Life or Death on the Football Fields of Brazil
Brazilians. They’re a passionate bunch. Brazilians live life with a certain carefree ease. They samba like no one’s watching, they tend to be optimistic in spite of the socio-economic problems that often plague them, and they warmly embrace strangers and make them feel welcome. That is – until it comes to football. You see, in Brazil, football is not just a simple pastime or a jovial game of soccer. In Brazil, football is the lifeblood and hope of its people. Brazilian football gives favela kids hope that one day they can be the next Pelé or Ronaldinho. Football is a source of national honor and pride that has made Brazil the most successful team in the history of the FIFA World Cup. Not only has the national team qualified for every World Cup competition in the event’s history, but it has won the World Cup for a record five times. In Brazil, football is a religion.
So I knew that our trip to Brazil would be incomplete without witnessing a game at Estádio do Maracanã, an open-air stadium where Rio’s major football clubs play. The game we witnessed was Flamengo vs. Ceara. Since we were in Rio, we were sure to sit on Flamengo’s side since it is the home team. As we waited for the game to start, we noticed that the police began to lineup with their K9 units. That’s interesting, we wondered amongst ourselves.
Soon enough, the game was in full swing. And while the stadium wasn’t full, the crowd was hyped – waving flags and singing popular football cheer songs. We realized that some Ceara fans were sitting a few aisles across from us when the taunting and jeering began.
We witnessed grandfathers and children alike shouting and screaming at Ceara fans. A father patted his son’s shoulder in pride after the young boy flipped Ceara fans the bird. Very interesting.
At the time, we laughed about it in amusement, but I recently realized just how serious and deadly football matches can be after reading this crazy story about a referee in the northern state of Maranhão who stabbed a player to death and was then stoned and quartered on the field by the deceased player’s friends and family. Oh, and this was an amateur match. Not to imply that a non-amateur match would have justified these crimes.
I know that this story doesn’t mean that all Brazilians are that fanatical over football, but it does go to show that in Brazil, a football match can easily take a turn for the worst.
But by all means, when in Brazil, do attend a football match and try to make it to next year’s World Cup if you can. But when at a Brazilian football game, be sure that you sit on the right side and please don’t say or do anything that will get you hurt or killed.