RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Dancing in the shadow of Brazil’s largest favela, England players had a glimpse of the other side of life in Rio de Janeiro during their first full day at the World Cup on Monday.
At the foot of the sprawling Rocinha slum, Danny Welbeck joined in the capoeira, a Brazilian martial arts dance that incorporates singing and playing traditional instruments being demonstrated by local children.
Had coach Roy Hodgson been on the artificial pitch there would have been a few anxious moments as the striker fully embraced the capoeira’s acrobatic elements.
But Welbeck emerged unscathed from the visit that is as much about players escaping the confines of their hotel after training as it is about mixing with locals and experiencing the culture.
“It’s humbling to see that backdrop and something you take note of,” Welbeck said at a sports center beneath the steep hill where more than 70,000 people live.
Rocinha looms in the distance from the balconies at England’s beachside hotel in Rio, and the players have donated what the Football Association described as a five-figure sum in pounds to the favela’s sports complex.
“It is nice to see the different side of Brazil,” midfielder Adam Lallana said after dancing with the children. “We are based on the beach where we only see the lovely waves and the sea. To come out to the favela and the hills seems a different side of it, you get the experience of Brazil as a whole.”
“The kids are quite unbelievable. They have all got massive smiles on their faces. Just to make their days is massive for us. “
Lallana has more appreciation than most about the prestige of representing England, having been playing in the third tier of English football just three years ago.
“Three years ago I was playing in League One so just to be here at a World Cup is a massive achievement and anything else is a bonus,” Lallana said. “It is great when you talk of the journey we’ve been on and what a remarkable achievement it is.”
England arrived in Brazil after acclimatizing in Miami to prepare for the humidity of Manaus where its World Cup campaign opens on June 14 against Italy.
Few rate this team’s chances in Brazil, but it hasn’t stopped the players dreaming.
“It is the last thing you think about, and probably the first thing you think about when you wake up,” Lallana said. “The anticipation is growing and I feel the buzz day by day.”