While many of their classmates are heading home for summer vacation and beginning summer jobs, the players on the Case Western Reserve University men's soccer team will kick-off their summer in Brazil, as they depart for South America today for ten days of competition, sight-seeing, and maybe a few surf lessons.
The Spartans will spend time in Guaruja, Sa Paulo, Sao Bento do Sapucai, Ilha Grande and Rio de Janeiro. Highlights of the trip abroad will include a visit to Santos Stadium, the Pele Museum and the "Christ the Redeemer" statue.
"Only two of our guys have been to Brazil, so it's going to be a new experience for most of us," said Head Coach Dan Palmer. "It will certainly be a different culture that they've never experienced."
While they are in Brazil, the Spartans will play three or four friendly matches against a variety of non-professional affiliated Brazilian club teams, including a six-on-six "cage match" in which the field dimensions are smaller, but the goals remain the standard size.
Fortunately for Palmer and the Spartans, the team's tour guide for the trip, Pat McCool, is an Iowa native and will help the team around the various cities and translate for the team, much like he did for the Spartan men's basketball team last summer.
"To have [Pat] with us 24 hours a day is a huge bonus," Palmer said. "It will provide some comfort that we wouldn't have otherwise."
Much like the men's basketball team experienced the differences in the style of play compared to the Brazil and the United States, the men's soccer team will likely see the same differences when they step on the field.
"It will be an experience different from what these guys have ever had playing before," Palmer said. "The fields will probably be unpredictable, we don't know if we'll start on time, and we don't know what the officiating will be like. I think it's going to be different from the preconceived notion that goes along with playing a club from Brazil."
More important than competition, the 18 players going on the trip will have the chance to bond closer as a team, all while doing so in one of the world's soccer hotbeds.
"More than anything, I think it's going to benefit us as people," Palmer said. "To be exposed to a different culture is invaluable. Everyone's going to play the same amount of time and it's going to be a great opportunity for everyone to play and have fun and get to know each other in a different environment."
Much like men's basketball team did during their trip to Brazil, the soccer team will have the chance to take surf lessons. Having never done it before, Palmer has very high expectations for himself. "I'll be an expert by the time we get back. How hard can it be?"
Last summer, the Case Western Reserve community was able to follow the Spartans men's basketball team via the Brazil Blog. The Varsity Athletics Blog will turn back into the Brazil Blog again May 7 - May 16. Check back often (beginning May 7) to view pictures and read the players diaries about their experiences in Brazil.
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