The Brotherly Game's managing editor Scott Kessler attended the Kyle Nakzawa organized Team Dinner at Fogo de Chao on Thursday night. Here's his telling of what happened at the event.
The sweltering heat was evident even at 6:50 pm, when I got out of the 12th/13th and Locust Train Station. At that point I wondered if wearing an undershirt was a smart thing to do, or if I would sweat out and die right there on the side walk (I kid, I kid).
This visit was my first to Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse that has become a well recognized franchise throughout the world. Typically my outfit, jeans and a button down shirt, would not suffice for the establishment, but Nakazawa's lead organizer asked everyone to stay comfortable. I was very happy to oblige.
My ticket, which was $75 and mostly directed to Nakazawa's charity of choice for the night, Aspergers Awareness through the Ascend Group of Philadelphia, was through a friend in the Section 133 IllegitimateS. We ended up sitting next to Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth and across from Gabriel Farfan and Michael Farfan.
At first our table was a little quiet outside of of the three Union players and technical staff, but soon it began to get a little chatty. The highlight of the conversation for myself was when I introduced myself to Gabriel and Hackworth had a quizzical look on his face. That reaction was seen on multiple faces that night. I guess it's surprising to people that I'm 20, but I won't dwell on that.
Meat started to come around via waiters in droves, with every kind of beef or bacon-aided dish possible. As frustrating as it was not to partake in it all - I keep Kosher - it was entertaining to see how everyone reacted to what was basically a moving all-you-can-eat meat bar.
The Farfans had by then told a couple of funny stories about one another, and Hackworth's wife (a lovely woman) had told a humorous story of her own about getting into playing Xbox games. Inevitably the discussion turned to the Real Madrid friendly and a bit of reflection on the Everton game. The players and coaches are looking forward to playing these teams as much as the fans are, to say the least.
Once dinner was over, the mingling began as everyone started to get up from their tables.
Sebastien Le Toux's girlfriend insisted I introduce myself, so I did. It led to Sebastien showing off his comedic skills, jokingly accusing me of stealing his seat when he returned to the table. Brian Carroll was across the table from Seba, but most people didn't realize it. He blended into the fans, with one of them commenting that "a kid looks a lot like Brian Carroll, doesn't he?"
I then, like almost every other person there, started to make my rounds. Got to talk to Nakazawa, Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo, Jack McInerney and Sheanon Williams along the way. I've seen fans on Twitter, Facebook and here on the Brotherly Game wonder what the players are like off of the field. Let me just say, they were all exactly how they appear to people: kind, courteous and normal people.
Sometime during the event I got to even meet the guys over at Philly Soccer Page, which was a nice bonus.
Raffle winners soon learned of their prizes, with Nakazawa eagerly awaiting each name called. The 24-year-old midfielder clearly was heavily invested in how the Team Dinner turned out and was excited throughout the event.
When dessert time came around, people started filing out and the crowd became smaller and smaller. Whomever remained was either in a small group in the dining area, or at the bar. Mwanga and Okugo stayed with fans in the dining room, which led to some FIFA talk. The two of them started to talk some smack about their abilities and we talked about a possible charity and fan tournament with some players in FIFA.
Around 10 pm everyone left got going and I headed back onto 13th to get to the train station. The timing was impossibly lucky, because just as I was two blocks away from Locust I bumped into none other than Carlos Ruiz and his family. There was no sign of any of them being upset with living in the Philadelphia area.
With a second 'Stache Bash being discussed, I'm hoping that Nakazawa is equally interested in having a Team Dinner next year. It was a fantastic event for all those that attended.