On June 7, 2014, my best friend Delali and I left for our greatest adventure together. We departed San Francisco Airport to Manaus, Brazil for the World Cup. People are often shocked to know that 2 American girls are so into football that they would go to such great lengths, but it is fact. Delali's father is from Ghana and his passion for football would rub off on anyone. Delali played the game since she was young. I was a volleyball player and only ever played for fun. When I saw Kwaku's (her father) passion for this game and was introduced to the World Cup, my eyes were opened. I'll be honest though... It wasn't the game, the kicking of the ball that first drew me in. It was how this beautiful game united this great big world. I fell in love with that concept first and then, I fell in love with the game itself.
Photo with my mother before leaving for San Francisco.
Photo with Delali`s mother at the airport.
On our way!
Manaus is this great big city with a population of 2.2 million in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. Let me tell you how hot it is to be near the Equator in the middle of the rainforest. Can't say I have ever sweated so much in my life. Hot as hell! We arrived on the 8th and spent the first couple of days discovering the city and having a walk around. The owners of the hotel were very kind to us and on the second evening, they took us to the main square to try a local dish called Takaka.
The owners of the hotel we stayed at.
On Tuesday June 10, 2014, Delali and I took a one day tour of the Amazon. Absolutely awesome! Our morning guide was Conrado who befriended me during the tour. Turns out he was just David Beckham's guide through the Amazon for his new documentary, "Into the Unknown". I felt very honored to have the same guide because as anyone would know, I LOVE BECKHAM!
The Rio Negro meets the Amazon River.
Children headed to school.
Conrado and I
Definitely one of the cutest animals on the Earth!
My anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hun!!!
Swimming with pink river dolphins.
Privileged to see dances from indigenous people of the Amazon.
June 12, 2014 was a very special day as it was the opener of the World Cup. We took an incredibly long bus ride packed in like sardines to the FIFA Fan Fest at Ponta Negra, a man made river beach. It was absolutely insane there! Thousands of people gathered to watch Brazil vs. Croatia in front of a big screen. Brazilians love football and it is arguable that they might be the biggest football nation in the world. Let me say that it is an incredible experience to be watching football with a bunch of Brazilians. When they win, they celebrate hard and it was lucky for us to witness. They beat Croatia 3-1. What a site to see!
Friday, June 13th, 2014 was a very special day in my life. Getting World Cup tickets were a very difficult task. We've both been up until the early hours of the morning twice to try and bid for these tickets. We were lucky to have gotten Portugal vs. Germany and Portugal vs. Ghana in our efforts, but my heart is stronger with other teams. I felt very lucky that I would be able to see them, Portugal especially, but I have been following English, Italian and Spanish football since I fell in love with the sport. We tried everything we could to get tickets to one of these games and it just didn't work out... but then Lee came into our lives. An Englishman around 40 years of age who was the epitome of a firecracker. We got to speaking with him and the guy happened to have tickets to the Italy vs. England match to sell to us. The moment he handed me the tickets and left, I broke into tears, even hyperventilating a little. Out of all the games in the World Cup, I wanted to go to, this was the game! I would get to see some of my favorite players that would potentially be retiring from the game at any point. Steven Girard, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and a few others are complete legends!
Later this evening, Lee, his friend's Steve and Chris invited us out for a drink and I told Delali that we couldn't pass it up. These men were filled with stories from traveling around the world, Steve having been to roughly 70 countries and 6 World Cups. Chris had played football with Bob Marley in Hyde Park and told me how humble my hero was. I love to hear stories from people of a different generation because sometimes I feel like I belonged there myself. Let me just say that is was a brilliant night filled with some memories Delali and I will never forget. Laughs for life. Cheers to you fine chaps!
June 14, 2014 was match day! Arena Amazonia was gorgeous! The pitch was perfect, the game an exciting one! What a great introduction Brazil 2014 World Cup match. I saw all my favorites on the pitch with the exception of Gianluigi sidelined from an ankle injury. Italy beat England 2-1. CLOUD NINE!
DREAM COME TRUE!
Manaus is certainly worth a visit! I would only give it a few days unless you plan to do some deep jungle excursions. In your life, you must visit the Amazon!
"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return". -Leonardo da Vinci