São Paulo is an extravagant city.
Our hotel — my production partners Jon and Ashwin were with me– was located in the Higienópolis District, an upper middle class neighborhood perched on a hill of high rise homes and hotels. I was stationed there with the entire crew of US journalists covering the World Cup. My room was on the 20th floor and had an expansive view of the São Paulo skyline.
The US Men’s National team had training at their Brazilian home base in São Paulo’s FC facilities. A remarkable structure protected by military officials and police officers at the gates. Our cameras and belongings were thoroughly checked upon entrance where we were greeted by US Soccer PR. We congregated in SPFC top class facilities fully equipped with 3.5 soccer pitches, pristine grass, stadium seating, a swimming pool, 10 bedrooms, a dining hall, a press room, and plenty of workspace.
On the first press day, before USA’s game against Portugal, we spoke with Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, and Geoff Cameron. And on the second day, forwards Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannson were the selected players for the press conference (an interesting play from the communications department as the speculation circled around which forward would start in place of Jozy Altidore, who is out with an injured hamstring). I sat down with Wondo to talk about his World Cup experience.
He was excited because his wife and baby had just arrived in Brazil after a plane ride from Northern California, and it was a long trip for his 4 month old. I asked Chris how the trip went for the little one and with a big grin on his face he said, “not too bad she takes after her dad, she sleeps a lot!” She’s Chris’s good luck charm because her first game as a USA supporter was when she was barely a few weeks old in Los Angeles and the US faced South Korea in a pre-World Cup friendly. Wondo scored two goals at that game, and probably secured his spot in Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s top 30.
My time with Wondo was brief because the team had to jump on the bus to the airport for Manaus. And I, too, was looking forward to Manaus to hopefully meet a local tribe to understand their native culture and their relationship with futebol.
Thanks to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, he connected us with a journalist who lived in Manaus and had a connections in the production world. Chicao, the journalist, arranged a fixer for our group named, Ivano. Ivano spent his life in Manaus after his Portuguese parents migrated from the Northeast of Brazil on a houseboat. He was a friendly man with love for his home and for people.
Chicao and Ivano arranged for a boat to take us to the Tatuyo village, 45 minutes down the Rio Negro. This grand river is an incredible spectacle unlike any natural water source I’ve ever experienced. Its massive, calm flowing waters have a rich red hew. The river was the connection to the rest of the Amazon. Certain parts of Brazil are inaccessible from Manaus except by boat. Waterways are the way of life.
I arrived at the village after two boats of 30-40 tourists had arrived. Not an ideal scenario as I selfishly hoped we’d be the only tourists there. Part of me was feeling protective of the exploitation of this tribe’s livelihood and the other part of me was just as responsible for exactly that. I was like every other visitor coming to witness how Natives of the Amazon live and how they’ve maintained their culture. I was unlike other visitors because there was an inherent understanding of what it means to be Native with the utmost respect for living in Mother Earth’s harmony. Ivano wasn’t happy that all the tourist were there either but Chicao had called ahead and arranged for time alone with these welcoming people.
Ivano introduced us to Pynon, the Chief of the tribe. I introduced myself first, as Temryss, and then second, in my Indian name, Xeli’tia from Lummi Nation. This two name offering was something I had in common with the people who each had two names: a Portuguese or “white” name and and a “nome Indígena.” Ivano explained to Pynon that I was an American Indian from Lummi Nation in Estados Unidos. Pynon and his tribal family were extremely welcoming. Not just to me but to every visitor.
I sat in observation of their interaction with guests from all over the world. They looked contently happy in their cultural evolution and adaptation to host visitors. They proudly covered their bodies with unique red and black paint and loin coverings made from a particular vegetation. The women wore beaded necklaces, and the men wore shells on their ankles.
They performed traditional musical ceremonies that included song, drums, rattles, flutes, and horns. Each song-ritual had a purpose; like a traditional mating ceremony when a man would choose his wife. After each ceremony the visiting tourist would applaud and take pictures.
We waited patiently for all the tourists to leave so we could utilize the Brazuca (the official World Cup ball) we brought; and then the beautiful game commenced. The guys took off their traditional attire and changed into shorts. Ivano said, “they play with no shirts.” I took mine off too. I was on the team against Chief Pynon. It was a field perfect for 5v5 but we played 8v8. I was the only female on the dirt pitch. The Tapuyo women were happy to watch and cheer on their men; especially Pynon.
Pynon was a very fit man who was clearly adored by his people. He had kind eyes and was a good football player. There were a couple extremely talented players. One player was a 10 year old version of “Bau Daigh.” He found himself at the right place at the right time and knew how to put the ball in the back of the net. Lucky for me, he was on my team. The first goal came from this young player. Then the second. The third goal he scored was an over the shoulder left footed volley that had the whole village cheering. It was much like Australia’s, Tim Cahill’s insane goal this World Cup.
Felipe, 16, had the footwork of a future pro, a young Neymar; and a 9-year-old played goalkeeper on the team opposite of mine. He made some brilliant saves like Mexico’s Meme Ochoa, who had the game of his life against Brazil to record the best shutout of his life.
I was honored to have played my favorite game barefoot on the Amazonian’s sacred ground. The women and men made gifts to sell to the tourists: dreamcatchers, carvings, earrings, and other crafts from the plants and colors of the Amazon earth. I purchased a few masterpieces and then thanked a chosen few with the feathers I brought. The women offered to paint my face. A 9-year-old and her monkey honored me with traditional red paint.
Our production team, thanked the tribe by leaving the ball with Pynon. I brought the ball to the Chief and put my hands up in Hy’shqe (gratitude in Lummi). In Portuguese he told me it meant a lot to have me, and he thanked me from his heart. It was a very special moment and we were happy to leave the Brazuca behind.
The next day was game day. After a game of footy in the jungle we were ready: USA vs. Portugal. Brazilians generally supported Cristiano Ronaldo, and therefore, Portugal. Nonetheless, there was this heir of confidence within the US camp. Something special was going to happen. We had a feeling that with high temperatures and humidity in Manaus, Wondo would get some minutes. Banter between both sides was fun, friendly and optimistic.
Our pre-game was much like that prior to the USA vs Ghana match: upbeat and slightly rowdy. We shared a cab with Jefferson, a Manaus citizen, who was decked out in stars and stripes. He predicted a 2-0 victory, and I predicted a 2-1 victory.
As the world knows by now, we were both wrong.
It was a nail biting, exciting, and temporarily heart breaking match to watch. From the start, as US center back Geoff Cameron made a mis-clearance that landed on the foot, Nani, a prolific Manchester United goal scorer, gave Portugal the lead. When midfielder Jermaine Jones scored an unassisted laser strike in the 64th minute to put US equal, it was raining beer in the stands as US fans went crazy with joyful screams! But, the 1-1 scoreline held until the 81st minute: Seattle Sounder, DeAndre Yedlin crossed the ball into the box on the ground for Michael Bradley, who had to beat Portugal’s goalkeeper, Beto, but his shot was deflected into Zusi, who found Captain Clint Dempsey in front of the wide open net.
USA took the lead 2-1. The stadium erupted! There was a sense of extreme jubilation and a taste of advancing into the round of 16 at the top of the group; a feat nobody anticipated. At the 86th minute, Bau Daigh aka Wondo made his first World Cup appearance lending new energy and a vivacious work ethic. All we needed to do was hold on for the final whistle.
But, Cristiano Ronaldo carried the ball down the right flank and crossed the ball with perfect accuracy to his teammate Silvestre Varela who headed the ball in for a dramatic 2-2 equalizer. It was devastating. We went from the highest high to a feeling of defeat in Manaus.
On to the next one in Recife! Tune in to support Bau Daigh and USA. We need all the positive vibes we can get! And here’s to more time for Bau Daigh… and possibly a WONDO GOAL.
Temryss Lane, Lummi Nation, is aNike N7 Ambassador, a former professional and Team USA soccer player, and was a contributor for the Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports Network. In 2010, Temryss represented the USA as the Official US Futbolita where she reported on the team’s journey at the World Cup in South Africa. She is currently covering the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. You can follow her on Twitter at @TemryssLane.