Portuguese chatter, yellow jerseys, and Brazilian music filled the stands of Framingham’s Bowditch Field today, as a mostly-Latino crowd gathered to watch Brazil’s women’s national soccer team scrimmage against Franklin Pierce University players.
In Framingham, where Hispanic and Latino persons make up 13.4 percent of Framingham’s total population – the second-largest ethnic body behind Caucasians at 71.9 percent, according to 2010 Census data – about 100 local Brazilians congregated to watch their home team, which is ranked fourth in the world.
Many in the crowd left work early for the 3:30 p.m. game, braving cold temperatures and threatening rain clouds to watch the female athletes.
“I love Brazilian soccer,” Framingham resident Juliana Miranda, 38, said. “I would come to see the game no matter the weather.”
Medford resident Rebeca Bahsi, 28, said she knew soccer players on both sides of the match, and that being at the game made her feel like she was back in Brazil.
“The Brazilian girls are doing awesome,” she said, with a bright yellow Brazilian soccer jersey hanging out of her coat pocket. “They’re also very humble and very nice.”
Accompanying her was David Lima, 20, a Brazilian Franklin Pierce sophomore who plays for the men’s team there.
Lima said he felt torn between rooting for his country of heritage and his own school, but that ultimately he had to support his classmates.
Still, he said he enjoyed the match.
“I’m in the middle, but just to see the national team play here is awesome,” Lima said.
While many Brazilians came hoping to catch a glimpse of Marta Vieira da Silva, the team’s superstar player, she did not make an appearance, as the five-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner is currently playing in Sweden with her club team, said Craig Tornberg, New England Revolution’s vice president.
“We thought Marta was going to play but she did not,” said Framingham resident Marcus Santos, 38. “I’m definitely disappointed.”
Many attendees said they also attended a game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on Sunday, where Brazil’s team played against Canada in a pre-season match.
Santos said Marta played in Sunday’s game, and that he enjoyed watching the team score during the match.
“It was a little different. Marta makes all the difference,” he said.
Tornberg, who cancelled his flight to Los Angeles with the Revolution team to catch the last-minute game in Framingham, said the crowd had the privilege of seeing the same team who lost to the U.S. women’s soccer team in the World Cup last year.
He also said today’s game featured mostly the same lineup that will go to the Olympics in London this summer.
“This is their Olympic and World Cup squad,” Tornberg said.
Tornberg said while men’s soccer gathers much attention in Brazil, their citizens have started to follow women’s soccer after the U.S. team won the World Cup in 1999.
“They were the gals of the summer, and they captured the hearts of the U.S.,” he said. “Little by little, it’s catching on in the rest of the world. They’re closing the gap, and there are more and more women’s teams.”
The Brazilian team hastily arranged the match with Franklin Pierce two days ago, after spending the past week in Waltham while touring the area.
Tornberg said Framingham’s Bowditch Field proved a valuable location because of the vicinity to Boston, the field’s recent renovation and seating surplus, and because of the Brazilian population.
“This is right to the heart of the Brazilian community,” Tornberg said.
The game itself ended in a 9-0 victory for the Brazilians, who did not slow their pace against the Division II college team.
One of the college’s players and captains, Gabi Demelo, used to play for the national team five years ago, when she was 18 years old, and said she knew most of the Brazilian team’s girls.
“Oh, it was weird,” Demelo, a 23-year-old sophomore, said. “But it was a good experience for the Americans that played my teammates.”
Eize Vieira, a 19-year-old Brazilian sophomore who also plays on Franklin Pierce’s side, said she enjoyed the experience, but she felt torn playing against her home country’s team.
“I played my best, and I played for my team,” she said, pointing to her magenta Franklin Pierce jersey.
Thais Guedes, a 19-year-old up-and-comer on the Brazilian team, said she congratulated Franklin Pierce for their hard work.
“A lot of the girls have skills,” Guedes said through a translator. “But of course, there’s a difference where we have a physical advantage.”
Mo Guimond, a sophomore at Franklin Pierce, said her coach warned the team that the Brazilian players would be smaller and faster, and tried to teach the girls strategy on handling their defense.
“Fitness definitely came into play in the second half,” Guimond said. “But overall, they’re amazing players and this was a once in a lifetime experience.”
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org