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Blogging From Brazil Part IV: A Final Goodbye From Brazil

March 9, 2009

With the Loyola men's soccer team back in the United States, here is junior Greg Howard's final blog that he filed from Brazil. Please check back at the end of this week for a full trip recap from Howard, along with new photos. Click Here For Updated Photos

Sunday, March 8, 2009:

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL- After a week of training, matches and sightseeing, it was time for Loyola Soccer to kick back and relax one night before our return to the States. After returning to the Riviera around 7pm, we excitedly wolfed down dinner before going up to our rooms to change into casual clothes for the night ahead. Around 8:30, the team met Ricardo by the pool at the hotel. It was time to go out.

We piled into old VW vans and were driven to a mall right a block from the beach. The boys hung out there for about three hours, eating, windowshopping and bowling. It was a really good time; everyone was exhausted from a tough, actionpacked week, and what we needed most was to get away from the game a little bit as a team and just reflect on the experience. Around midnight, we headed back to the hotel, and then to bed. We had a long Saturday ahead.

On our last day in Brazil, we woke up for breakfast at 9am and were told that we had the rest of the day off before our 4:30 departure to the airport in Sao Paulo. Most of us went back upstairs to catch up on some sleep in the comfortable, air conditioned rooms. Around 11am we woke up again, threw on our sunblock and bathing suits, and hit the beach one last time. When we arrived to the beach, we were shocked by what we saw.

The private beach was almost deserted the day before, but Saturday it seemed as if half of Brazil decided to come to Riviera. Up and down the strip, people were frolicking in the surf, laying out in the warm sun, playing soccer and volleyball, throwing frisbees, building sandcastles and more. It was such a transformation that it seemed like a different beach entirely, and it was a fitting end to a great trip. We swam, tanned or just chilled for two hours before our 1pm lunch. Right after our meal we sprinted straight back to the beach to take advantage of our last few hours in the beautiful country.

When we returned, a bunch of us did some last minute shopping or just took long walks on the sand to see as much as possible before our time ran out. Around 3pm, we all met up and horsed around for our last hour. Directly in front of our beach chairs was a volleyball court, and four people were playing a soccer/volleyball hybrid sport called futvolei. The rules seemed exactly like beach volleyball, except you couldn't use your hands.

After waiting for a break in action, John Loaiza and Cooper Tilton tried their luck in the game. They lost miserably to two seemingly average Joes, who volleyed, passed and placed our boys right off the court. After Loaiza and Tilton's losing effort, Phil Bannister and Daniel Ankrah decided to give it a try. They played well, but their opponents were wily veterans, and after a hardfought match, Bannister and Ankrah also lost 21-8.

It was a fun cap to our time on the beach, and at 4pm we got a ride back to the hotel and packed our bags. At 4:30, we piled onto the bus and started our final trek to Sao Paulo. Everyone was sad; I don't think anyone wanted to leave Brazil. Two hours later, we stepped off the bus for the last time, thanked the driver, and headed to our terminal. We had a plane to catch.

After checking our bags at the United desk, we filed into an incredibly long, winding line to be checked by security. We trudged along, carry-ons in tow. Suddenly, we heard a low rumbling reverberate through the airport; it sounded like thousands of people whispering excitedly in Portuguese. We looked around, trying to locate the source of the excitement, when we saw the reason for the uproar. Robinho was walking through the airport! A few of us were in disbelief, but as he got closer and closer to the security line, it became clear that it really was the great Brazilian himself. He was flanked by an entourage of a bodyguard, an agent and two other men. The boys scrambled to get closer to him, and hopefully take a picture. When we got close enough, we asked him for photos, and he obliged.

It was amazing; just twenty-four hours earlier we were at Santos' training grounds and stadium, playing on and touring the same pitches that he helped to make famous, and here he was! What impressed us the most was how humble Robinho seemed; he was a national hero, yet here he was, standing patiently in line, taking pictures and signing autographs, a smile on his face the entire time. Suddenly a team of groupies instead of soccer players, we ran excitedly through the terminal to our gate, smiles on our faces as we examined our photos. Now this was a cap to an incredible Brazilian trip; we couldn't have hoped for anything cooler than a last minute run-in with one of the best players in the world.

Around 10pm, our plane took off for American soil, and Loyola bid its last farewells to a country that had given us so much over the past week. After an uncomfortable night flight, we landed in Washington, DC around 6:30 this morning. Exhausted from the trip and still sad that the experience was behind us, we gathered our bags, jumped in a bus, and headed back to Baltimore.

Once on campus, we walked sleepily to the locker room, where we unpacked our gear before heading off to our rooms. No one really spoke too much, probably either from fatigue or disbelief that we were back home after a great week. The beauty of Brazil behind us, it's time to get back to work. It's time to move forward, take our great experience and build upon it for the season ahead.

Obrigado, Brasil. I'm sure you'll be seeing many of us again.