"Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Saint Francis of Assisi

Thursday, June 03, 2010

More Important than Soccer

Okay, for those of you that don't know, the World Cup starts on June 11.

It's the biggest sports championship in the world. It happens every 4 years.The tv stations here have been counting down the days to the beginning for a few months.

Our country shuts down, almost literally, when Brasil plays. Some people close their businesses. Some just don't go to work for those 2-3 hours.

We moved here in 2002. It was during the final stages of that World Cup. We knew nothing about soccer at that time. We, like most typical Americans, had no idea just how big the World Cup is.

Brasil won it that year. I can remember looking out of the balcony of our hotel that year during the final game. I saw one bus on the street and no people and we live in a city that has 2-3 million people. The city had shut down. After Brasil won I have never seen a celebration in the street as big as that. People stopping traffic to celebrate.  People everywhere. It was insanely cool.

We love the World Cup. We've shared that Bronwyn didn't even want to move to the United States until after this World Cup was over.

A couple of days ago Benay and Carys started to get our house ready for it by placing the colors of Brasil throughout our house.  Carys made the Brasil paper chain.
Here in our state there is a rivalry and a love for soccer that runs even deeper, for a lot of people, than the love for the national team.

It's called Gre-Nal. That's an abbreviation for the two biggest sports teams in our city. Internacional and Gremio. Gremio fans are called Gremista's and Inter fans are called Colorado's.

I've shared before that I've never seen a rivalry like this one. It's insane. There is no fence straddling with this. You are either for one team or the other. You can't be undecided.

I've spoken with many fans here that would rather see Inter or Gremio win the club team world championship than to see Brasil win the World Cup. The teams here are a very big deal.

I mentioned that I had never seen a street celebration like the one after Brasil won the 2002 World Cup.

I lied. In 2006 Inter won the World Championship of clubs. The city shut down a major street and put up a big screen tv on a street overpass. Over 30,000 fans showed up in 90 degree heat to watch that game. Here's what that looked like:

Our family was actually visiting a small city that day, about 2 hours away from Porto Alegre, and the Inter fans literally closed down the main avenue street with the celebration. Very cool.

Most of my friends are for Gremio. We do a lot of good natured goofing on each other. That's normal. It's always a talking point topic for any relationship here. But I've also seen people just get mean about it. Some people are fanatical sports fans and don't know how to joke in a kind way. Thankfully none of my friends are like that.

This past weekend we had the men in our house church family come to our house for a churrasco (bar-b-que).

Our brother Lauro (a die hard fan of Gremio) got here much earlier than everyone else. He and Anderson played soccer outside and then Anderson asked him if he wanted to color.

I came by a little later and saw Lauro drawing and coloring a picture of the Gremio logo. I said, "Come on Anderson, why are you letting him color that stuff in our house." He calmly looked at me and said, "It's okay dad. He's my brother and I love him. We are doing pictures for each other."

Here's what they did for one another. This is what Anderson made for Lauro:
It says, "For my Gremio friend Lauro, The most important thing is to be a Christian."

And here is what Lauro made for Anderson:
It says, "The most important thing is to be a Christian. To my big friend Anderson Colorado from your friend Lauro Gremista."

We love soccer. We love the Brasilian national team and we really love Inter. We also love the Gre-Nal rivalry but it's a great reminder from my son and our brother that it's just soccer. It's not the most important thing. The most important thing is to be a follower of Christ and to put God first. There are a lot of people that need to be reminded of that.

We are thankful to have Godly men like Lauro around that have an influence on the lives of our kids. We are blessed.

We love Lauro.

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