing our schedule for the day and for certain days, we even went out had our meals together too!

To know more about this Maraca Hostel, Click Here!

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Interestingly for this trip, I managed to get in touch with Rio Football Tour, a Rio de Janeiro-based football company which organizes all sorts of football activities in the city. On my second day in Rio, I joined up with them and underwent an Altinho futebol, Brazilians’ beach foot volleyball workshop at the famous Copacabana beach! The game was certainly not easy but I thought I did fairly well just to kick the ball up for some photo opportunities! Talked about photo-taking, I’m gonna thank Brazilian photographer, John and also, we gonna thank top European photographer, Bart Van Bambost who’s also a photographer for Nike for some extremely good shots!

To see more of Bart Van Bambost’s work, check out Pravda Photography!

To view my Altinho futebol at Copacabana, Click Here!

The packed Copacabana beach was on one of my top Must-Visit locations for this trip and I’m glad that I had enhanced the visit by injecting some Brazilian football flair. And as expected, the beach was packed with tourists in majority. With the World Cup fever on in the country, the beach was even more interesting with football fans from all over the world setting up their own base camps erected with their respective country flags! For Argentina fans, it could be the nearest for them to reach Brazil. Several Argentina registered caravans were seen parked at the beach side and it totally seems like they were prepared to camp at the beach for the entire tournament! Furthermore, an official World Cup Fan Fest Zone was set up at the beach for live games screening throughout the tournament!

Video of the Argentina fans camping at Copacabana, Click Here.

Just when I thought I have probably understood what was Brazilian futebol all about after underwent the Altinho futebol workshop at Copacabana, the Favela futebol experience on the very next day with the natives blew me off completely.

Together with the rest of my team mates whom I just got to know them on the very same day through the organizing of Rio Football Tour, we took the subway and alighted at Botafogo. We took a near 20mins walk and finally arrived at the entrance of Favela Santa Marta. There were 2 ways to reach the peak of the Favela where the futsal pitch situated, either you took the dilapidated tram or you walked up the narrow and steep stairs through the Favela. Tram was packed hence I volunteered for the latter option so as to experience the rare walk up a Favela. And that proved to be one of the most unforgettable highlights of this trip.

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While walking up the Favela, images of the movie “The Incredible Hulk” kept appearing on my mind where the casts ran up and down the Brazilians’ Favela in the movie! I was excited about the walking up but I was also equally being paranoid as I heard so much about the unrest situations especially at Favela. I was careful not to use my camera openly and after climbing every flight of staircases, I would look back (and down) to check if any stranger was following me. So as to give you a true picture, the Favela was really safe. Apart from the language barrier, everyone whom I have met while on my way up was friendly and helpful!

That 45mins walk up the Favela was indeed an eye opening one for a city boy like me. The tough condition which the Brazilians have to put up with to keep their family going was amazing. Standing on the same ground with the rest of the residents at the Favela, I thought to myself how on earth could people live in such an environment? I pitied the kids roaming the streets and up and down the steep staircases but the joy I saw from their faces spoke otherwise – they were happy. 

With my body clock still adjusting to the South American timing, the climbing up to the Favela’s peak gave my thighs’ muscles a great reason to protest. The friendly futsal game lasted for an hour but eventually it was the Brazilians who emerged victorious. The game was rather competitive as my body drained out completely at the end of the game. Using sign languages as my only communication tool, I managed to take some photos with the opposition team. One of them actually approached me and wanted to exchange jersey with me which I gladly obliged. I even gave them Junpiter Futbol wristbands which I had prepared and brought over from home as souvenir with the last strength I had left at the peak of the Favela!

Walking down the Favela was not exactly a breeze as compared to walking up. Don’t forget that my limps were giving way and I slipped a couple of times but lucky there were always helping hands to pull me up! Credits went to Rio Football Tour again for organizing such an once in a lifetime futsal game at Favela Santa Marta. Partial amount of the registration fee for this game went to the rebuilding of the Favela Santa Marta football community. I’m glad that I am able to contribute to the beautiful game in Brazil and I wish the residents in Favela Santa Marta all the best of luck, boa sorte!

To read more of my Favela futebol experience featured on TODAY Paper, Click Here.

To view more photos of my Favela Santa Marta and Favela futebol, Click Here. 

Stay tune for Part II Write Up… I am going to visit one of the most supported football clubs in Brazil, Fluminense FC and the famous Estadio Maracana!

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