Belfast Telegraph

Brazil do the samba

By Jonathan Bradley

From Pele to Zico, Jairzinho to Garrincha and Rivaldo to Ronaldo, Brazilian footballers have been the chief exponents of the beautiful game for decades but it was a very different kind of hero bringing 'la jogo bonito' to Belfast yesterday.

With the 11-a-side soccer tournament at the World Police and Fire games entering its sixth and final day today, the presence of the Brazilian teams throughout the competition had been unavoidable long before the success of the division-winning Policia Federal Sao Paulo.

Singing and dancing in a samba style has become commonplace at Upper Malone while the flags adorning the grounds have turned the pitches into a mini-Maracana when the teams have been in action.

Such vibrancy has been welcomed by fellow competitors and locals alike with fans appreciating the distinctly South American injection of colour and flair to proceedings.

One employee of the complex commented: "They've definitely brought a bit of life to the place.

"They have been up dancing there for ages and everyone is enjoying themselves."

It's a feeling that has been mutual with the boys from Brazil making the most of their time in the city.

Speaking after his team clinched their title with a 2-0 win over Singapore Police, Sao Paulo captain Leandro Marra enthused: "We're having a very good time here in Belfast.

"It's a beautiful place and it's nice and warm, not the bad weather people said would happen.

"I played in the New York games too and this is much better. Everyone is friendly and there are lots of volunteers to help with the organisation."

Such joviality only extends as far as the kick-off however, as victory is very much on the agenda.

Coaches stalk the touchline barking commands and goals are celebrated in a fashion akin to those scored by Luiz Felipe Scolari's side.

Speaking after his side's victory, Sao Paulo's Denison said: "Singapore gave us a very hard game for sure.

"They are younger than us, some in their twenties with us in our thirties, so we had to use strategy to win and we are so happy that we could do it."

And while the style could hardly be compared to that of the 1970 Brazil vintage, there were still some moments befitting the famous yellow jersey of the Seleção.

Vinicius terrorised the Singapore defence throughout and his jinking run from just inside the opposition half to score a fine individual goal was the highlight of the game.

It was a similar story on the adjacent pitch where the Brasilia State Police claimed a 3-2 victory over Mexico Corrections that featured a free kick from Victor Hugo that would have had elicited approval from Roberto Carlos in his pomp.

Hugo's teammate Paulo Enio was pleased with the victory but even more impressed with the local crowd that turned out to watch his side.

He commented: "We are enjoying it here so much and it is very nice of everyone to come and watch us play.

"In Brazil we like to play a different kind of football, one of beauty and enjoyment, and we are very happy to come here and see people having fun.

"Belfast has everything needed to host a games like this and the structure has been very good."

The goodwill did not extend to the over 35s competition however after the game between Marbella Police and the PSNI had to be abandoned during the second half.

Following two red cards for Marbella, the referee adjudged that he could no longer control their players and was forced to take the drastic action.

Highlights from elsewhere included a nine-wicket triumph for the PSNI cricket team over the NYPD, Mark Montgomery winning gold for the NIFRS in judo and the PSNI's Colin McDonnell claiming a gold and two bronze medals in the karate.

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