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Amazon Offers Soccer Fans Paradise At The World Cup

posted 13 Dec 2013, 11:26 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 13 Dec 2013, 11:26 ]

Manaus, has a natural paradise on its doorstep for soccer fans and their soccer-weary families to enjoy during the World Cup.

 MANAUSBRAZIL (DECEMBER 11, 2013)(REUTERS) -  It is one of the most iconic images of Brazil: the Amazon. With its rivers and rainforests teeming with unusual fish, animals and birds, it is a natural paradise.

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Its capital, Manaus, will play host to some of the biggest teams in soccer during the 2014 football World Cup, and is presently in the headlines due to concerns about security and whether the teams playing there such as England and Italy will be able to cope with the excessive heat.

But far from this urban jungle is a world apart, a world where even the Beautiful Game takes a backseat to the show put on by nature.

The Amazon rainforest stretches over 35 million hectare and forms 40 percent of the Brazilian territory. Cutting through it are several different rivers, often running alongside each other, such as the Solimaoes and the Rio Negro at the "meeting of the waters".

The different temperatures and make-up of the waters provide for an abundance of different animal and fish species, from the infamous but copious piranhas to the rare pink dolphins, particular to the Amazon.

The dolphins, which can grow up to three metres, can be found all along the Amazon, and play an important part in the folklore of some of the tribes that live along its shores.

One of the legends amongst the more remote tribes is of a dolphin that came onto land, turning into a man dressed in white and wearing a hat (to hide his breathing hole), the dolphin went to the local fiesta, danced with a girl and made love, but at midnight he had to go back into the water.

Zacharias Clement, a Swiss ecologist who has lived and worked in the Amazon for 25 years says the legend is still cited today by girls who don't have fathers for their children

"The most girls in the Amazon river and high Rio Negro river are telling how the father of the children was a dolphin, this story is very real," he said. "When you visit someone in the Rio Negroriver and you ask where is the father, no we don't have a father, the father is a dolphin. It is a very real story inside the forest."

Being loved by the locals and living close to the reservation areas near Manaus, and far from predators, the pink dolphins have a relatively stable population. However the same cannot be said for the caiman, or alligator, which is still poached for its skin or as a trophy.

In the Amazon there are three kinds of alligator, although ecologists say there could be more that they just aren't aware of. The largest of them is the black caiman, which can reach up to six metres and is often known as the Amazonian crocodile.

Ecologists at the Eco Park down the river from Manaus are trying to raise awareness of the need to preserve the creatures - even risking wading through the alligator-infested waters of the Amazon at night to show people the animals in their natural environment.

Local alligator spotter Josiano da Silva Neves says the risk he takes is worth it if showing the creatures to those who come from "afar" will bring the right attention to them.

He says he isn't afraid of wading through the murky depths up to his neck when animals bigger than him could be lurking there.

"I like catching them, because I was born here and created here, so I like to catch them, it is like they are like my own family."

Ecologist Ado Selva says you don't think about the fear or you can't do it. He himself has been bitten on one of these trips, and no longer ventures into the water, he says the caiman was teaching him a lesson and he has learned it.

"It could have given me a lot of bites, but the caiman just gave me a warning: you are nothing," he said. "So it left me with a scar here that I spent six months taking shots, it left a lot of bacteria, I almost lose my hand. And it was a lesson for the human beings, be careful with the jungle."

Out here there is a different tempo and a different focus - you wouldn't even know a World Cup was taking place. Here the main focus is on fishing and boats.

"They have three feelings in their blood here" said Ado. "One, be a fisherman, there is no school for that, this is the school; number two is to be a hunter; and number three a carpenter."

Asked if no-one here wanted to be a footballer, he said that while football was still somewhat foreign in the Amazon, they were still Brazilians and so experts. "Football, it was brought after by the English - but we developed it."

With England playing Italy in Manaus on June 14th, the English will be hoping that football will be coming home.