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Across the Equator

South American Adventures

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Futebol in Maracana
losmorris
We had no doubt that the Brazilians are crazy about soccer. The spectacle that was the World Cup showed us that. But we had not yet experienced a live game in Brazil. Well, now we have and it was even more impressive than I would have expected. We went to Maracana, the famous Brazilian stadium in Rio for a game between Flamengo and Vasco.

A little background before I share the excitement of the game itself. Maracana has, or maybe had, the world record for paid attendance for the final game of the 1950 World Cup – 199,854. As a result of remodeling over the years, addition of luxury boxes, and the addition of a moat to separate fans from players the seating capacity is down to around 83,000 presently. Maracana is closing for further renovations and upgrades in advance of the 2014 World Cup which will be hosted by Brazil at which time it will seat 90,000 fans.

Another bit of background on Brazilian soccer. There are 40 major club teams in Brazil half of which compete in Series A (essentially the major leagues) and the other half in Series B (maybe akin to AAA in U.S. baseball). Games are played within the series and at the end of the Campeonato Brasileiro some number of the poorest performing teams from Series A will drop to Series B and an equivalent number will come up from the “minors” to compete with the big boys.

In Series A there are 4 teams that are based in Rio de Janeiro – Flamengo (the team with the most fans, however that is counted), Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco. Team colors are worn all over the place, similar to football or baseball jerseys in the States. For example, here are some sample baby pacifiers in the Botafogo colors

and a Flamengo offering

Before coming to Rio we were told that we would need to pick our team and the most popular choices are Flamengo or Fluminense (FLA or FLU in the local vernacular). So we picked Botafogo, but that is beside the point. Anyway, when Rio teams play Rio teams it is especially competitive and the fans are out in all their glory.

So, on to the game. While neither Flamengo nor Vasco is terribly competitive to win the championship this year, the fan excitement was tremendous. And frankly, the fans were more fun to watch than the game as it ended in a 0-0 tie. We went with two friends, one of whom is Brazilian and a Flamengo fanatic, so we were in good and knowledgeable hands.

We went by metro to the stadium and then drank beers from street vendors outside the stadium. Beer is not sold inside for what are probably obvious reasons – though I could have sworn that I saw some being consumed. While the males of our party got a full body pat down entering the stadium I could probably have smuggled in some beverages in my purse.

Apologies in advance for the quality of the pictures. The game was at night, the neighborhood is kind of rough so I brought only the cheap camera. The stadium itself is impressive.

Note the moat between the field and the fans and the guard with billy club positioned in the stands – this guy never turned around to watch the game but was excellent at moving along fans that were rowdier than normal.

Before the game and between the periods the fans in sections of the stadium reserved for each team’s fans (we were in a more neutral area) enormous banners would be folded down from the top to the bottom of a section. Here is a banner for Flamengo being unfurled over the heads of hundreds of fans assisting in the process:


A Vasco banner

And a slight planning goof on the part of the Vasco fan coordinators:
Oops – this is what we meant to say

When the banners weren’t being rolled down and up the fan sections had flags waving, cheers being yelled and exhibited teamwork and coordination that would put any “wave” to shame in my home country. We will go again and I will focus more on photo quality. But I may get distracted if either team actually scores a point!

Sadly, the next event will not be at Maracana – they are now closed for the next few years.

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