football match in Brazil

Slowly moving through the crowd, I give up trying to find my own way to the entrance and allow myself to be pushed and pulled along with the rowdy, euphoric mass. To one side of me, a couple of men clink beer cans before bursting into a harmonious, animated chant. To the other, an entire family in matching tops chat excitedly. All around me, people are cheering, whooping, and making critical predictions about what will happen tonight. Where was I? I was at Maracanã football stadium, preparing myself to watch a football match between Botafogo and Flamengo.

It’s no secret that Brazil is passionate about football and this isn’t just some stereotype. Brazilians really do love football. Although men still outnumber women at the matches, that isn’t to say that there are few women at the games. In fact, a lot of women are die-hard fans of their chosen team and will regularly attend matches with equal passion to men. While I may not be rushing out just yet to buy a season ticket, I do like to attend the odd game now and again. In case you’re wondering, my Brazilian team is Botafogo.

football match in Brazil

As a brief background, there are four major football teams in Rio de Janeiro. These are:

  • Botafogo (black and white)
  • Flamengo (red and black)
  • Fluminense (red and green)
  • Vasco (black and white too, just to be confusing).

Flamengo has the largest number of supporters in Rio de Janeiro and Fluminense are their biggest rivals. A Fla-Flu game (Flamengo vs Fluminense) are the noisiest, chaotic, yet fun matches to watch, thanks to their passionate fans who seem to live for these games.

I’ve been to three matches in Rio de Janeiro so far, with the most memorable one being Botafogo vs Flamengo. Each team has its own specific chants and match quirks which are my favourite parts of the game.

Inside The Stadium

Once I got into the stadium, I took my seat among the sea of black and white and looked out over to the mass of red and black. The stadium was alive with shouting, cheering, singing, and despite not knowing the words to the songs, I found myself chanting along with everyone else (although I just shouted ‘yeah, yeah YEAH’ in the same tune as the songs rather than actually saying real words. I don’t think anybody noticed). Botafogo has dozens of football chants and music, like all the teams in Brazil. One of the most popular ones at the moment is ‘não se compara’ (don’t compare yourself) with the words including, ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, Botafogo, the most traditional club, I want to you champion again, I will support you until the end’.

My absolute favourite part of any Botafogo match is just before the game when the players come out onto the pitch. The start varies from game to game, but this is what happened when I went to the Flamengo match. One part of the stadium was pre-instructed to hold up a series of black and white cards that spell out a message. This time it was ‘Lutem Por Nós’ which means, ‘fight for us’. Then, a large flag shaped as a bulldog floated down the crowd as fans hit the material to make it appear like it’s waving. As the smoke machines blasted out their fumes, the flag slowly rose and the crowd erupted into the Botafogo anthem.

football match in Brazil

It begins with ‘Botafogo, Botafogo, Champion since 1910. You were a hero in every game’ and continues in a passionate vein until it draws to stirring close: ‘In a beam of light, your lone star leads you.’

Then, it’s Flamengo’s turn.

Flamengo had a similar setup, with the crowd spelling out a message from the fans – Sua Glória é Lutar (your glory is to fight) – but in red and black. This is held by the fans who shaking the boards so they buzz and flicker like a swarm of angry wasps while singing the Flamengo anthem. ‘Once Flamengo, Always Flamengo’, the beginning solemnly swears. ‘Flamengo I will always be, It is my greatest pleasure to see you shine.’ It continues in a similar loyal way, including expressions such as ‘I would have deep disgust, if Flamengo was lacking in the world’, before coming to a moving finish of ‘lots of pounds already weighed, Flamengo until I die!’

Football match in Brazil

Throughout the whole game, the stadium is alive with cheering, booing, insults thrown at players, and nuggets of advice shouted out to the teams below. Everyone is a football expert and even I, still not fully capable of explaining the offside rule, suddenly hear my voice yelling directions of where the ball should go and demanding to know why he didn’t kick to the player to the left rather than the right. The sheer adrenaline of the crowd is contagious. A Mexican wave begins on the other side of the stadium and flows around the fans in perfect harmony. I leap up twice thinking that would be the end of it but it still continues in full force around the stadium a further five times before it slowly begins to filter out.

It was Botafogo that won this game. When the match ended, the sound was deafening of people yelling, hugging, singing, and yelling some more. The sea of red and black slowly trickled out the stadium while the waves of black and white hung around, soaking up the atmosphere of the game and the moment, before victoriously heading out to the nearest bar to celebrate.

Football match in Brazil

I would hardly describe myself an avid football fan, but watching a football match in Brazil is more than just going for the football. The oft-heard phrase of ‘when in Rome…’ rings loud and clear, and it is a truly authentic Brazilian experience. It gives a glimpse into the passion that drives a large majority of the Brazilian population and shows how much their team means to them.

Maracanã Tour

If watching a game doesn’t appeal to you or you want a more structured football-related activity, then how about taking the Maracanã tour? We recommend this tour. It gives a behind the scenes look at Brazil’s largest stadiums, the venue of many of the World Cup games and the Olympic ceremonies. It has both Portuguese and English speaking guides and will arrange hotel pickups.

Photo credit goes to Botafogo F.R. and Vítor Silva/SSPress/Botafogo

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