When we were told that the tickets to see two of Rio’s biggest teams go head to head at the world famous Maracanã Stadium were only R$40 (approximately £14 or $22) and that it wasn’t just a football game, it was a Life Experience, how could we refuse?
At some point on the subway ride to the stadium a huge storm had erupted. We arrived to howling winds and torrential rain that managed to pull some signs in the open air mezzanine off of their bolted down stands – one of them clocking some poor guy in the back of the head in the process.
We hung around the station for a bit waiting for the weather to calm down. We had seats on the Flamengo side and Adam had done the four of us proud by getting hold of the appropriate jersey but, as we stood there, it quickly became apparent that this was the stop where all the Vasco fans disembarked. Wisely, he took a minute to change into a spare T-shirt that he had concealed in his shorts pocket.
Erin and I had arrived totally unprepared for the soaking that we were about to endure but, fortunately for us, some industrious locals that had been watching the weather turned up with bags full of plastic ponchos. We purchased a pair and pushed our way through the crowd of Vasco supporters and along the wide, direct walkway that led to the wrong end of the stadium.
At the end of the walkway there was a huge lake forming that had possibly originated in a sewer. Ever unprepared, we were both in sandals and, not really wanting to walk through Rio wastewater in basically bare feet, we opted for vaulting over a fence onto the driest (or least wettest) ground we could find.
We trudged all around the outside of this not small stadium until we found the right queue, then took our seats. It was LOUD. Non-stop Samba drums mingled with the constant cheering and singing while huge flags in the red and black of the Flamengo strip were waved constantly around us.
I proceeded to enjoy the game in the manner in which I have reliably informed one enjoys a good game of football – that is, by drinking beer and shouting loudly – while Erin tried desperately to hold on to the dignity that was being forcefully removed from her simply by being in my presence.
The players entered onto the rain-sodden field, looking miserable. I imagine there were one or two that were wishing the game had been canceled and, once they got going, there was a lot of sliding around a ball that absolutely refused to bounce.
The first and only dramatic moment in the first half was a foul by a Flamengo player in the Vasco box that led to a well placed diving save by the Vasco keeper.
Half Time Shenanigans
After the whistle for half time, the Flamengo crowd that we were with learned that there was a supporter wearing a Vasco top in the box above our section.
They were not happy.
At first, they started chanting at her in Portuguese. I don’t know what they were saying, but I can’t imagine it was very nice. To her credit, she was totally unphased by this and goaded the crowd further to which they responded admirably by getting two of the huge flags and draping them across the front of the box window, obscuring the view of all the occupants:
This led to all sort of crazy celebrations. We captured the goal and the resulting festivities in the video below:
Following our goal, there was yet another penalty, this time against Flamengo. Another brilliant save by the keeper secured his position as the hero of the evening. By the end of the game there had been 5 yellow cards, 3 penalties, 2 saves and one goal.
The Journey Home
We made our way back to the Flamengo subway and it became apparent that their fans had been given a bum deal regarding subway stops. No fully-lit pedestrian walkway for us – just a long, wet walk along a badly lit highway teeming with fast moving cars.
This was only the beginning of our travel nightmare.
Once we reached our subway stop in Rio, we tried to hail a cab. Getting a cab to go to Santa Teresa at night is difficult at the best of times but when you’re four soaking wet people standing on a street corner in torrential rain, it’s just never going to happen. After being rejected by our tenth cab, we decided that we had no choice but to walk.
Our hostel host is a fairly laid back guy, so when he says don’t walk back to the hostel at night he probably really means it. Add to this the memory of the mugging we experienced two days earlier, the fact that we were hungry, tired and wet and you have all the ingredients for a tense walk home. There was a lot of looking-over-the-shoulder going on.
Thankfully for us, the rain was too much even for the ne’er do wells, and we made it back in one piece, but it did mean that this particular game certainly lived up to the promise of Life Experience.
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