Brazilian football fans are presented as passionate and fun-loving, a fanbase that dance in the stands with their faces painted, and turn games into one giant party. I recently discovered this isn’t a complete picture.
Leaving the Tijuca Tennis Clube on Sunday, sporting broken ribs and an insatiable desire for pizza, our group managed to walk into the middle of a pitched battle between Brazilian football hooligans.
Brazil’s most popular team, Flamengo were playing Sao Paulo based, Corinthians that afternoon. Whilst not a local derby there exists a passionate rivalry between the two teams.
As we reached the end of the street, in the square across the road, chaos was unfolding before our very eyes.
There was none of pseudo macho posturing or the usual ‘come-on then’ rhetoric that is predisposed to the idiots at home, I didn’t even see a single ‘wanker’ gesture. Fists were flying from all angles. Many of the angry looking men had acquired weapons of sticks and bats and were using them to bash each other.
Whilst we were close to the action it seemed a relatively safe vantage point, that was until a mob decked out in Flamengo’s red and black charged in our direction.
As they entered the street, there was a collective ‘shiiiiiit’ from our group as we sprinted to get away from these weapon-clad brigade of hate-filled mentalists. Broken ribs or not, I moved like the Flash.
There appeared a very realistic possibility of being beaten by a large blunt object had we failed to react. We weren’t the only ones who’d come to this same conclusion, a middle aged woman, apparently more attuned to the danger, had taken off slightly earlier and left us in her dust.
Other fleeing people took refuge in whatever shop or business they could find as shutters slammed down.
We made it back to the Tijuca Tennis Clube, figuring a venue full of grapplers would be the safest place in Rio. As we reached the entrance in an effort to help an acai vendor save his stock, the doors were shut on us, we had to plead to be let in.
The word soon went out and jiu-jitsu athletes started pouring into the street, many appearing far too eager for an opportunity to choke out some football fans.
Making it home later that afternoon – after eventually acquiring pizza, to discover this violence was just the tip of the iceberg following serious disturbances within the stadium.
Brazil might have some of the most passionate and fun-loving fans in the world, but they are equally passionate about punching each other in the face.