Sport World Cup

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Dion Fanning: Brazil may have fallen flat on the field but the fizz is on the streets of Rio

In Sun and Shadow – An Irish Letter from Brazil: Day Seven

Published 18/06/2014 | 12:25

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Brazil Fans watch the Brazil v Mexico match on a big screen on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil Fans watch the Brazil v Mexico match on a big screen on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro
Brazil Fans watch the Brazil v Mexico match on a big screen on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Brazil Fans watch the Brazil v Mexico match on a big screen on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Last night in Rio the World Cup fizzed and crackled as it has since the opening day. On the streets, kids set off fireworks which exploded across lanes of traffic while they ran whooping into the night.

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The World Cup has been spectacular but if Brazil had been relieved after the opening day victory, last night’s scoreless draw was essentially ignored.

There were more people wearing Brazilian jerseys on the street beforehand which would suggest that, even in Rio where one assumes football becomes a habit early in life, people also come late to the party and get wrapped up in the hysteria of a tournament.

I had watched the opening game in a local cafe which had promised the genuine Rio experience but instead had the wild carnival atmosphere of a poetry reading where the poet doesn’t show up.

Yesterday was different. I went to the Estádio das Laranjeiras, Brazil’s first stadium and the home of Fluminense, although they now play their games at the Maracana.

The Estádio das Laranjeiras is, quite simply, the most beautiful football ground I have ever been in. It is more of a museum now with Fluminense playing elsewhere but it is a museum that lives. The main stand resembles the Lord’s pavilion with grand pillars framing the tiled walkway that leads up to a marbled hall.

The staircase to the seats where Rio’s aristocrats once watched football is grand but at the back of the stand is a ballroom with a stunning stained glass window looking down on the street below.

The clubhouse certainly didn’t fill up with Ultras for the game but there was a lot for a sedate crowd to be sedate about and it may not be possible to find the best place to watch Brazil in Rio until Brazil find themselves.

Before I left, I took a walk round the museum. The Estádio das Laranjeiras is where Brazil played their first game against Exeter City in 1914. Next month the two sides will mark the centenary with another match at the old ground. They have taken different paths.  As the Western Morning News reported, “The all-conquering Seleção have won the World Cup five times since then, while Exeter can only boast of winning the Third Division South Cup in 1933 and the Fourth Division Championship in 1989-90.”

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