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Full-on football - Rio´s fanatical fans

BRAZIL | Monday, 1 October 2007 | Views [2690]

I´ve never been a voyeur - well, not when it comes to sport,  so football matches are not really my thing.  However, I was interested to test just how fanatical the Brazilians were about the game by attending a derby match at their famous Maracana stadium.

Donning colourful T-shirts we boarded a minibus crammed with other people of international intrigue and headed across Rios busy streets.  There were already groups of people congregating in outdoor cafes and children waving flags.

The match was between Flamengo and Vasco de Gama.  The Flamengo fans seemed to be everywhere and were easily identified by their red and black, ¨Denace the Menace,¨ shirts.  Vasco wore white and although outnumbered on the streets were just as loyal and had a passion typical of Brazilians.

As we neared the stadium the sounds and crowds were already overwhelming and I pondered momentarily on whether we had made the right decision.

No time to think, we were ushered from the van military style and into the grounds.  Guided by an organiser to an area of neutrality (so we were told) we were actually right in between two warring sets of fundamentalists!

As we took our seats we could only watch as 25 mins of pure taunting took place using signs that any nationality would understand.  Red glowing fireworks ignited on the Flamengo side and I was unsure at one point if the stadium was actually alight such was the smoke.

All of a sudden.  BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.  Did someone smuggle in a rocket launcher?

Explosions usually confined to sandstone quarries were rocking the stadium.  The whole spectacle and intensity of sounds around us was so deafening that we failed to realise the match had been going on for 15 minutes.

Thousands of fans chanted in unison, ¨MEN-GOOOOOO¨ ¨MEN-GOOOOOO¨

We felt small and insignificant here.  Should we follow a team?  If we cheered for the wrong one would we be lynched?  There was a fair peppering of Denace the Menaces in our stand so we tried to blend in.

Back in the game and someone was fouled.  In fact there were many fouls in this match.  There appeared to be a set procedure when someone is fouled in a Brazilian game.

1. The ref whistles, runs over and points in the direction of the fouled side.

2. Every nutcase on the side of the fouler runs down the centre of each stand and goes bezerk, then threatens to kill the referee.

Its quite incredible to watch.  Remind me never to take a job as a ref in Brazil.

As a Mexican wave began on the Vasco side a gigantic red and black football shirt began rippling over the Flamengo fans in the top stand.  Not to be outdone, the Vascoeans (?) pulled their gigantic white shirt up in defiance to ear-piercing whistles and hoots from the other side.

Taking our eyes off the football again, we watched in awe as thousands of streamers burst simultaneously from the stands in a phenominally well choreographed throwing.

By half time Vasco had scored a goal and it seemed that the whole place might erupt into violence.  Maria was edgy and with due cause.  To say that the Flamengo fans were, ¨unhappy¨ would be the understatement of the year.  They wanted blood. 

In Vasco´s defence, they had passed well and showed great flair with the ball.  It was however a relief for us that Flamengo pulled it back in the second half.

A one-all-draw meant fewer casualties and as we were whisked away I wondered what had made more of an impact.  The football or the fans?


Tags: Culture

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