Football: The language of respect

In part three of his Brazilian World Cup adventure, A-League utility Shannon Cole learns that the language of respect is spoken with the feet. 

June 13th 2014.

So I have been practicing Portuguese pretty much on a daily basis for the past six months in preparation for my trip to Brazil.

I feel I have a decent understanding of the rules of the language it’s just that my vocabulary is very limited. But being with English speaking Brazilians over here I can at least joke with them using the little Portuguese I do speak.

Yesterday I went out on a limb to test myself.

While my wife and the rest of our group slept, I wandered out onto the broken footpaths of Salvador to find some coffee for myself and the others. Now I’ve always heard that Brazil’s exporting of coffee is up there with the biggest and best coffee industries in the world. So I was shocked to find that it’s near impossible to find someone selling coffee, at least where I am.

I walked to a bakery we’d found the day before. The entire walk there I nervously prepared my order. When the time came I said: “Bom día. Quero dos misto sanduiches e tres xícaras de cafè com leite. Dos com açucar e uma sem açucar.”

A simple order of two ham and cheese toasties, three coffees with milk, two of them with sugar, one without. I was very proud I had pieced together something that they might be impressed with. But it turns out my skills got me in trouble, they assumed I spoke Portuguese regularly and responded to me at a hundred miles an hour. I did my best to respond but have no idea what the rest of the conversation sounded like.

When my order finally came up, I got what I asked for - three coffees and two toasties. I felt proud of myself that I had the outcome I was after, but then managed to embarrass myself before I left when I asked the chef to place the sandwiches in my pocket. He stared blankly before he and all the customers laughed at me. I was trying to ask for a plastic bag. They patted me on the back for my effort though.

In Brazil you don’t have to speak the language to earn their respect, not if you can play football. On our street here, there is a caged dirt pitch where the locals play 7v7. We all went down to watch my brother and our friends play in a game. While us gringos got plenty of stares, it didn’t take long for them to accept us.

I sat on the sidelines and gave my support while the other boys strutted their stuff. On a bumpy, minefield of a pitch that most of us in Australia would refuse to walk across, these guys tore shreds. Some of the technique was incredible, some of it horrible, but any technique on this surface was impressive. For the Aussie boys all it took was one good touch to earn themselves respect. Enough to show, “if you play me the ball, I’ll keep it and you’ll get it back.”

As a professional footballer, I had no desire to step on this dirt pitch and risk my body just to be included. I was jealous though. Especially when my brother banged in three quality goals in five minutes. His team mates ran to him to celebrate with joy on their faces. Three moments of quality had risen him to the top of the ranks in this local community. I’ve had some great moments in my career where my family have sat in the stands and supported me. This was the younger gringo’s moment though. A priceless feeling of adoration and acceptance in a country that has become his second home.