The big game: That night it was the Brazilian cup final. Flamengos v’s Vasco. What was so special about this game is the finalists were both teams from Rio, it would divide the city.We had tickets. We had purchased them earlier in the week through the hostel in Copacabana. The owner was an avid Flamengo fan so we said we would go and cheer on his team.
2 hours before the game we were picked up from the hostel and escorted to the Maracana Studium across town by our body guards. They carried guns. They did not joke about, they were there to protect us. As we drove to the stadium we passed hundreds of street vendors selling flags, beer and horns. I bought a beer and a huge flamengo flag. On arrival we were ushered out of the mini busses and congregated around a statue outside the Maracana stadium. The scene was awesome, thousands of fans gathered in the streets, some with flares and most with flags. Some even had fire crackers which when let off sounded rather like bombs, quite scary really. Everyone was wearing a Flamengo shirt. We were definitely on the right side of the ground. It was all heating up.
As we walked up the steps to the stadium past all the chanting crowds I felt a rush of adrenaline. The Pitch appeared, lit by flood lights, it was colossal. I have been to many football grounds but not anything like this one. The Maracana has 2 huge tiers that circle the pitch. It holds 17o,ooo people. Massive. The fans were going crazy, chanting, singing banging their feet. All 50 of us joined in. The atmosphere was electric. I waved my fag along with everybody else. There was one flag the size of the whole stand we were in, we helped it along its way by passing it over our heads. Flares were still being let off and the singing didn’t stop. Flamengos 2, Vasco 0. Super.
We waited a while after the game had finished before we headed out of the stand. Our body guards were concerned for our safety as the crowds had started to brawl. As soon as we left our seats and walked down to the outskirts of the stadium we were pushed flat against the wall by our guards. They had heard something over their radios. Riot. Suddenly out of nowhere a herd of hooligans chanting and swearing ran past us. Hot on their heal were the police, battons at the ready. Then back again, police still behind until one guy, slower than the rest was caught. Battered, The police were brutal. Blood splattered up the walls. All we could do is watch.
After such a packed day we all decided to say in the hostel bar, The Majito was flowing and the singing carried on. A truly awesome day in Rio de Janeiro.