Brazilians toast of the town

August 18, 2008
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BEIJING - It looks like Brazil won't have many peaceful moments during its stay at the Olympic village.

After more than two weeks staying at luxury hotels across China, Ronaldinho and the rest of Brazil's soccer team checked in at the Olympic village yesterday, and their first lunch had to be cut short after dozens of volunteers and other athletes tried to take photos and have autographs signed.

Team spokesman Rodrigo Paiva said the players were not able to stay in the cafeteria as more and more people began gathering around them.

"They only had a quick lunch and then had to leave," Paiva said.

Ronaldinho, Brazil's biggest star, couldn't get his own food. After creating chaos trying to go stand in line, he returned to his seat and someone else had to prepare a plate for him.

Unlike the five-star hotels where they had been staying, players now are sharing an apartment with five or six teammates and their rooms have no Internet access or television, according to Paiva.

Brazil arrived in Beijing to begin its preparation for tomorrow's semifinal against archrival Argentina at Workers' Stadium. Brazil had been playing in Shenyang and Qinhuangdao during the group stage and Saturday's quarterfinal against Cameroon, which it won, 2-0, in extra time.

Brazil had its first practice at Workers' Stadium last night, with the starting players undergoing a light session.

Seeking its first Olympic gold medal in football, the Brazilians are hoping to stay in Beijing until Saturday's final at the Bird's Nest.

The Brazilians had been eager to arrive at the Olympic village and stay with other athletes. Ronaldinho, playing in his second Olympics, had said he wants to meet Kobe Bryant at the athletes' village.

"Kobe is a great friend and a player I admire a lot," said Ronaldinho, who met Bryant during FC Barcelona's tour of the United States in 2006. "I know he likes football."

Bryant already has met with Lionel Messi when Argentina first played in Beijing.

The loser of tomorrow's match will go to Shanghai for the bronze medal match. (AP)

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