In case you’ve just returned from a hiatus on the moon, recent weeks have seen world cup fever soar toward pandemic levels, boiling the adrenaline of football fanatics across the globe. There’s an elusive chemistry between Brazil and the game of football, one which would have wafted past my sunglasses, had it not been for the presence of the football fanatic in my own life.
On our recent trip to the ever-glorious Rio de Janeiro (just the name makes me want to wiggle my derriere to the sounds of samba,) Pumpkin redefined romance by deciding that our final night in South America would be best spent at a football stadium – no Caipirinhas on the Copacabana then, just a pitch, a ball and a group of muscular, Brazilian men. Hmm. Perhaps it doesn’t sound so bad after all…
Once in a while, a lady has to put her husband first and in any case, he had already booked it – there was little to be gained from throwing a tantrum. For him, watching a game at the Maracana was something of a bucket list item and as one of the most iconic stadiums in the world and the venue for the upcoming 2014 World Cup Final, it just had to be done.
A football tour at Maracana
If you want to see a game at this world-famous stadium but are unsure where to start, several companies arrange football tours to watch a game at Maracana. (I’ve linked back to the one we used). Tours can either be done privately or in larger groups and involve hotel pick up and drop off. They purchase your tickets and direct you towards the correct entrances for your seats. It’s a stress-free and reasonably safe way to slither your way through the inebriated crowds and if like us, you can’t speak a word of Portuguese, then it certainly makes life easier; although I must confess that a little part of me wondered if it was essentially an overpriced taxi and ticket service.
Money-saving tip: we spotted several vendors along the Copacabana offering similar tours for cheaper prices if you don’t want to plan it too far in advance. Note that these tours are distinguishable from organised tours of the stadium itself, which we hadn’t looked into.
As we drew in closer to the Maracana, the air was humid, the atmosphere electric and the city awash with chanting locals adorned in cherry and black stripes, like sunburnt wasps. These are the official colours of Flamengo, Brazil and Rio’s most popular team and the passion of the supporters is all-consuming. And infectious apparently. I felt like a fully-fledged convert by the end of the night. On this particular evening, they were playing the Bolivian team, Bolivar. Home games are particularly important for Flamengo, as away games in Bolivia have the added challenge of altitude. After a slow first half, the velocity steepened after half time and many gasps and dropped jaws later, tachycardic crowds mourned the 2-2 draw.
How to dress at the Maracana
What should you wear at this event? When I have been to football games in England, the majority of supporters wear the team shirt but you certainly wouldn’t stand out if you didn’t. That night in Rio, I never looked more silly in my purple, flowery T-shirt. At this event, men, women, kids and even most tourists were loyally kitted out in relevant football shirts. I felt like that child who turns up to school on Mufti day, still in their uniform by accident. It’s cheap as chips to buy a scarf or get your face painted with a stripe and it is worth those few pennies to immerse yourself in the enthralling atmosphere.
Once we were there, we became rapidly swept up in the rapture even without the attire. The fans were pacing up and down with high fives at every goal and if they were swearing the way I had observed back home, we didn’t know it because it was in Portuguese! If you are an “early to bed and early to rise” sort, then this is not the place for you with most games occurring late at night – ours started at 10.30pm! Fast food and drinks were available at the interval and much like most stadiums in the world, were rather overpriced so you may wish to bring your own snacks.
Safety at Maracana
Contrary to what I had expected, the environment felt safe, the crowds cohesive and if there was any disturbance, we certainly didn’t witness it. Left to my own devices (and trust me I tried), I would most definitely have plucked out a fancy restaurant to celebrate the final night of an epic trip but you know, we can eat a fancy meal in another city at another time; or at home in London for that matter. It would have been a serious travel faux-pas to have sacrificed this opportunity, our one and only chance to sit in the seats that a lucky few will be glued to soon, eyes fixated on the trophy of trophies – The World Cup. I’d say this more often if I wasn’t so darn stubborn but sometimes, Pumpkin really does just get it right.
Have you ever been to a football match on your travels (or soccer as my trans-Atlantic friends might say)? I’d love to hear about your experiences!Part of the #SundayTraveler Link Up