Thursday, 8 September 2011

Football Brazilian style.

There were of course many incidences of early afternoon beer and Capirinha sessions and I could devote about 4 pages to recounting them in list form but we did also do some other stuff. One of my personal favourites was going to see one of the many local derbies that take place between any of the 4 teams who play in Rio. Unfortunately we didn't get to sample the unbelievably spicy atmosphere stirred up in the cauldron-like Maracana as it was, and as I understand it, still is closed for renovations for Brazils hosting of the World cup in 2014. A tournament which promises to be one of the best yet in a country that is truly fanatical about football as we found out when witnessed the 0-0 draw between Flamengo and Fluminese. We sat with the Flamengo fans who are without doubt a set of the maddest, meanest looking boys I've ever seen in my life. The police who swarm within the stadium at every game I've ever been to back home, were no where to be seen, there were a couple with guns, but they seemed to be there only to open fire from the other side of the huge moat that seperated them from the pitch and opposing fans if things got even more out of hand then they seemed to be already and the game hadn't even kicked off yet.

Emma and I had consumed a couple of Brahma before the game and decided to use the facilities before kick off, I think the womens were alright but I'd never seen such a big group of muscular men standing together in a toilet before, much less a large group of muscular men standing together in a group openly taking cocaine in a football stadium, the worst I'd experienced is the smell of a crafty cigarette floating out from under one of the cubicle doors, this was something else altogether. I studied the floor as I relieved myself for what seemed like a tortuously long time before checking that the floor was still an inch deep in piss on the way out as it had been on the way in. It was and as I left what felt like a very real and immediate danger and re-entered the area underneath the stands a manic drumming began.

I met Emma and waited for the group of about 50 coked up drumers and fans dancing wildly and chanting with such fervour that they looked like their jugulars might start exploding at any given moment, to move out of the way politely and let us past. During a lull in the drumming Emma and I took our opportunity and tried to slip through the group. The timing couldn't have been worse if we'd planned it that way. The reason they'd stopped was to give themselves a chance turn around and make their big entrance into the stadium. As we entered the middle of the group the drummers resumed and we were almost lifted off our feet as the group which had by now swelled to number closer to one hundred and fifty bounced into the stadium screaming in heavily accented Portuguese something about the rape of the referee, not even a joke.

We got to our seats largely unscathed and with another beer to settle the nerves the game began. Not that the seat came to be any use to us at all. The game finished 0-0 but it could have been 4-3 for all the difference it would have made. We couldn't see a thing the whole game. Flags, the smoke from the flares and the height of the average Flamengo fan being roughly 6ft 5 conspired against us. To give you an idea, watch this video.

I've never experienced an atmosphere like it. If you stopped singing or clapping there was always a crazy looking guy with an enormous scar running the full length of his face on hand to remind you not to. The game was exhausting for us, but not as exhausting as it was for the guy standing directly in front of us waving the 20ft flag for the entire 90 minutes. The game was awful, but I don't think I'd have watched the game even if the flag infront of us hadn't reduced our visibilty to 0. The passion displayed by the fans, possibly aided by pharmaceuticals granted, was a spectacle in itself, one that may well have ruined european and the ever more sterile and subdued British game for me, for ever. The ticket to a Rio de Janeiro derby cost in the region of £1.50, there are some clubs who charge a minimum of £50 for a ticket in the UK, that to me is like a savage mugging. I'd rather run the risk of an actual savage mugging every week for £1.50 then get get a guaranteed one once or twice a season like the majority of fans of the top 4 EPL clubs personally, but that's just me.

It wasn't comfortable, at times I felt downright unsafe and the standard was probably the second worst I've seen after the SPL (Despite Ronaldinho having played for Flamengo for a season or two) but my god when you came out you felt like you'd experienced something. I wouldn't have minded seeing what happened when a goal was scored but something tells me we probably would have simply tumbled 15 rows over the barrier and fallen a further 20feet into the moat so maybe it was for the best that we didn't! Admitedly, it may have been frightening and at times, scary. as. shit, but if going to a game was like that in the UK, I'd be there every week.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

South America and in particular, Rio.

 Rio is one of those places that everyone wants to go to. Its iconic topography, beaches and of course Carnavale makes it one of the top destinations to visit anywhere in the world. Tourists flood here during the moveable feast of Mardi Gras when the whole city erupts in a festival of debauchery unparrallelled anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately for us and our meagre, backpacking budgets this also means a 1000% increase in the price of what can only be described as filthy and in some cases gangster infested accommadation. But let me start at the begining, or at least the beginning of our trip to Rio.

We arrived after three flights and about 24 hours, from LA. This was the first country neither of us had visited, the first country where neither of us spoke the language and the first country neither of us had visited previously so we were apprehensive anyway, but when you add to this apprehension a terrifying propensity for violent crime, I'm not ashamed to say, we were downright paranoid.

We stepped out of the Terminal with our bags and the first thing that happened as we sat waiting for our bus to the Bota Fogo (Mouth of Fire) area was that an insect the size of a Golden Eagle flew directly into my face. OK so that was an exaggeration but I'm not exaggerating when I say it was actually the size of a sparrow and that vehicles actually swerved to avoid it when I saw it again later. I jumped up, wildly swatting the empty air around me to the unsympathetic laughter of Emma and about 5 or 6 locals. It would not be the last time that locals shook their heads and muttered 'Gringo' under their breaths in an apparent attempt at exacerbating my already keenly felt embarrassment.

The bus journey did little to put our over active imaginations at ease. The traffic was awful and the ride into the city was beset on both sides of the highways with sprawling Favellas, all housing, to our paranoid minds, armies of handgun toting armed robbers just yawning and stretching and looking forward to a lovely day of relieving us of our possessions whilst facing minimal resistance.

The bus dropped us off in Bota Fogo and we scuttled as fast as we could to our hostel. Which it turned out, as with the rest of Rio, was absolutely fine, if a little crowded. Its hard to write about long, irresponsible Capirinha sessions, but that is what we did for extended periods of our time there. Not our fault you understand, we were merely immersing ourselves in the culture, but in between liver punishment we also found the time to do a few 'activities' too. I'm in danger of making this post far, far too long to be read with any discernable level of enjoyment but boy did we enjoy them. We should really have gone to bed when we arrived in order to catch up on the sleep that we didn't get on all three of our flights, but the resident barman in our hostel was having none of it. What felt like hundreds of Capirinhas later and with the hours spent awake, or at least semi concious, standing at a respectable 50 hours, we felt that we had indeed not disgraced ourselves in the entering of the Carnival spirit and collapsed into bed to sleep for about 18 hours.