Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes
In Brazil it’s not hard to find people who like to play soccer. Recently I came across a group of fanatics at Don Camillo Restaurant along Copacabana Beach, but they weren’t customers. They are the waiters.
At work the waiters never stop talking about soccer, whether commenting about the latest round of the Brasileiro national championship, or the outlook for the 2014 World Cup that Brazil will host. But every Monday after closing up at midnight, the waiters grab their gym bags and board a bus to the Aterro do Flamengo soccer field in the south of Rio. They morph into what they really want to be – soccer players.
The best player in the group is Jonas Aguiar, 37, who nearly turned pro at 18 but was frustrated by a thigh injury. Aguiar is the team’s organizer; it was he who found a sponsor for their team jerseys in restaurant customer Mr. Ayrton, director of the Botafogo first division club. Although the waiters began playing with the Botafogo name on their shirts, they soon made up their own name combining Botafogo, which means “fire spitter”, with their restaurant’s name, Don Camillo. They now call themselves Don Fogo, or Mr. Fire.
As I was visiting them, Aguiar proudly announced that his son had just been recruited by the AABB indoor soccer team. “Maybe he’ll be the one to fulfill my dream,” he said.
With three wins and one draw, Mr. Fire team has yet to lose a game. Another waiter, Luis Rodrigues, confessed as he served red wine to a diner, that nobody on their team is a fan of Botafogo. After saying that, he immediately asked me to keep it a secret, so that Mr. Ayrton wouldn’t find out.