Published: May 21st 2007
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The crowd at sometime during the game
So when in Rome do as the Romans do they I took this on board and decided to do as the Rio locals do and go and see a football game in the country that does it best. Now this was no ordinary game as everyone was full of anticipation as one of the Brazilian greats was on 999 goals and they were hoping that he might kick one more goal in this game. So the scene was set for a big one possibly and I was hoping to be there and see history in the making. The player was Romario, a player who is currently 40 odd and has played many years for Brazil and for the local team Vasco. From all accounts he is one of the greats of the game and it´s not unusual for him to kick a number of goals in any game, except since he arrived at 999 goals he hadn´t kicked a goal in about 4 games. Stories of him hanging on the beach with the chicks drinking beer the day before a big game are common and when he is hassled by the media he tells them everything will be ok

Earlier singing and dancing under the grandstand before the game
and there is no need for him to be training as he is going to kick 3 goals in the game. Quite often he would come through with the goods and so his ego seems to bigger than the football stadium we went to. So other than being a football game in Brazil we were lucky enough to have one that might cause some more craziness than usual, and the scene is set.......

I decided to err on the side of caution and go with the tour from the hostel which included 3 security guards for us, that way at least I could take my cameras and feel confident that I would leave with them. In hindsight everyone was way too occupied with the game to be concerned with gringos and their belongings. We left many hours before the game was due to start and arrived at the stadium to find people already there in numbers. We hang out the front for a while and have a few beers from the vendors that are always present and make my life very convenient - who needs 7/11 when in Brazil everything comes to you. We enter the stadium and are

One of the team flags
all padded down for any kinda concealed weapons and then the fun begins. Already in an area under the grandstand people have started to gather with massive team flags and drums and the chanting and singing is already underway, this is 2 hours before kick off mind you. Vasco is a team from Rio and they are playing Figueirense (Sport) who are from outta town. The supporters are kept separated in the stadium so things don´t get nasty....our group is going for Vasco (always safety in numbers and that´s who Romario is playing for). It´s all very exciting and more people crowd in under the grandstand as they roll off a number of songs and chants....I am amazed at the fact that everyone knows the words, the timing to throw your fist in the air and when to jump. The cheering is much more sophisticated than the typical Australian supporters - you know Carlton (clap clap clap) Carlton (clap clap clap) and I can´t wait to see what goes on when the game actually starts. We head up to grab some seats and we end up sitting right in the middle of the Vasco crowd and completely amoungst it, with

The crowd packed to the rafters
our security guards strategically placed around us. More people in the stadium are also singing and chanting already and the beer is flowing and the excitement is building. The stadium holds about 15,000 I think and about 98% of it is for the Vasco fans and the other 2% is given to the other team supporters and is cordoned off by a high fence. It´s getting closer to kick off and by now the who bunch of people who were down stairs singing have made their way up to the grandstand and stopped right next to us, so complete with the drums, flags, balloons and anything else in black, red and white. The grandstand is now packed to the rafters literally as there is no seating arrangements, just fit in where you can, and people are sitting right up on the back wall. By now we have learnt some of the words to the songs and know when to throw our fists in the air so it seems we are ready. This has all occured with constant singing, dancing and drum playing without any pauses for a break and I´m getting exhausted already. The other team, Sport, enter onto the

Me looking out of place in green rather than red, white and black
pitch for a warm up and the singing suddenly stops for the first time and the whole crowd starts to yell out something in Portuguese. Our local friend we have made in front informs us the crowd is telling the Sport to 'Go Fuck Yourselves!´....yes no holding back here!

So after 2 hours of singing and dancing and being a whole more active than I have ever been at an Australian Rules game, the players actually come onto the field. All I can say is the Brazilian´s know how to support a team and know how to have a good time doing it. Fire crackers, flares, sparklers, balloons, flags, drums, singing, dancing and a whole lot of noise....I have never seen anything like it in my life!!!!! Romario did his glory entry and was mobbed by the press as soon as he got to the field and our friend in front of us was so beside himself with passion for his team I thought I might have to perform CPR. So finally we have kick off and the singing has not stopped and the guys playing the drums have now been going solidly for about 90 mins. In the

Hand signals when the opposition team comes onto the field...along with the chant to take a hike
first half Vasco kick 2 goals......the crowd goes absolutely wild even more so.....unfortunately not to our man Romario....but they are up 2-0 at half time.

I have been needing to go to the toilet since the start of the game but didn´t want to miss anything and so I think I´ll just nick down and go quickly and then be back for the start of the second. No this is not the MCG or anything remotely similar and I kinda knew that but was just hoping that it wasn´t going to be like it was. I arrive downstairs to a sea of people and find myself in the middle of it within a minute. As I get moved along the corridor with the sea of people I feel some kinda of liquid on my feet, yes I stupidly wore my thongs a change that I made at the last minute and which I was totally regretting at this moment. I was not sure what this liquid was at this stage and I just was hoping that it was nothing nasty but as I looked around a little more I saw countless males standing against the wall pissing......yes I was obviously not too happy about this situation and moved as fast as I could away. Finally to the women´s toilets which I think was the only one for the whole stadium and to a queue a mile long, no time to be shy so I just stood my ground and finally made it in after about ten minutes. The women were no better than the men and as I walked into the main area of the toilet there was women squatting on the side, so now I was sure that I was walking through piss. Anyway sorry for the toilet information but it was part of the whole experience and advice for anyone going to a game of football in Brazil - make sure you wear shoes!

So after that ordeal I finally emerged again up in the stadium to find that the game had already started but luckily no goal to Romario. I thought that I had remembered where we were sitting but when you are down the bottom and there is a grandstand full of people everything changes. All the stairways were covered in people so the only way up is to push your way through the

Me with our friendly Vasco friend in front who survived the game without injuring himself
crowd, which I did in the direction that I thought everyone was sitting. After about 2 minutes of doing this the crowd went wild and I turned around to see that a penalty shot had been given to Vasco right in front of the goal and Romario was the player to take it. Basically if he missed this then he´d have to hang his head in shame so there was no point in me continuing anywhere at this stage so I stayed put. I was now surrounded by mad Brazilian male soccer fans and I was just waiting for everything to erupt and I couldn´t think of a better place to be. Romario kicked the goal and the crowd really went wild this time and there I was dancing around and cheering...the guys around me thought that I was quite funny and decided to dance with me with arms around. Now this went on for approximately 30 minutes as Romario was swamped by the media on the pitch and the game was stopped while all this happened. The crowd just continued on with the songs and dancing etc and I finally made it back to my group to find our

The crowd after a Vasco goal
local friend ecstatic and a lot more happier than before. Finally after the 30 minutes Romario did a lap of honour and soaked it up even more and then the game could begin again.

The last part of the game was a little tamer, the cheering continued but not with the gusto it had for the first part. Romario went off about 5 minutes after kicking the goal and I thought that he might retire there and then as he really didn´t do much during the game. Sport kicked a goal and the chant of 'Go Fuck Yourselves´was repeated again. At the final siren the score was 3-1 in favour of Vasco and the crowd was happy! I was exhausted and ready to go and have a cold drink but I was completely buzzed by what I had just experienced. What I really liked about the supporters there was that they actually supported the team. For example a couple of goals where missed and the supporters were obviously dissappointed but rather sit there and sulk or go quiet they started to chant straight away to try and lift the team. Unlike AFL supporters who are great while their team are winning and going well but as soon as they start to play bad or start to lose eveyone goes quiet and waits for the team to lift rather than try to lift the team. To me the Brazilian supporters know what it´s about and if only the Australian´s could take out one leaf from their books then football would be so much more fun. I could only imagine what it´s like when Brazil are playing, it would be absolute madness. We all staggered out of the stadium and I really did feel like I had been out all night dancing, but I would have paid double what I did to have that experience and I highly recommend anyone who gets a chance to go see a game of football in Brazil. By the way we found out after the game that Romario had counted his own goals up and apparantly he had included the goals scored when he was younger before starting in the top league....typical!



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