Jogs became plods on a warm summer night at Jelleff Recreation Center in Northwest Washington. Players who served as reminders that soccer is for more than ultra-conditioned athletes took much-needed breathers. One of the few bench players for Brazil ran past the family gathered to watch and the children playing with plastic alligators and toy trains to retrieve the ball. The field quieted until, on the neighboring pitch, an argument broke out during the Serbia-Argentina game. Shouts swirled with a nearby ice cream truck’s jingle.
Brazil and Switzerland were playing in their opening match of the first-ever D.C. Embassy World Cup. The Department of Parks and Recreation originally wanted to replicate the real World Cup with all the embassies in Washington, but it ultimately found only 16 of the 32 countries willing to participate.
When the players arrived that afternoon, a few Brazilians joked with a group of Swiss players, “1-1, right?” in reference to their national teams drawing a few days earlier. The players in white jerseys with #SwissTouch in red lettering grinned, nodded and, by the match’s end, probably wished they had agreed for real.
Brazil dressed in jerseys all different shades of yellow, some vibrant from new World Cup purchases, some faded from use, others worn thin by years and travel. The diplomatic version of Seleção directed one another in Portuguese — the first secretary passing to second secretary, who found the deputy chief of mission — and they ran through the Swiss. They scored on chips and taps and headers and back-heels and five-holes and deflections and lasers drilled from 15 yards out.
After scoring, they ran back to the bench near the stands and sometimes played with their children or checked email. After a woman waving a red-and-white flag on the opposite side tired of yelling, “Hopp Suisse!” she settled on, “Come on guys, try harder!”
There was no official scoreboard, but a man in a T-shirt and shorts who blew a whistle once in a while said after the game Brazil had won, 26-0. This, however, didn’t satisfy the Brazilians. They see this as their chance to, in a small way, avenge the embarrassment their country suffered in 2014 World Cup semifinal. Just thinking about it, Jean Karydakis, a first secretary at the embassy and a forward on the pitch, couldn’t help but grin.
“We are hoping to get Germany in the final,” he said. “It would be fun.”
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