By Michael Lewis
Press pass share Day 3 – This is a basic press credential for the Pele Tournament in 1987.
Notice the clip-on at the top of the press pass. I was selected to cover the @LIJSLSoccer U-16 team in Brazil. It was an incredible once in a lifetime trip (two weeks) that included a 44-hour trip to our destination.
That’s right, a 44-hour trip to New York to Brazi. No, we didn’t take a slow boat to Sao Paulo, but airplanes, as in the plural. We went from JFK to Orlando to Miami to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica, Manaus, Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and finally arrive in Sao Paulo.
Remember the movie, “Around the World in 80 Days?” Well, this is a miniature version of it: Around the Caribbean in 44 Hours.”
“I was in so many airports I felt like a Moonie,” said Randy Vogt, a referee who traveled with the Long Island Junior Soccer League’s Under-16 Select Team to Brazil.
The final tally: seven departures, seven landings and a total of 14 hours and five minutes in the air and about 30 hours on the ground.
The incredible, but true itinerary of the L.I. team’s trek to Brazil:
* Leave JFK Airport at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 1. Arrive Orlando at 11:15 a.m.
* Leave Orlando at 3:50 p.m. (was to depart at 2:55 p.m.). Arrive Miami 4:30 p.m.
* Leave Miami 5 p.m. Arrive Montego Bay, Jamaica, 6:30 p.m.
* Leave Montego Bay 12:20 a.m. August 2 (was supposed to depart at 10 p.m. Aug. 1). Arrive Kingston, Jamaica at 12:45 p.m. Check into hotel at 2 a.m. and stay the night.
* Leave Kingston at 4:20 p.m. Arrive Manaus (a Brazilian city in the Amazon) at 8:30 p.m.
* Leave Manaus at 9:35 p.m. Arrive Rio de Janeiro at 1:15 a.m. Aug. 3
* Leave Rio at 3:55 a.m. Arrive Sao Paulo at 4:40 a.m.
The first week was spent in Sao Paulo, which is the New York City of Brazil, the second week in Rio de Janeiro, the Miami of that country. The group had much more fun in Rio.
While the LIJSL team struggled against its Brazilian counterparts, I don’t think many if any of the players complained because it was a trip of a lifetime for them, especially at that young age.
For a soccer journalist who was always looking for a story, I was in heaven. I had several that dropped into my lap. The most memorable moment came in Belo Horizonte, when Prof. Mazzei managed to stage a 1950 World Cup reunion. The great Harry Keough and Walter Bahr represented the U.S.A., while Wilf Mannion repped England. It was a wonderful day, standing in the same stadium where the Americans pulled off their stunning 1-0 upset. The most surreal moment was Walter Bahr explaining the winning goal by Joe Gaetjens.
Bahr walked his way through the sequence, starting with Frank McElvenny’s throw-in from the right side 35 yards out.
“I was playing left halfback,” Bahr said. “I came in for McElvenny’s throw-in. I dribbled the ball . . . maybe to here.”
You can read more about that story here:
Not surprisingly, the summer of 1987 was my most amazing summer of soccer.
It kicked off with the Under-16 World Cup in Canada. I returned home for a week or two and then embarked on my journey to Brazil.
After coming home in mid-August, I ventured to Chile to cover the U-20 World Cup. The U.S. had some promising young players on that squad, including Tony Meola, Kasey Keller and Marcelo Balboa. You might have heard of them.
With no first division professional league around, it was a learning laboratory for me. When I returned from Chile, I felt my soccer IQ had gone up a few points because I had soaked in so much about the game.
In 1987, I penned a two-part diary about this amazing voyage. If you want to be entertained, feel free to read on: