At twenty kilometers long, Barra beach is Rio de Janeiro’s longest beach. On Monday, Ajax players practiced for the first time on this unique Brazilian training ground. Barely twelve hours after the intercontinental trip from Amsterdam, a jovial beach practice took place oceanside.
There’s a nice part of Rio on the Avenue Sernambetiba. Towering hotels dominate the view on one side of the busy road. The other side consists of the sea – or, rather, the ocean – and the beach. When Frank de Boer’s Ajax players leave the Sheraton Hotel and cross the road, the training spectators are mainly sun worshippers and journalists. The news that Ajax has landed in the Brazilian coast city hasn’t gone unnoticed. A few media representatives have travelled from the Netherlands. South American media such as Fox Sport and Associated Press have sent a presenter and photographer respectively to Barra Beach.
Once they arrive at the warm beach, many players and coaches remove their shoes. The first run along the shore is much more pleasant on bare or socked feet. Running coach Björn Rekelhoff takes the lead as the selection makes a half hour long return journey under the surprised gaze of several Brazilian sunbathers. In summery Brazil, it’s now holidays until the beginning of February, which explains the relative business on this beautiful strip of beach in exotic Rio. Despite the cloudy weather, the sun shines brightly at times on the white sand. As the clouds start to clear up, the temperature rises steadily to thirty degrees Celsius. The Dutch guests sweat profusely; the Cariocas (Rio residents) simply rub on more sunscreen. To each their own.
After the running, it’s time for the ball. The green and white adidas balls are being kept up in the air, eliciting regular burst of laughter which echo along the beach. Especially an exercise during which an adidas ball is kept up in the air by a group draws laughter from some Ajax players. It’s not an exercise that works exclusively on technique –it’s mostly about teambuilding. To anyone watching the Ajax players at work, it’s clear that the group dynamics are good. This first training in Brazil is likely one of the first highlights of the trip.
Once all of the training work has been completed, a dip in the refreshing ocean is inevitable. Some Ajax players are delirious in the waves. “Keep an eye on the time; we’re eating in forty-five minutes”, comes the paternal voice from the sandy beach to the sparring players. It’s the head coach. Frank de Boer and his staff get ready to return to the Sheraton. A bit later, the Ajax players cross the Avenue Sernambetiba in the opposite direction than earlier. A fresh shower in the hotel awaits, as a closing to the afternoon training. Monday’s second session isn’t planned for the beach, but at the training complex of Brazilian top club Flamengo.
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