Thursday was a rest day for every team participating in the tournament, and the Future Champions organizers had a full day of cultural activities prepared.
After breakfast at the hotel, the 12 teams were split into two groups, with two teams per bus. The Revs shared a bus with the Orlando Pirates, who they played on Monday in the first game.
The first stop was at FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City. The stadium was designed as the main stadium for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and was the site of the Final, played by the Netherlands and Spain.
The tour included stops at the upper level of the stands, in the locker rooms and on the field. While on the field, music pumped throughout the stadium, giving players a small glimpse at what being a professional player at the highest level could feel like.
Before lunch, the bus dropped the group off near Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto. Street vendors lined the stretch of road between there and the restaurant, so players enjoyed the opportunity to shop for souvenirs.
An authentic lunch was served at Sakhumzi Restaurant, giving the group some time to rest before boarding the bus again.
The next stop was the Lion Park. The buses drove throughout the grounds, past animals like lions, zebras and wildebeest. Lions typically sleep for up to 20 hours a day, so a highlight included one particularly active female getting up and walking over to within a couple yards of the bus.
Following the safari, players had the chance to wander the other parts of the Park. Everyone was excited to interact with the lion cubs, posing for photos and playing with the animals. A raised feeding station also allowed the boys to get up close to a giraffe. Other animals seen around the park included meerkats, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs and antelope.
At the conclusion of the day, all 12 teams met up for the gala dinner. The players milled around the grounds for a while between formal team photos.
Once inside, each team was seated at two tables throughout the reception hall. Decorated in reds, blacks and golds, the space gave the night a special feel.
After dinner was served, each team put on a several-minute performance to highlight their culture and values, and most teams chose to sing in their native languages. Because the Revolution is made up of players with so many different backgrounds, the team chose to go a different route.
Introduced by coach Deven Apajee, the players put on a memorable performance. Luke Albertini and Matt Nyeayea showed off their unique (and very different) dance moves, demonstrating the players’ broad spectrum of natural rhythm and their shared appreciation of each other. The rest of the group, who had been supporting the pair in the background, then joined their teammates for a USA chant.
Once the night came to a close, the teams boarded the buses for the final time and returned to the hotel.
The Revs met briefly to discuss Friday’s match against Aspire (Qatar). Kickoff is at 6:30 a.m. ET and in-game updates will be available on www.twitter.com/nerevslive, while live video can be found on www.future-champions.net.
*NOTE: Larger photos with brief captions are available on www.flickr.com/nerevolution.