Political upheaval in Moscow

STARS SAVOR TASTE OF BRAZIL

Tanks in the streets of Belfast. Political upheaval in Moscow. Springtime in Paris. Boo Williams and his summer basketball program, no strangers to international intrigue and refined culture, are globetrotting again, this time to Brazil, a nation wracked by poverty, drought and corruption.

But Brazil, particularly the state and city of Sao Paulo, boasts an fake louis bag impressive international basketball heritage, a heritage that has waned during the last decade. In hopes of rejuvenating his homeland’s basketball fortunes, and with financial support from General Motors, two time Olympian Gilson Trindade de Jesus arranges cheap louis vuitton bags from china uk for Williams and a group of 19 and under players from 1:1 replica handbags Hampton Roads and beyond to barnstorm Sao Paulo from June 22 July 1.

“Basketball is struggling here,” Gilson says. “Sponsors are fleeing. Young people are not playing. We need to learn from American players and coaches. We need to put people back in the gyms, the way it used to be.”

The Americans, 12 players and five coaches, play six games against professional club teams, winning four. They conduct clinics for children, whose Perfect Quality Louis Vuitton Replica smiles and spirits transcend any language barrier. They reluctantly sample Brazilian replica louis vuitton handbags food, dance wildly to Brazilian pop and encounter Brazilian police.

The Americans mingle with village artisans, accept transcontinental calls from relentless college recruiters, procure potato chips and grape soda at Wal Mart, and discover that “riding shotgun” is a literal concept. Williams High, echoes many of his teammates when he writes in a team journal:

“When I got here, I thought the trip was going to be boring. But I was wrong.”

Falling on hard times

These are lean times in Brazil, and for a nation accustomed to dilapidated shantytowns and substandard wages, that’s saying something.

The worst is the energy crunch. Brazil relies on hydroelectricity for more than 90 percent of its power, and following years of drought, the government this spring mandated conservation.

Brazilian currency, the real, is at record lows; minimum wage is less than $150 per month; fewer than half the fake designer bags roads are paved; and, according to human rights groups, the judicial system is rife with tortures, beatings and summary executions.

Oh, there are pockets of privilege, especially in the city of Sao Paulo dolabuy.su , whose 18 million residents replica louis vuitton bags from china make it the world’s fifth largest city behind Tokyo, New York, Seoul and Mexico City. Indeed, Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton anchor one downtown mall.

But Vanity Fair’s recent description of Sao Paulo as “a futuristic, concrete metropolis” appears generous. Redick, a rising senior at Roanoke’s Cave Spring High. “You can tell we’re much better off in America. The cardboard houses, there were whole villages of them.”

Gilson, high quality replica handbags china our host, does not attempt to mask these slums, “favelas” in his native tongue. As an air conditioned, double decker bus carries us from the airport toward downtown Sao Paulo, he acknowledges the hundreds of hillside shacks. There is shame in his voice.

Even Brazil’s most treasured diversion, soccer, is enduring hard times. The four time world champions may not qualify for the 2002 World Cup, and two coaches have been fired within the last nine months.

Still, soccer remains the nation’s obsession. Makeshift goalposts crafted from tree trunks dot the rural countryside, where barefooted children kick homemade balls. In the cities, children and adults play on asphalt courts, the games resembling American indoor soccer.

If Gilson could summon a sliver of that devotion for basketball, he would cheap replica handbags die happy. His mission begins with the grassroots high quality designer replica handbags wholesale , the children.”Grande Oportunidade,” posters proclaim as American players and coaches arrive for a clinic at Club Tiete, an athletics club on the outskirts of the city.

Scores of children immediately flock to the American players. Antonio Johnson from Virginia Beach’s Salem High signs the first autograph.

The Brazilian children do not know English. The American players do not speak Portuguese. This does not matter.

“Everybody knows basketball,” says Robert Strickland, a forward from Chesapeake’s Indian River High.

The children certainly do. Some wear NBA jerseys, those of Allen Iverson, Karl Malone 1:1 replica handbags , Michael Jordan (ever hip) and Dennis Rodman (Lord, help us). All use hand signals and fractured English to ask about dunking and dribbling.

The Americans are patient teachers. University of Virginia signee Elton Brown, a Warwick High graduate, gently places a child’s hands on a basketball to demonstrate proper shooting technique. Former Gloucester High coach Maxie Anderson orchestrates hyperactive defensive drills that leave everyone clapping, cheering and sweating.

“This is what we replica louis vuitton need,” Gilson Discount Replica Louis Vuitton Bags tells Boo Williams as they survey the court. “You understand. You have the heart.”

“We’ve got to get rid of the image of the ugly American,” Williams responds.

Toward that end, Williams has guided teams to Northern Ireland (1988), France (1995) and Russia (1997). Next year he plans to take a girls team to Australia, and he dreams of future junkets to China and Africa.

On this day in South America, he and his players are nothing less than basketball ambassadors. They touch. They are touched. Literally and figuratively.

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