Sunday, October 30, 2011

Professional Futebol Match

When you visit a country its always best to see what would be considered the best national attraction, what they do for entertainment. In Spain, I went to a bull fight, in Italy, I drank a lot of wine, so in Brazil, I went to a professional soccer match. The game was between local favorite, Corinthians, versus Avai. Corinthians (pronounced cor-in-chins) is said to represent the common man of Sao Paulo, as it was founded in 1910 by a group of blue collar laborers. It is estimated that there are 30 million Corinthians fans which is embraced by the team and the large fan section under the scoreboard.

No that's not Raider nation, those are Sports Club Corinthians Paulista fans

As stated in previous posts, 90% of the people I have met here are Corinthians fans, and that percentage only goes up at Tecno Logys. This week, I was invited to attend the game with Rodrigo (sales), Fabio (production), and their wives. Being that attending a professional soccer game in Brazil was #1 on my Sao Paulo bucket list, I quickly accepted the offer and blocked off my Sunday for the event.

Rodrigo picked me up at the hotel and we headed over to the Municipal Stadium, the same stadium where the Soccer Museum is located. There were thousands of people hanging around outside the stadium drinking beer and eating food. Although it was not as elaborate as an Ohio State tailgate party, I did feel right at home. Walking up to the stadium, I noticed there were locals parking cars on the public streets. The catch was they were charging money to park in these public spots. You may remember I noticed this during a visit to Centro and also the Zoo, so I asked if that was legal. I was informed that it was not technically legal, however if you parked in one of the spots without paying them, you were likely to find parts of your car missing when you came out from the game. Interesting concept considering the Police are standing across the street. They may want to cure this one before the World Cup comes to town.

Inside the stadium, which holds approximately 45,000 people, the crowd of black and white (also maroon for a special jersey released this year) colored jerseys were filling the seats. Across the stadium from us, there was a group of seats that no one was sitting in except for about 12 people, surrounded by 12 police. I thought maybe it was someone of importance, but it was actually the visitors seating area. If you don't know much about Latin American soccer, one thing you should know is that sometimes big games turn violent depending on the outcome. Hence also the reason I was instructed to wear white or black and steer clear of wearing anything green (the colors of the visiting team) for the day.

See the video below for a cool banner being spread throughout the crowd.

The skies were overcast and the day had the making of a rain shower so we bought poncho's just in case. The fans were starting their chants and getting ready for the action when the team ran onto the field for warm ups. They were greeted with a loud roar similar to what the Ohio State Buckeyes get each Saturday as they enter Ohio Stadium. I was impressed with the overall energy of the crowd, from the youngest of fans ( I had many children around me) to the oldest of fans (grown men praying and punching things during the game). Everyone was wearing their jerseys and tee shirts and screaming at the top of their lungs. After the national anthem, the match began rather sloppily for the home team. About 10 minutes into the match, the heavens opened up and rain poured from the sky. This led to the sloppy play and Corinthians was not able to control the ball to create any scoring opportunities. Avai, a team that is near the bottom of the league, went into the half leading 1-0.

The heavy rain falling on the stadium

Things did not get much better shortly into the second half for Corinthians. 5 minutes into the second frame, their backside defender was red carded meaning he was ejected from the match. The crowd immediately began in unison a chant that had a rhythm to it. When asked what it meant, i was informed it means something that I cannot repeat in my blog, but it was directly toward the referees. The red card also meant that Corinthians would be required to play one man down for the rest of the contest. Normally teams play with 11 per side (including the goalie) and now they were down to 10. This would usually create difficulties in mounting offensive attacks, however the crowd was able to get more into the game (see video below for a Corinthian cheer) which led to the Corinthians first goal about the 15 minute mark. Just as the rain continued its assault on the crowd, the Corinthians continued to turn things up against Avai. Several shots on goal and corner kicks were off the mark despite the opportunities. At the other end, Avai had two great chances to score which were off the mark and the almost the entire crowd performed the sign of the cross and pointed to the heavens as if to let God know they knew they owed him for that defense.

With about 10 minutes to play in the match, Corinthians were awarded a corner kick after a bad play by an Avai defender dribbling the ball out of the back line. The corner was on the mark and a header was blocked by the goalie. The ball popped high into the air and as the goalie retreated, he slipped and fell. A Corinthians player put his head on the ball with enough force to just barely get the ball far enough past the goalie that it counted as a goal. Despite the goalie catching the ball, the ball crossed the plain of the goal just slightly which led to a huge eruption by the 45,000 fans on hand. I was able to capture this sequence on video and have included it below.

The rain continued and the stadium was a flooded mess, but the fans, and myself, were holding strong with the excitement and atmosphere of Municipal Stadium after the two goal comeback. The remaining 10 minutes of the match seemed like a lifetime for the fans. I noticed in the first half, that unlike major sports stadiums in the U.S., this stadium did not have a scoreboard that displayed the time. To start the second half, I synchronized my watch (the accountant in me) with the action so I could follow it more closely. A few fans in front of us, who frequently turned to talk to us in Portuguese, which I again have no idea what they said, would frequently point to my watch for the time. Tick, tick, tick, tick. The Corinthians were able to block and clear one last corner attempt from Avai and the match was over. The stadium broke out into dance and cheer and fans were dancing and singing as they moved toward the exits, in celebration of the teams 2-1 victory.

The scoreboard in the rainsoaked stadium
Despite the rain, it was a great experience and one I will remember for a long time. Actually, the rain made it pretty fun, and allowed me to see the true dedication of the local fan base as most of them stuck it out through the whole game, poncho or no poncho. Many people were shirtless and some were even shoeless (which I might as well of been as my shoes and socks were waterlogged), but they were all in support of the Corinthians. If you are ever in Brazil, be sure to visit a professional soccer game, it is a sight to see.

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