Football - Brazil Style

Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog

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So, what is this "Futebol" thing anyway?

Like many Australians, My knowledge of soccer is somewhat limited.

I know who David Beckham is, can suss out several of the top English teams by sight, can recognise the top brasillian players and know that Pelé was an absolute legend. Apart from that there are a few players who played in the world cup that I can tell by sight, and that´s about it.

Apparantly this is grounds for deportation in Brasil. At least that´s what I think our doorman said. Either that or "stupid American". I hope it was the former, or else he´ll get a whoopin.

Getting mistaken for Americans is becoming a problem. We were walking along the beach, past a beach side kiosk/ bar when an old brasillian guy pipes up:

"Oi, americanaó!"

To which we succinctly reply:

"Australiano. Naó Americano."

"Oi Americanó. Fuck you." Is his retort.

I´m momentarily stunned. Here I am with a guy who´s rude, loud, obnoxious, can´t speak english very well, and can´t handle his booze, and he thinks I am the American here? My australian pride comes out. Suddenly, my shoulders are broader, my accent has a sharper Aussie Twang and I hear faint strains of "Waltzing Matilda" i hear flags snapping in the breeze and see my tormentor eye to eye, much like the diggers did in Gallipoli. i hear their chants and shouts as my sheer Aussie-ness comes flooding into my body through generations of sun, Beer, Snags on a barbie, backyard cricket and looking up at the Southern Cross. My country needs defending! To Arms is the battle cry. The background music is now "advance Australia fair" and I prepare to get out of the trenches and fight for my country (Note: Actually, the background music was "Smack that" by Akon and Eminem coming from a nearby van with big speakers, but in the interest of a good story, we´ll continue to assume it was actually a rather rambunctious version of our national anthem.)

With all this swelling up in my now inflated and extended chest, I make the split second decision to defend my country.

I imagine that I´m Banjo Patterson, Steve Irwin and Boonie all rolled into one and reply:

"Fuck you too. Australian, you wanker."

Not really a digger worthy effort, but he´s pissed. His friend is also coming over to tell him to shut the fuck up and explains that we are not Americans. He looks at Cassie, then at me. I give him a look. I realise that I am giving him a look and breifly remember the movie "zoolander" i instantly name this look "Stonewall." I then remember that my national pride is at stake and i should concentrate on keeping the newly named "stonewall" intact.

The friend apologises and we walk on. I break up as I hear, just within earshot "Que é um wanker?" (What is a Wanker?)

Anyway, back to the soccer (Or Futébol as it is called here)

Because I seem to be at risk of losing my visa with such shallow knowledge of the world game, I decide to attend a state chmpionship match at Maracaná. The home of Futébol in south America.

This is the stadium where 200,000 people saw Pelé play his last match, along with many other memorable ones, a place where Ronaldinho and Renaldo are worshipped as gods. A place where a clump of turf is on sale in the giftshop for $100. I decide that my horticultural skills preclude me from buying this. That and Aussie customs may not take kindly to me importing Grass into the country (at least not without a body cavity search) although, it´d be novel. Seems Australians are always smuggling drugs into other countries these days. Smuggling INTO Australia must seem like taking an icecube tray to antarctica.

I get a group together and we plan to see a local derby. Flamengo (Black and red stripes) play Botofogo (Black and White stripes). All day of the match it absolutely pours down with rain. We are told that we will probably have no protection from the torrential downpour at the stadium. We decide not to go. Predictably, the game is a nail biter, with botofogo and flamengo tied at 4 all with 5 seconds to go before botofogo kick a goal just before the siren sounds, only to have it disallowed due to a handball on the way. replays show it´s the right call, but it was a great game, and I hated missing it. I decide to try to go again.

So, I sign up for a tour to go see local team Flamengo play some venezuelan team. We get there and it´s amazing.

The ground is much smaller than the MCG, with only two levels. How the hell 200,000 people have been in here is well beyond my comprehension, and probably far beyond the engineering load specs of the stadium. However, safety is not in the brasillian language, as evidenced by the amount of people flying kites in the street. Very close to high tension power lines. It truly is a crazy nation.

As we approach the entry, the guide gives us the tickets, we put them through a turnstyle and go in. We get searched by the Army (!) and then enter the stadium. The first thing that hits me is the roar. Apparantly Flamengo are a very good team, with a lot of supporters. There are three story banners and flags, and a massive Flamengo guernsey that takes up a whole section. It´s probably 100 metres each side. they are flapping it about. I assume they can see through.

The flamengo crowd are chanting, singing, setting off flares. dancing, beating drums... It´s crazy. At the other end of the ground is the venezuelan section. there seem to be about a dozen of the venezuelan supporters and many more flamengo ones sitting in their area. This is apparantly not supposed to happen. The venezuelan fans however decide that pointing this out to 3,000 people who have 100,000 friends in the stadium, and 7 million fellow Cariocas (Rio dwellers) nearby is not a good idea. I have since raised my opinion of venezuelan intelligence and plan to visit there one day. As soon as I find out where the hell it is.

After selecting seats in the neutral area we realise that there is no neutral area. It´s all Flamengo. I am suddenly a Flamengo fan. A decision which bears fruit after about a minute, when they score their first goal. i wish I could conver the scene. All at once, the whole stadium shouts "GOOOOOOOOOOOOL" .thousands of people suddenly rise and cheer, random strangers hug and slap high fives, chants break out so deafening that they block out all other thought. Fireworks go off, two girls near me kiss each other... more was probably going on, but I was watching the girls kiss each other. My bad.

We resume our seats, not realising that we stood up and the game restarts. Pretty soon it´s another goal, then another, both with the same scene repeating. 3-0 and the games practically over, or so a nearby pommy tells me. He´s a bit of a know it all, but he´s just joined a shout with me and is a big cold beer lover and has a radar for hot women. Not that you need a radar in Brasil, but I digress again.

soon, it´s half time. The crowd mills about, then moves toward the opposite end of the field, so they can see another flamengo goal from up close. Durin the break, a dozen or so bikini clad tanned blonde girls get in the field and kick soccerballs into the crowd. I think this is genius and make a note to myself to make sure the AFL know about this practice. then I remember that Wayne Carey surely thought of it previously.

After half time and another few beers, it´s on again, but the game has no oomph. It´s over and everyone knows it. This is solidified when the venezuelan team actually score a goal, and..... nothing. i´m hearing crickets. Any fans are too ashamed or scared to cheer. How much does that suck for the guys on the pitch. Even their family is sitting there saying "I don´t know these guys..... Nope, Not me."

The game finishes and the Flamengo people celebrate, but I feel a bit cheated. It was a walkover. I enjoyed it, but was hoping for so much more..... I promise myself that I will go again, and Cassie must come too this time. No excuses. I made up my mind, and she´s going to do as I say. I´m the man here, so I acted like one!

Naturally by "acted like one" I actually mean "begged shamelessly" That´s what a long relationship does to you lads. I fear no man, back down from no challenge, but my girl starts quivering her lips and I´m putty in her hands. I mentally note that I must re-establish my manhood by buying some porn from the local dvd vendor in front of the supermarket, and make sure that she finds it. (note: This was acheived shortly after purchase. It did not really have the desired effect.

"What´s this?"

"Er Charlies Angels DVD?"

"It says 'Sex Angels'. It´s porn."

"So it is." I stare blankly (Yeah, go stomewall!)

"Looks crappy. too many women on one guy. Why would you want that?" she says as she tosses it back into the pile of ripped Dvds. )

Somehow though, I convince her to do what I want. The soccer that is, not the threesome.

This time we plan to go to a local derby. Flamengo are playing arch rivals Vasco. It´s also the semi final of the Guanabara Cup. Apparantly this is a very big occasion. I immediately resolve that we must go, so we do.

As we get to the ground, I am searched (Cassie is not) we pick good seats as far away from an annoying dorky German guy that attached to our group, and settle down to watch. During the game, vendors come buy selling ice creams, beer, water, popcorn, drinks, chips, nuts and merchandise. I buy a magnum. It´s just like the ones back home. Kind of a cop out really. We take our seats and I tell Cass that we must pick teams. As we are in the Vasco section, she picks vasco. Naturally, I then pick Flamengo, and make fun of the local vasco fans. They don´t understand English anyway (I hope).

The game is a corker. The two sides seem fairly evenly matched on the ground ANd in the stands. Both sets of supporters have giant banners and flags, their own chants compete for volume and aural dominance. It´s astounding.

The game is a corker. Tight, goal for goal stuff. Attack and counter attack with some players showing the typical brasillian flair. The moves are as graceful as a dancer, quick as a jaguar and have a david copperfield like quality of seeming to kick the ball in one direction, only for it to go in another. We´re on our feet the whole match.

The first goal is to Flamengo. The cheering breaks out and I join in. I scream ""GOOOOOOOOOOOOL" .thousands of people suddenly rise and cheer, random strangers hug and slap high fives, chants break out so deafening that they block out all other thought. Fireworks go off, and I look about to see if girls are once again kissing each other. Nada. It seems this is not an everyday occurance at futeból games. I suddenly havea a desire to ask for my money back. i soon fight this off and watch the game more.

It´s very enthralling. the ball moves very fast with players spinning, sliding, jumping and flicking the ball in various ways that make me understand why brasillians love this game. I´m told that they play that way because the cities are so crowded that very few public soccer fields are any good, thus they play in the street, avoiding rubbish bins, parked cars, moving cars, sleeping dogs, holes in the road, and so on. These skills mean that when they get to a flat, green pitch, it´s like playing without weights on your ankles.

The game goes quickly. flamengo score again by a beautiful header from a cross, then Vasco reply with a quick one, then after half time with the equaliser. 2-2. the game goes back and forth a while, each side running hard and using the bench. the Vasco keeper has made some amazing saves, and Vasco also seem to be running out of wind. Flamengo are on the attack, when vasco break out of defence and score! The crowd explodes, and Cassie jeers me mercilessly. There´s only a couple of minutes to go and she laughs at my situation. i tell her;

" You watch. God loves me too much to let a team I like lose while I´m on holiday"

She taunts me further. I resolve that Flamengo must win, even if I must put on a guernsey myself and show them how an Aussie does it. i get up to do just this and notice that the stadium seems to wobble. I remember that I´ve had about 8 or 9 beers (damn people coming to me and asking me if I want a beer. For $2 AUS for a stubby, hell yes I´ll have a beer). I sit down and put my ego in fates hands.

Surely enough, with bare seconds to go, Flamengo score. it´s 3 all. the shouts are astounding, so much that i can´t hear the siren, but the refs do, and as it´s a final, it´s penalty shootout time.

Flamengo go first.... MISS. Vasco cheer, and the flamengo-ites mutter curses under their collective breaths.

Vasco.... GOAL!!!!! Cassie prods me and jeers without mercy. I put on my angelic face and try to recall if I´ve been good or bad lately. Come on Karma, do your thing!

Flamengo... GOAL!!!! I am releived. it´s now 4-4. In penalties, each team gets up to 5 shots, but they stop if it´s impossible for the other team to win (i.e. they need two goals with one shot. Although that would be cool to see!)

Vasco now.... MISS. Badly. Not even near the keeper. He just stands up and laughs in the strikers face.

Flamengo..... GOAL!!!! 4-5. I now realise that I should have asked God for more than a Flamengo win, and probably should have picked a long odds horse along with a Kangaroos flag. Then again, winning one game of soccer is probably easier for God to do than get the Kangas a premiership.

Vasco Miss again! still 4-5.

Flamengo.... GOAL!!!! 4-6 I am SO the chosen one tonight. I am also very drunk. i am singing along with the flamengo song in Portugeuse. I do not really know portugeuse, so it´s more of a drunken slur, kind of like those piss heads singing AC/DC at a local Karaoke bar. I am also surrounded by irritated Vasco fans. I decide that I am a fan of the winning side, I am thus entitled to celebrate profusely. So I do.

Vasco only have two shots left and need both of them to score to equalise. They also need Flamengo to miss their last one. The tension is palpable. Everyone is standing, cheering, jeering, dancing, singing, waiting with the same anticipation that you see on sprots fans worldwide when their side is staring down the barrel of glory or defeat.

Vasco..... MISS. Flamengo win!

Naturally, I take my sides victory with aplomb and only give Cass a minor ribbing. To be honest, the result was secondary, it was a GREAT game. Unbeleivable atmosphere, freaky skills.... THIS is what i wanted to see.

We leave surrounded by people from both sides cheering (though the Flamengo-ites -Whom I now consider "my people"-cheer louder. We head home satisfied. This is Brasil.

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