Vasco have lifted the first notable piece of Brazilian footballing silverware this year, on a day of off-field drama, confusion and madness.
I never said that these state championships were straight forward. They can be confusing, long-winded and, at times, quite boring. Sunday was definitely not one of the boring days, but it was one of the days when the farcical events surrounding Brazilian football’s organisation were exposed. (For more on the calendar, or the state championships, follow the links.)
Until right before kick off, despite tickets being sold, nobody knew whether the match would be played behind closed doors, thanks to a dispute between Vasco and Fluminense over which club’s fans should be allowed to sit in the Southern section of the Maracanã stadium.
Vasco claimed that since they were officially the home side, that they should get to chose where their fans would sit. Fluminense, meanwhile, argued that their fans should be allowed to sit in the southern section of the ground since they had agreed this contractually with the stadium.
It seems that both clubs, contractually, had the right to chose where their fans would sit. The problem was that the two contracts directly contradicted one another. The fact that nobody had previously thought that something like this could happen when drawing up those contracts is a joke in itself.
The way it was dealt with was an even bigger farce, culimating in fans not knowing whether they could get into the stadium, until 30 minutes after kick off. What this meant was that around 30,000 fans were hanging around outside the stadium, not being let in, as the match began.
Inevitably this resulted in fans getting annoyed, and a minority started causing trouble. Inevitably too, the security forces seemingly used excessive force in their response, which involved using teargas, pepper spray and batons. 25 fans were treated for injuries, with two of them going to hospital, and a handful of arrests were made.
Eventually, fans were let into the stadium more than half way through the first half. Most of them were Vasco supporters, mainly because they started selling tickets before Fluminense and it was Fluminense who tried to get the match played behind closed doors. The legal action spiralled out of control and was resolved at T + 30 minutes.
I’m not sure if the fans missed very much in terms of action on the pitch, although it was Fluminense who controlled 70% of the possession in the first half. They had several good chances to score in the second half too, but it was Vasco, roared on by their fans, that scored the only goal of the game.
A free kick from their left back Danilo Barcelos – recently signed on loan from Atlético-MG – whipped in a free kick that nobody actually touched, and which bounced straight into the net, with ten minutes of the match remaining.
The football in this match certainly won’t go down as a classic, but the afternoon was memorable for some of the wrong reasons, with the confusion and trouble outside the ground and the legal wrangles up until the match actually began.
There was also a lamentable homophobic celebration of the title by Vasco’s Felipe Bastos, and a strangely endearing picture of Vasco and Fluminense fans side by side, hurling insults at the Fluminense club president.
Another endearing image from the game was that of a Dad in a neat-fitting Vasco shirt pouring a bottle of water over his head next to his cheering son. This father / son double act were two of the first fans to get into the ground. They are now an internet sensation.
To wrap this up, Rio’s state championship is a little unlike the others in that it is split into two phases, each worth a trophy. The winner of those two phases play each other in the final to determine the overall state championship each year (and winner of a bigger trophy).
The first of those two rounds is the Guanabara Cup (or Taça Guanabara), which was played on Sunday. Vasco won it and will now play the winner of the Rio Cup (the second part of the State Championship) to decide the overall state champions. Vasco are in the Rio Cup too, and if they win they , they will be declared the overall state champions for this year and no grand final will be needed. If they don’t win it, they will play the winner of that in the big final.
Confused? I never said this was easy….
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