The writer is a 2012 Bethlehem Central High School graduate attending Western New England University. She was accepted into a Seminar Abroad Program.
All my life, I have listened to amazing stories from people who have had amazing experiences. Now it has become my turn to tell an exuberant story.
In this past month of June, I have traveled to Rio de Janeiro to attend the 2014 FIFA World Cup and see major cultural aspects of the country of Brazil. I traveled with nine other students and two professors from Western New England University, where I am completing my under graduate degree in sport management.
As a delegation, within 10 days of traveling in Rio we happened to fit the following activities into our itinerary: three 2014 FIFA World Cup matches (Argentina vs. Bosnia Herzegovina, Spain vs. Chile, and Belgium vs. Russia), more than eight cite tours including Christ the Redeemer and the largest Favela village in Latin America.
My story starts with my first professional soccer game, let alone my first 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Argentina vs. Bosnia Herzegovina on June 15, the day we landed in Rio, was the breathtaking part of the trip. Sitting in Maracana Stadium with 74,738 people in attendance was incomparable to anything I had experienced prior to this trip. Imagine standing in a concert venue listening to a crowd cheer on an encore, and multiply that sound and feeling by a factor of 40. That major sound and excitement was happening the entire game, whether or not there was a goal.
Watching the former 2010 FIFA World Cup champion, Spain, get eliminated in the group stage was unbelievable. The stadium was filled with primarily Chilean fans dressed in white, red and blue. They all whistled and yelled throughout the game. When the goal was scored, it was as if Chile had won the World Cup finals. Maracana erupted with cheers, whistles and fans embracing each other with congratulations. To give you a better idea of how wild and passionate the Chilean fans were, prior to the game 85 Chileans were deported after tearing down a small wall in Maracana Stadium because they were so excited.
Though the matches were a large part of the greatness of my trip, there were major cultural aspects that made a huge impact. I visited Corcovado Mountain where the globally esteemed Cristo Redentor, also known as “Christ the Redeemer,” stands tall over the city of Rio de Janeiro. Standing at an elevation of more 2,000 ft., this statue is visited by millions of people across the globe. The most interesting part when I reached the top of the mountain at the statue was the amount of Americans that stood beside me carrying flags and other apparel representing our country.
There was one experience that outshined even the matches for me — touring the Favela village. A Favela is a slum in Brazil most often found in urban areas. This Favela was named “Rocinha” and was located in Rio de Janiero. Rocinha is the largest Favela in Latin America, taking over about 20 percent of Brazil’s entire population. Rocinha holds a population to an estimated 200,000 people. Our delegation was able to gain the opportunity to tour this area. Not only was it one of the most eye-opening experiences of my entire life, but touring this Favela also made me appreciate the small things that can make someone happy.
We ended our tour at a day care named “Union of Women for the Betterment of Roupa Suja.” This daycare was run by volunteer women and had three floors separated by age groups. We donated Western New England University T-shirts and soccer balls on our way out of the day care. I have never seen 4-year olds ever so happy in my entire life. Just by being given a soccer ball, these little children were so grateful for our small gift they couldn’t stop smiling, laughing and saying thank you in Portuguese.
I have such a great appreciation for even being able to be a part of such a cultural experience through the Favela. It was the most influential part of the entire trip.