On the first day of my two weeks stay in Brazil I went to the EngenhÃ£o stadium to watch Botafogo v Bahia where Clarence Seedorf was presented a crowd of around 20,000 fans before the game. A good turnout for Botafogo in a stadium known as enche-nÃ£o (a play on words in Portuguese meaning that the stadium is never full). Check out the pictures from yesterdayâ€™game on the Brazilfooty Facebook page.
Good afternoon sports fans! I write to you from a windy and rainy (although not cold) Rio de Janeiro. Its now my second day of my two week long trip to Brazil in which Iâ€™ll be going to several matches, meeting old and new friends and generally talking and absorbing as much about football as possible.
Brazil really is a football mad country. Even people that donâ€™t like football inadvertently like football and have something to say about the subject, so ingrained into Brazilian life and culture is the beautiful game. Its on the front page of newspapers, on all the main TV channels, is the talk in bars, on street corners, barbers, beach kiosks, etc. Generally there is a lot of good humoured and amusing banter between the fans of the different clubs. Nearly everybody in Brazil has a team and will join in the banter, even if they donâ€™t know a single player in their clubs team or have never even watched a game. Itâ€™s a way of life.
Sadly of course there are the idiots, the fanatical fans who get involved in violence. Occasionally arguments can flare up even between good natured people. It happened to me once at a barbeque with about ten Corinthianos, most of them friends, who decided to have a dig at my team Everton. I responded by reminding my hosts that Everton had in fact won more national league titles than Corinthians and had never won the Copa Libertadores. My hostsâ€™ Dad must have overheard part of the conversation (and badly misinterpreted the nature of the banter) had a right go at me â€“ I burst out laughing because I thought he was joking, apparently not. A bit awkward that really. Exactly the sort of thing that, in another situation, could have lead to a fight. Stupid. Generally though, the banter is good and is something that I miss about Brazil. Itâ€™s good to be back and see it all again first hand. Iâ€™ll try and give some examples over the next couple of weeks of what I mean.
Iâ€™m getting a little bit side-tracked.
As for yesterdayâ€™s game, Seedorf arrived at the match by helicopter. I was just getting to the stadium at the time, fashionably late â€“ as you do in Brazil. I got a couple of snaps of the helicopter and ran into the stadium to see him make his way onto the pitch. Not that exciting really: some cheering, songs about Seedorf, smiles and waves, hand-shaking with the club president, ball juggling that lasted for about two seconds and some pleasant words from Seedorf in Portuguese where he thanked the Botafogo fans about 5 times. All a little tame really.
Botafogo are Rioâ€™s third or fourth most popular team behind Flamengo, Vasco and possibly Fluminense. For the presentation of the â€˜biggest signing of a foreign player in Brazilâ€™s historyâ€™ as the Botafogo website claims, a poor turnout really: just 20,000 odd fans â€“ the EnghenÃ£o only half full. Good atmosphere when the fans got singing though, as is always the case at Brazilian club matches. Bad atmosphere when the fans start swearing at their own players after a couple of misplaced passes. That happened once or twice with Renato (@#&* off back to Sevilla) but fortunately didnâ€™t last long. Botafogo played very well and opened the scoring early through the tricky Cidinho: a diminuitive but fantastically tricky player who ironically opened the scoring with a header, the day that Loco Abreu was sent on loan to Figueirense.
Botafogo continued to play some good stuff and Seedorf must have been impressed. Cidinho scored a brilliant second. I blinked and missed his shot but saw the ball fly into the back of the net with the keeper sprawling. I got a brilliant view of Elkesonâ€™s goal and Botafogoâ€™s third. He smashed it and I saw it every step of the way as it flew into the top corner. I jumped to my feet in celebration. My friend Rodrigo â€“ who is a Flamengo fan but very kindly took me to the game â€“ was not impressed with my reaction but even he later admitted it was a good goal.
Rodrigo was a great host but was starting to get agitated. As the Mexican wave came round for the third time, he lifted his arms and said Flamengo more loudly than he should have. I reminded him that we wanted to go home by train, not ambulance!
Getting to the stadium was a bit of a hassle even for experienced locals such as Rodrigo. We went to the Botafogo club headquarters around 4 and bought our tickets â€“ we could have got them at the ground but went to the club just in case the queues at the ground were really long or by the time we got to the ground the game was sold out. Turns out we probably didnâ€™t need to do either.
From Rodrigoâ€™s flat in Copacabana, we got the tube to the centre of the city. From there we got a train out to the stadium, passing the MaracanÃ£ â€“ and some other very run down areas or favelas â€“ on the way. Definitely not a route I would advise any tourists unless accompanied by a local. Even then, it still doesnâ€™t feel particularly safe and you need to keep all your wits about you. Interesting train ride though with vendors pushing (and sometimes more politely squeezing) their way past selling popcorn, water, peanuts, chocolate and even health-bars which the vendor shouted the merits of to the entire carriage (protein-packed apparently). Most of the people on the train are of course hard-working, honest and good people. But in a country like Brazil where inequalities are huge, you have to watch out. An interesting ride though for sure.
More on getting to games and their value later. The evening ended off with a trip to a barbeque. Me, the special guest. I was made to feel very welcome and for a brief moment it felt like Iâ€™d just turned up in a helicopter outside. Although Iâ€™m fluent in Portuguese, understanding the culture pretty well, spent three years living in SÃ£o Paulo, I did at times feel a bit out of place, even slightly nervous with all eyes watching me. A bit like Seedorf at his engagement, perhaps? I wonder if thatâ€™s why he only juggled the ball for a few seconds… Probably not but itâ€™ll be very interesting to see how he will settle in. Itâ€™s all smiles today with Seedorf shirts selling like crazy. I just wonder what will happen if Botafogo start playing poorly and Seedorf starts misplacing passes. Will the fans tell him to @#$% off back to Milan?