Um Pouquinho de Dendê

Watching the United States-Barbados qualifying match on Sunday, I was struck by how the American team — even as their technical skills improve — continue to play like cardboard cut-outs of soccer players. The friend I watched the game with pointed out that U.S. star Landon Donovan personifies this style of play.

Now, I’m about to be a real Long Gone Daddy — off to Lebanon for two months for a journalism internship. When I asked my friend what I should look for out of my internship, he said:

“Just don’t play it like Landon Donovan — textbook perfect. Give it more than that.”

That’s no disrespect to Landon Donovan. He’s a far better footballer than I could ever have hoped to be.

What my friend really meant is summed up in a capoeira song we sing: Eu vim aqui buscar um pouquinho de dendê: I came here to pick up a little bit of dendê, which is palm oil.

It means, put a little oil in your game. Make it smooth. Do the unexpected and play with style.

So as I head off today, that’s what I am keeping in mind!

Peace, America. I’ll see you on the flip side of summer.

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