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2 posts from June 14, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Welcome to Natal!

From now on, call me Michelinha!


Boa Noite from Natal, where the US plays Ghana on Monday. It took 9 hours to get here from my Sao Paulo hotel to Natal hotel, including a three-and-a-half-hour flight on Gol (only in Brazil!) and when I arrived in "The City of Sunshine'' it was POURING RAIN. And I mean, pouring. They say Natal gets 300 days of sunshine. Clearly, we got unlucky. The rain put a major damper on the beachside FanFest. When we passed it in the bus, it was all wet and nobody was there.

Interesting town in the northeast of Brazil. It is so far East that it is quicker to fly to Portugal and Africa from here than to the southern part of Brazil. It is a beach town (pop 850,000) known for its shrimp (had some tonight -- delicious!) and sand dunes and pineapples (can vouch for this, too. Great pineapples, less acidic and sweeter than even the Hawaiian variety).

Natal means Christmas in Portuguese. The town was founded on Dec. 25, 1599 and there are many Christmas references around town. Here is what it looks like from my hotel window:




Mike Piazza at World Cup!

You never know who you're going to run into at the World Cup! I was at the Sao Paulo airport early this morning with the US media corps getting ready to board our flight to Natal when we ran into....MLB 12-time All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, wearing a pink Palermo FC hoodie. Turns out Piazza, who has lived in Miami Beach for 12 years, is a HUGE soccer fan. He attended the Brazil-Croatia opener and was headed to Manaus to see England vs. Italy (his second team, along with USA) on Saturday.

Piazza told us his dad used to take him to see Philadelphia Fever games and he remembered seeing Pele playing in the NASL. He dabbled in soccer himself, and sees himself as a center back ("my lack of speed would hurt me at any other position'').

He said he would love to see an MLS team in Miami.

"I hope David Beckham can reach a compromise with the city and get a team there,'' he said. "I have been in Miami 12 years now, and love how the city has evolved. I remember going to Miami-Dade College back in 1987-88 and South Beach was just starting to change. Now, with South Beach and downtown and the Brickell area, it has really become an international destination. A soccer team would add to that.

"My kids go to school with kids from so many other countries and soccer is a big part of the culture and fabric of our community. I'm not sure if the Port was the right spot, or the FEC slip. I'm a taxpayer and I understand the concerns, but I think downtown would be great because people can go to bars and restaurants before and after, families can hang out in the area, it could be great. I really hope Miami takes that step and makes this happen. I would definitely go, and would like to be involved.''