What it's like to be a Brazil fan in Russia




What it's like to be a Brazil fan in Russia
Special project on welcome2018.com
 
The national teams of Russia and Brazil played a friendly match at Luzhniki Stadium on March 23. Leonardo Pimenta, a Brazilian national who moved to Moscow two years ago, was among the spectators. Leo told welcome2018.com about his life in Russia, what football means to him, and where he is going to take his parents when they come to visit him in his new homeland.
Leonardo Pimenta
34, was born in Sao Paolo
He worked in the hospitality industry. He had lived in Europe for a few years before moving to Moscow in 2015. Leo is a Corinthians fan and a Brazil fan. He plays on the Brazilian expat team.
The reason Leonardo came to Moscow was that he fell in love with a Russian woman. The circumstances that compelled him to move to Moscow were like a blessing in disguise. Leo's fiancée, then his wife, Yana had some trouble with her Brazilian visa. Leo and Yana consulted with Leo's side of the family, and the general consensus was that they should go live in Moscow.

Leo loved Moscow for its high energy. "Moscow is on a roll 24/7," he said. "There is a plethora of opportunities here for anyone. Everyone will find something to their liking in Moscow." Leonardo believes his native Sao Paolo, the most densely populated metropolis in the Western Hemisphere, is no match for Moscow in terms of personal safety. "Moscow is pretty safe. I would give it 8 on a scale of 10 for safety. You get to see people of most diverse ethnic backgrounds on the Metro. That's cool."
The downside to life in Russia – and it's a pretty big downside, according to Leo - is that "the winter is so cold and so long. This winter is not for the weaklings."

"When we first moved here," Leo recalls, "Yana would constantly urge me to go out together when it was snowing. I refused and begged her to stay home with me. I feared I would freeze and fall ill." "Eventually she taught me to dress right for the Russian winter: a warm hat, warm scarf, and all the rest of the works…"

The weather and the language barrier were the two greatest challenges for Leo in Russia. You have to hand it to Leo: he broke the language barrier's back. His Russian is pretty darn good for someone with only two years of practice behind him. "I really wanted to be able to communicate in Russian with my wife's family. In a year or 18 months from now, I think my Russian will be good enough to talk politics," brags Leo.
"I really wanted to be able to communicate in Russian with my wife's family. In a year or 18 months from now, I think my Russian will be good enough to talk politics"
Leo's relationship with Russian food is in flux. There are dishes he has developed a taste for, and then there are foods he feels iffy about. "I don't like jellied meat*, herring, any salted fish or pickled cucumbers," Leo confesses. "On the other hand, meat dishes, like beef stroganoff**, are pretty okay. Shwarma*** is good, I eat it all the time. They call it kebab in Portugal. All the world cuisines are represented in Moscow, so there's something good to eat for everyone."
Like any Brazilian, football runs in Leo's blood. "In Brazil, I used to play football with whatever came along: oranges, balls of paper, rolled-up socks…" Leo recalls wistfully.

When he was a child, Leo was a Santos fan, like his father. Later on it transpired that most of his friends were Corinthians fans, and Leo had to convert. "My dad understood. He never held a grudge," he said.
Leonardo adores football, in Moscow he found like-minded people among the Brazilian expats. Together they played a friendly match against a team of fans of the Russia national team
Now Leo plays football for Brazil every Wednesday and Sunday. He has found some compatriots in Moscow who, like himself, have to have football in their life. They are a national team now – the Brazilian expat team. Leo's team played against the Russia fan team before the big friendly at Luzhniki. The expats took a thrashing, but it was more than made up for by the "real" Brazil squad, who won 3-0.
Sometimes Leo gets this feeling… It's of the variety that Russians call nostalgia. Leo describes his homesickness as lucid and warm. "I really missed the sea and the sandy beaches at first. You see these sullen people on the street and you realize that if it were a little warmer out, they would all cheer up" muses Leo.
"Moscow lacks sunlight and warmth. People need something to keep their mood up all the time"
Leo and his wife are looking for new digs at the moment, so evidently he is not planning to leave his new homeland any time soon. Leo has his sights set on the neighbourhood of Strogino. He says there is a beach there, and it's nice in summer. Leo is also planning to travel around Russia more. "I have visited St. Petersburg and the Golden Ring towns. I would really like to see Lake Baikal and Vladivostok," he said.
Leonardo's parents will be coming for a visit in summer, during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. "I miss them so much. It has been two years since I last saw them. I'll show them around Moscow, take them to St. Petersburg and Sochi."
Leonardo's parents will be coming for a visit in summer, during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. "I miss them so much. It has been two years since I last saw them. I'll show them around Moscow, take them to St. Petersburg and Sochi."
*Kholodets, or studen, is a favourite Russian dish: chilled jelly made from meat stock, with pieces of meat in it, and served with horseradish sauce.

**Beef Stroganoff is a traditional Russian dish consisting of small pieces of beef in a cream sauce. It is normally served with mashed potato or rice.

***Shaurma, or kebabs, are a Middle-Eastern dish that has become popular in Russia. They consist of grilled meat (normally pork or chicken), with spices and fresh vegetables wrapped in flatbread or pitta bread.

Photo credits: welcome2018.com