Home > Four Continent Football, Travel > Four Continent Football: Part 2 – South America (Vasco v Corinthians)

Four Continent Football: Part 2 – South America (Vasco v Corinthians)

Vasco da Gama 2 Corinthians 3, Sao Januário Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (24 July 2005)

The build up to this June’s European Championships, with the much-anticipated participation of Ireland in the tournament, is well under way. Ticket applications, team make up and the clamour for James McClean’s inclusion in the squad are all hot topics. Coming straight after our trip to Poland though, is the beginning of our qualification process for the 2014 World Cup, a tournament that will be held in Brazil.

It is 2002 since our last participation at a World Cup (see Four Continent Football – Asia) but Giovanni Trapattoni will be hoping to break our decade long absence from the World Cup and lead his boys to Brazil. The excitement generated with Ireland’s participation in the Euros would be taken to the next level if Ireland could qualify for the next tournament in the country that eats, sleeps and breaths football. What an adventure would await in Brazil.

In 2005, I got the chance to travel to Brazil where I visited the Maracana and the Sao Januário stadium where I took in a game from the top division of the Brazilian Championship when Vasco da Gama played Corinthians. In Rio de Janeiro Vasco’s home ground, the Sao Januário stadium, was built in the 1930’s and is an incredibly picturesque venue. The horseshoe shaped stands means that one end of the stadium is open where behind the goal they have their own chapel called ‘Nossa Senhora das Vitórias’ (Our Lady of Victories). Looking beyond the chapel, the view is of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue up on Corcovado.

Back in 2005, Vasco were second from bottom of the table, not great for a team with two Championships and a South American Copa Libertadores title in the previous decade. They had a new manager who had brought back a sprightly 39-year-old World Cup winner Romario to bolster his attack. Corinthians meanwhile travelled to the game missing, due to suspension, their then 20-year-old Argentinian striker, Carlos Tevez.

Vasco reserves are playing when we enter the 30,000 capacity stadium and it is just over half full by the time the early evening kick off approaches. The Vasco fans unveil a massive flag that about 50 fans had carried into the stadium on their shoulders. It covers most of one end of the ground. After the teams finish their pre-match on-field interviews, the fireworks stop and the match gets under way. The Corinthian fans arrive in the ground about 10 minutes past kick off following their six hour drive from Sao Paulo. They bring about 1,500 fans including many of their Ultras, the Gavios da Fiel or Hawks of the Faithful.

This was before the days of Brazilian football available on TV in Ireland so I was interested to see the football being much quicker tempo than I thought it would be. The tackles weren’t as crude as I’d expected but the free flowing and surprisingly open football means that the crowd are in for a feast of goals on this evening anyway.

Corinthians open the scoring after 10 minutes but this doesn’t dampen the spirits of Vasco faithful around us as they keep up their incessant chanting, singing and gesticulating. The rhythmic drumming is infectious; I was seeing football played against the famed rhythm of the samba. After 15 minutes, Vasco’s Alex Dias cuts inside, crosses and Romario finds a couple of yards of space to head home the equaliser. Corinthians then began to dominate and slot home a second goal from Jo to go in ahead at the break.

At half time the sellers do a brisk trade in beer and ice cream. This winter football is not exactly harsh with 25-degree temperatures in the ground as dusk descends on Rio. The half time refreshments work a treat with the Vasco team and their fans both coming out fighting. Off the pitch, the police go in heavy with their metre long batons to a section of the crowd below us. On the pitch, Vasco conjure up an equaliser. Corinthians back off allowing Vasco’s playmaker Morias to get a shot away with the outside of his foot that dips and bounces over the keeper.

Vasco go in search of the winner but get caught on the break. The move, like many in the game, saw players willing to take the ball from defence into attack. A couple of quick passes and the ball was sent out into the edge of the box before being rifled home into the bottom corner. Our end of the stadium goes eerily quiet as it erupts down the far end in the away section. The Vasco fans soon wake up as the Corinthians scorer cups his hands to his ears down in front of us. In injury time, some showboating from Corinthians at the corner flag, means that at the final whistle the players come together at the top of the tunnel with verbals and a few punches dished out.

I head out into the Rio night satisfied that I’ve seen a real slice of Brazilian culture – football culture. Ireland will be hoping to be playing in Brazil in 2014 but do actually have the opportunity of playing there next year. Were Ireland to win the Euros, they would of course get an invite as European Champions to the Confederations Cup being held in June 2013! So roll on back-to-back trips to Rio in 2013 and 2014 I say!

Next up in Four Continent Football will be part 3 on Africa and a game at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

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