Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Flamengo v. Botafogo, July 19
Well, I feel more like a Carioca now -- I went to my first futebol game. And survived.
At first I was a little hesitant, since I knew I would have to keep this rite of passage as secret as possible. You see, my host mother is a Fluminense fan. And I would be going to watch Flamengo, their arch-rival.
The best comparison I can think of is Red Sox v. Yankees. You couldn't pay me to be a Yankees fan. And I told my host mother that as long as I was living in her house, I would be a Fluminense fan. One night over dinner she went on and on, describing how Flamengo players are sore losers, how they are all hot-shots who don't play as a team, anything and everything that made me begin to detest Flamengo as much as the Yankees. So how could I betray her so early in our relationship?
Well, I was excited to go to Marancanã, the biggest stadium in South America. And Sunday's game promised to be a good one, since both Flamengo and Botafogo are teams from Rio, which mean that both fan-bases would be out to cheer on their team. So Sunday afternoon, while my host mother was gone, I sneaked out of the apartment.
I will definitely say it was worth it (though I may change my mind if Gloria kicks me out of the house). We chose to sit in the upper levels, where the hard-core fans sit, and on each of our seats was a red flag that we waved in time with the chants (which I never quite mastered).
I won't give the play-by-play, but the score was 1-2, with Botafogo ahead, with only a few minutes left in the game (weirdly enough, there wasn't a clock in the whole stadium). By this time, I was cheering intensely for Flamengo (shhhhh.....). I had finished my cachorro quente (a very literal translation of "hot dog," which comes in a sealed plastic bag -- not bad, though). I was singing the one chant I had figured out (Fla! men! go!). And suddenly, Flamengo scored to tie up the game.
The crowd went wild. We might actually win! But just as suddenly, and without any warning, the game was over. It was a tie, and it was time to leave. And this is where things got even more exciting.
As we went to leave the stadium, we were prevented from going out the exit which was nearest to us. That was an exit for Botafogo fans. See, they have to designate specific entrances/exits for each team's fans, so they don't kill each other. As we made our way around the stadium, many people took off or covered up their jerseys so no one would know which team they were for.
We were making our way all the way around the corridor that runs around the stadium, trying to find the exit, when suddenly the crowd we were a part of turned around and started sprinting in the opposite direction. Caught in the stampede, I turned to run as well and followed several of my friends a few yards backwards and then off to the side. Everyone stood still for a minute, trying to figure out what had happened, but soon we were back on our way. I never learned what the big scare was, only that it would be pretty easy to be trampled to death and that I hope that's not how I die.
Finally having exited the stadium, we walked along the sidewalk toward the Metro. We walked without incident for a little while, when again the crowd started moving against us. This time there were a lot fewer people, and they walked calmly. We walked a few more steps before finding out from a passerby that there had been gunshots just around the bend. We watched as the police arrived, and then kept on our way.
So, I survived my first futebol game. And enjoyed it immensely -- the extra excitement after the game was over was just a perk. However, I'm still in a huge philosophical conundrum. Which team shall I support?