Two years ago at the London 2012 Olympics, an Italian journalist made what he termed an “easy decision” by foregoing an event involving his country’s athlete, which he was under obligation to cover for his media house, to rush to the Horse Guards Parade to watch the Brazilian beach volleyball team (read the female team).
Taking in the sights and sounds of volleyballers was, for him, time well spent. It was a moment to cherish, one worth every penny. It is safe to suggest that he wasn’t alone, considering how full the place was, especially when the ladies of Team Brazil were throwing their tanned bodies in the sand on their way to winning the gold.
The same journalist, whose name is withheld on request, is in Brazil to cover the 2014 Fifa World Cup. But at least he is yet to miss a match because of four kilometers of eye candy on the world-famous Copacabana beach!
Brazil is famed for many things. Colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th Century, it is a beautiful, rich and vast land full of nearly every race. There are areas in the country whose history is scripted with French, Italian and German settlers.
Slavery, too, contributed to its ethnic diversity. There are whites, blacks, yellow, brown and American Indians among the 200 million people of South America’s largest nation. Intermarriages dating back centuries have led to modern day Brazil in more ways than one. The beautiful women it is famed for are a result of the hybrid of races over generations.
There is also a school of thought that the legendary list of footballers to have come out of Brazil — the Peles, Garrinchas, Ronaldos, Ronaldinhos, Tostaos, Didis and Socrates — is down to the integration of the many races, which gave birth to extraordinary human talent. That is, however, subject to debate.
HONED ON THE BEACH
What is not in question is that Brazil is the greatest football nation on earth: No other has managed a haul of five World Cups. “Play like Brazil” is the cliché adopted for teams aspiring to play the game the way it was intended.
Today’s Brazil side, the one under Luiz Felipe Scolari, may not be as easy on the eye as the teams of Zico-Socrates-Falcao or Pele-Jairzinho-Rivelino but the yellow and green of the Selecao remains revered world over as the game’s standard bearer. The flexibility of the ankles of the footballers are, in part, honed on the sandy beaches.
Brazil is blessed with beaches on the Atlantic, many of them. Copacabana may be the most famous beach but it is just one of many, with some inland and others on the ocean coastline. There is Praia da Fazenda, halfway between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Bonete, Lopes Mendes, Arpoador and Caraiva up north in Bahia.
For the tourists, beaches are a relaxing, picturesque spot for holiday; for young Brazilians, it is where they start playing the ‘beautiful game’ in the demanding conditions of sand.
“Running with a football in sand at a young age,” says Rai Ribiero, a youth football coach in Manaus, “is physically and mentally demanding.
“But it makes the ankles stronger and more fluid in balance and movement. At a young age, it appears punishment but at a mature age it gives the individual a superb edge.”
If the beaches contribute to talent development, they aren’t so famous for that like their fine-looking women.
Beauty, they say, is relative. But not so many people will you find contesting that of Brazilian women. It comes in all forms. Their long hair, complexions ranging from chocolate to brown, black and white, hourglass figures and a sense of debonair make them stunning.
This is not to say that every woman in Brazil looks like that; there are, of course, those who are ordinary.
What actually makes the fine women here stand out for their looks is the backdrop of Copacabana, their bodies in bikinis lying in the sand as they enjoy the view of Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains. That is the mythical impression of many a visitor to Brazil.
Strolling down the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, you will see a number of them. Some are tourists, probably beautiful girlfriends of rich men holidaying at the world’s longest beach. Some wives. Naturally, you are bound to qualify them as Brazilians given that you have no access to their passports. That helps the stereotype of Brazilian beauty.
But there is more to beautiful women and football in Brazil. They love the game. Their female fans and the game are conjoined twins. Prior to Brazil matches at this World Cup, the girls dress in a style that provokes interest and attention. It goes without saying that the provocative dressing is always in national colours.
“They want the world to notice them, to take a glance at Brazilian football through them, because they love themselves and the country as much as they enjoy soccer,” says Lisandra Eduarda, a 21-year-old university student who supports Flamengo, the club of Zico.
That innate partying culture is born out of the function they cherish most — the Carnival. A holiday like no other that attracts superstar footballers like Ronaldo, beautiful women like celebrity Kelly de Almeida Afonso and a host of politicians.
It is an event for all that Brazilians do everything not to miss. Like the World Cup.