Seeing as Flamengo played yesterday, I thought I’d recount a little tale of the time I went to see Flamengo play in the Maracanã. A few notes on Flamengo: Their fan base is the largest and most fanatic, in Brazil, there are several different associations, the most famous of which is the Urubus, or the vultures (yeah I know scary) but all in all, they are wgreat people having good times, going crazy, getting emotional and throwing fireworks around the stadium. One interesting thing about Maracanã is that it is fully a dry stadium, no booze in or outside in the the immediate vicinity of the stadium…
here is the wikipedia version of Flamengo :
Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (Portuguese pronunciation: [flaˈmẽɡu]) is a Brazilian multisport club located in Rio de Janeiro.
Despite not being the club’s official name, Flamengo has become the term used by most to refer not just to thefootball team, but also the entire sporting association. Other nicknames used by fans include “Fla”, “Mengo”, and “Mengão”(which means Big Mengo), as well descriptions of the club’s official colors, rubro-negro, which translates to “the scarlet-blacks”.
Flamengo’s football team—the most popular club in Brazil with an estimated 35 million supporters—placed 9th in FIFA Clubs of the 20th Century.
The Maracanã, as it is called, is the biggest stadium in South America, and a visit to here is an experience that most Cariocas (Rio residents) would say is absolutely essential. It is legendary in Rio and the stadium will host the final match of the 2014 World Cup, and it will also be the centerpiece of the 2016 Summer Olympics and 2016 Summer Paralympics as the site of ceremonies and the football finals. Mate tea served cold has a story here as well, in the early days, cold mate was the beverage of choice at the matches.
My host on this mission was one Mr. Arthur Max. Max is a die hard Flamengista, a fan of the football (soccer) club Flamengo. So naturally we went to see a Flamengo game (post comparing Rio Futebol teams coming soon!). The game was a Pan South American championship game with Flamengo versus Libertadores from the Université Catholica en Chile.
Entering the Maracanã it is kind of akin to entering a large and imposing church. This church of Brazilian football (soccer) is as impressive as they come, beautiful, and gigantic. It was originally built in for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, and despite not being completed at the time (it lacked a press gallery and some washrooms) it opened its doors for the tournament. The final game of that tournament saw Brazil lose to its neighbour Uruguay 2-1. The official attendance of the game was 199,854, with the actual attendance estimated to be about 210,000. Imagine, 200 000 people at the same game!! Crazy.
After some renovations in the 90s, and most recently between 2005 and 2007, the Maracanã today is a little more sleek, modern, comfortable and a little less raw. The standing sections have all been removed and now the stadium’s official capacity is 88,992.
As I entered the stadium I was immediately struck by the groups of fans on the second level, waving three story high flags and dozens of people carrying lit flares, and others setting off fireworks. People playing samba drums, singing and chanting along. The vibe was intense. And this was a game with hardly any opposing fans present. That element of competition was absent from the equation, but I can only imagine the energy of two local teams with all their fans present playing. Holy Sh@#$ it must be very, very wild. Still, the absence of a strong local opposing fan base made for a very celebratory game with the torcida very positive.
The torcida is what truly makes the Maracanã and indeed most football (soccer) matches in Brazil so spectacular. The torcidajust means the cheering section or fans of a specific team. There can be different torcidas for the same team, like the “YoungTorcida” or the Urubuzada (the Vultures) for Flamengo. In Minas Gerais the torcida for Mineiro Athletico is called Galocura(‘Galo’, from rooster, their mascot, and ‘locura’ for craziness).
While the torcidas (especially the young boys of the torcidas) can be responsible for the not-so-cool elements of organized football (soccer) fans, including acts of aggression and general lets-go-craziness, but in this blog post anyway, I will focus on the positive parts that help create the emotion generated by a good match. In any case, in Brazil at least, football (soccer) games have become a lot cooler and are visited by all walks of life, men women and children of all creeds and classes.
One of the coolest things is the bands that play songs that it seems everyone knows and sings along to. The awesome community spirit is at its best and most energizing at the games. It was a beautiful game, and as soon as Flamengo scored their first goal, he crowd erupted into cheers of joy and emotion. People hugged and sang with tears in their eyes. Of course, there were people cussing Adriano (Flamengo’s star player known as the Imperador, or the Emperor) because of what they thought was his laziness on the pitch. People quickly changed their tune as he scored the side’s second goal, or rather as they say in Brazil: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!! The match ended 2-0 for Flamengo.
The Marcanã is highly recommended and an absolute must see for fans of football (soccer).