Photo by Aaron Cranford
By Aaron Cranford
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — If you had any doubts about it before, I’m here to tell you that passion for soccer is alive and well in Brazil.
From the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema to the Maracanã and Estádio São Januário, soccer is a segment of everyday life here in Rio de Janeiro.
On my first day here in the beautiful seaside city, I relaxed on the beach of Copacabana and watched bandeiras of Rio’s native soccer teams, such as Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama, whip in the wind. Beachgoers were happily playing keepy-uppies in pairs of two to five next to the blue ocean.
And all along the beige-colored sandy beach, standard issue-sized goal posts were already erected, allowing people to use them whenever they felt inclined.
Walking up and down the streets of Copacabana and Ipanema, I also saw employees’ and patrons’ heads tilted toward a television screen perched in a corner at each of the little square lojas. And sometimes, I passed by a store without anyone looking in my direction, like a ghost floating by the transfixed faces of locals.
Even when local teams aren’t playing, these bars will find the only soccer match on television, and there will undoubtedly be a crowd watching the spectacle.
I return to my apartment late some nights, and even then, my doorman will be watching a soccer game on his 10-inch television screen, which is perfectly positioned next to his wooden desk. His favorite club is Flamengo, a neighborhood of Rio — not too far from where I live — and one night, he was happy to report to me in Portuguese that his team had just scored before halftime.
Since there are a handful of teams in Rio, not all citizens will wear their respective club’s garments the same day because not all teams play the same day. However, with so many teams, there are multiple game days. And because there are multiple game days, there usually is never a day when someone is not wearing a jersey of a local team.
I had the pleasure to attend my first match on May 24. Fluminense hosted Corinthians, a team based in São Paulo, and while there were many close chances and last-second saves, neither side could find the breakthrough. I sat with the home fans, and the atmosphere they created was spectacular, as flags were waved throughout the 90 minutes, and chants were sung consistently as well.
After the match, most fans flocked from the friendly confines of Maracanã to Metrô Rio, heading back in the direction of the center of the city. As I rode the train back to Copacabana, I watched as Fluminense fans held blank expressions after a 0-0 draw against Corinthians — they probably were disappointed with the result. At each stop, fans would hop off of the inner-city train, and by the time I arrived at my stop, Cardeal Arcoverde, almost no Fluminense supporters were left on board.
When that day was done, I went to sleep.
But when I woke up the next morning and walked over to Copacabana beach to relax and tan, the flags were still flying, the people were still playing keepy-uppies and the delighted supporters were still donning their team’s colors.
Another day in Brazil, another day of soccer.
This is an ongoing series of journal entries, in which I will explain and document my preparation for travel and travel through Brazil in May through August of 2015. You can read each journal entry on The Orange Traveler or on ojogobonito.weebly.com where they will initially be published.
Have you traveled to Rio de Janeiro? How was your experience? Been to a soccer game in the seaside city?
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