I’m in Rio de Janeiro this week, and – as covered in my first post yesterday – the city is a sea of sky blue and white as noisy neighbours from the south streamed into occupy Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. What a great contrast in a bright Rio sun: the blue and white of Argentina and the canary yellow and green of Brazil.
These two great rivals came together at the Maracanã stadium, not on the pitch but in the stands, and it was a fascinating contest. Brazil, remember, have five World Cups (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and Argentina have two (1978 and 1986).
A Brazilian Reasons…
As anyone who has read the excellent Soccernomics knows, there are many reasons Brazil produces such great footballers. One is due to the availability of young working class men. Brazil has a growing population of 200+ million people, many of whom live in poverty. In England, we have an ever-shrinking pool of working class men to nurture as footballers, Soccernomics argues.
Just one sole World Cup half a century ago is embarrassing, but we do have other priorities and talents – like creating some of the world’s greatest music and inventing important stuff like the internet – but Brazil felt obliged to take a little pot of its own at the one World Cup [see below video].
The old cliché about futebol being a religion in Brazil may explain why Brazilians react like this when their team scores:
The Brazilian press cited Roy Hodgson’s remarks about not wanting to play in Manaus as a reason the locals backed Italy on Saturday night against England. These Brazilians can get really partisan: they’re vocal and don’t miss a swipe at their southern rivals. I attended Argentina v Bosnia at the hallowed Maracanã, and it was clear from the off who the locals wanted to win.
“Five times champions,” they taunted the quarter or so of the crowd who must have been supporting Argentina. “Argentina, you need to wait, your time will come,” they added. [Continues...]
Sunday was Argentina’s opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina, making its World Cup debut against the two-time champions. The press had billed this match as ‘Lío de Janeiro’ as it is time for Lionel Messi to deliver on his tag as the world’s best player, which he did with a virtuoso second Argentine goal. Seeing Messi score at the Maracanã was worth the fee alone, and a special goal too.
Argentinians are fiercely patriotic. Being an Argentinian fan involves a lot of jumping up and down, waving of forearms and flicking of the wrists. They have a set repertoire of songs and just keep going. They did well not to get riled by the overwhelming jeers from the Rio crowd backing Bosnia.
Both sets of fans have energy, wit and humour, and I wish matches in England had half of the noise, colour and vibrancy of what I witnessed at the Maracanã.