Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Beginners Guide To Football In Sao Paulo- Part Two

“What is THIS I’m watching?" my Mum asked this on several occasions when I was growing up. She would ask whilst firmly pressing button number three on the remote control, perhaps hoping it would change what was being broadcast on that channel. "Football? Where’s bloody Coronation Street!?!” 

7.30pm means soap opera o’ clock in the UK. Yet every once in a while, live football games are shown on channel three instead of the usual soap operas. So Deadrie having a bit of banter down the Rovers with Gail used to be (if you didn’t read the TV guides carefully) unexpectedly replaced with a group of football pundits, sat in a studio, providing the build up to a Champions League match.

"What? I'm not on tonight....because of the football?"
“I was looking forward to Coronation Street tonight” she would sigh.

My Mum always sounded incredibly pissed off whenever she needed to say this, almost like she’d taken the schedule change personally.

My mother, like many soap lovers up and down the country did not take kindly to this kind of disruption to Coronation Street. Of course, with digital TV things have changed now, but back in the day football used to rule the channel whenever it clashed with the soaps.
So when I moved to Brazil, a country obviously very famous for it’s love of football, I fully expected that football matches would also dominate early evening television here.

Well, I was really wrong on that front.

Brazilians are also big soap lovers, but because Globo (the terrestrial TV channel screening the most popular soap operas), own the rights to the majority of Brazil's football games it made a deal with the clubs over here. So games don’t start until the soap's final credits have finished rolling.

Everyone seems to be a winner, soap opera fans aren't really affected by the football and TV channels don’t miss out on the revenue the TV advertisements bring in. Also, in a city like Sao Paulo where businessmen frequently find themselves working until late into the night; late kick offs mean that if they can get in front of a screen by 10pm, they’re not going to miss the start of the game.

Everyone is a winner…. everyone that is, except light sleepers.

"I'm just calling to let you know I love you!...Brazilian style!"
Expressing Yourself

As I’ve already discussed in previous blog posts, I'm constantly fascinated by how passionate Brazilians are. And I’m not just talking about how much they love kissing and hugging each other! I remember once sat at my friend’s house when he answered a call from his mother. When he put down the phone ten minutes later I asked him what he was arguing about.

“Well, nothing!”
“Oh, so why were you raising your voice to your Mum?” I replied (Like it was any of my business)
“Andrew, I am Brazilian, this is just how we talk. I wasn't fighting!”

It's only as I've started understanding some Portuguese that I've realised (whilst ear-wigging) that he was right. When Brazilians are 'chatting', they may be raising their voices and sounding like they're in the middle of a fight...but this doesn't necessarily mean that they actually are. They generally just seem to be (to the untrained eye at least) a whole lot more passionate about what they're talking about.

Yes, in general Brazilians like to express themselves in a way British guys like me… don't.

So it came as no surprise for me to discover that a passionate, football-loving country like Brazil likes to show its appreciation of a goal being scored or a football game being won in a way that isn't very subtle.....with fireworks and car horns!

Whenever Corintheans, Palmeiras or Sao Paulo are involved in a big match, it’s a given that on the night the game is being played (usually a Wednesday or a Sunday) fireworks will be exploding around the city alongside blaring car horns.

This is NOT what a sleep-loving killjoy like me wants to hear around midnight when a football game (I have no interest in) ends....especially when I need to be up early for work the next morning. I rarely keep up to date with the football calendar, so the fireworks always come as a bit of a surprise too.    

There was one match that took place a couple of months ago where the fireworks were actually STILL going off at lunchtime the next day. This game was a bit of an exception though, the game I’m talking about is final of the Libertadores Cup.

Copa Libertadores 2012

In the hundred and something years Corintheans have been playing football, despite being one of the most successful clubs in Brazil, until this year they had failed to ever reach the final of this competition, let alone win it. So this final against the Argentinean Boca Juniors was BIG.

A few hours before the game started I was sat teaching in one of my student’s offices. The fireworks had already been going off for some time, and as I ended the class I asked my student if he was looking forward to the game.

“Not really” he answered without hesitation. “I have an eleven month old baby at home who won’t be able to sleep tonight because of the noise in this city”. He half-heatedly shrugged his shoulders, gestured at the window and then continued. “Those fireworks mean tonight is going to be a very long night for me”.

My neighbourhood is not the most expensive place to live in, so it’s almost a given that I will be hearing fireworks going off near my house whenever these big games take place. Yet for him, a high flying business executive who lives in a fairly affluent area of the city, I was surprised that he too would be affected by the game in this way

I guess this goes some way to show just how much these football games impact on most people living in the city….weather they like it or not! 

My morning students had wisely chosen to cancel class the next morning, as they expected to wake up with hangovers. So with nothing in my schedule until lunch time, I was able to relax with my housemates with a few beers in my local bar.

The Scary, Football Loving-Woman

As the game kicked off, my attention was immediately drawn to the feisty looking woman sat in the corner. She’d gone under my radar for the first half hour of me being there, but the sound of the whistle almost seemed to trigger her wild side. She was in her late thirties, was wearing a blue-on-blue tracksuit and had the type of hair you could imagine being cut with garden shears instead of scissors. It was a huge, unwashed, Diana Ross inspired bouffant.

Sat next to her were her two children. Her son must have been at least ten and was sat enthusiastically in his Corinthians kit, and her daughter was probably around six. She was naturally looking a whole lot less enthusiastic about being there. She sat there by her mother, colouring in her colouring book, stopping what she was doing only to yawn and look at her watch.

She looked very out of place at that time in a bar full of football fans. Her Mum had no doubt brought the crayons along to make sure she could get pissed and enjoy the game without being hassled.

Just five minutes into the game and I noticed that she was already pretty animated. “Chupa! Chupa!” she roared whenever the Argentinean team got possession of the ball. 

I’d not heard this word before; my Portuguese teacher hadn't covered it in class. Naturally, I wondered what it meant. I asked my friend, who responded with a huge grin on his face.

“It means….suck my dick”

I looked back at the woman whose long curly hair was now being thrown from side to side as she stood gesturing at the TV. Her kids looked on like this kind of thing was fairly standard.

Kerry Katona, you have yet to meet your Brazilian doppelganger!

Whilst I’m pretty sure this woman was a ‘one off’, she does illustrate quite nicely how it’s not just the men who get involved in football over here, a large number of women also enjoy these games...all be it, in a more civilised way!

Brazilian Football Commentators

It was during the second half that Corinthians scored, to the delight of everyone around me. “Goooooooooooooal” the commentator cried, against the backdrop of car horns and fireworks.

I’m sure Brazilian football commentators get trained at the Mariah Carey School of note holding, because the word ‘goal’ is stretched for an uncomfortably long time. They must have to take deep breaths whenever the ball goes into the penalty area, just in case they need to scream “Gooooooooooooooooal!” 

I was once giving a class to a group of five students when one of the guys told me about his recent trip to England. “I was watching a Manchester United game in a pub, and I noticed that when they scored, the commentator said ‘goal’ really fast. I was so surprised, it was so restrained!”

The class were visibly intrigued by this, with one asking ‘Andrew, is this true?’

I then felt four pairs of eyes on me, awaiting verbal confirmation that British commentators really do lack passion whenever they announce that a goal has been scored.

“Well yes, we do say it like this, but…it’s NOT really necessary to scream whenever a goal is scored, is it?” I could see from the look on those faces that to continue this argument would be to fight a losing battle. I quickly gave up.

Reaction To The Libertadores Win

Corinthians won this game, and in doing so successfully managed to add the Libertadores cup to their trophy cabinet. As the final whistle blew, a whole load of fireworks went off, and for a good 10 minutes, the Sao Paulo skyline looked like a poor man’s Disneyland firework display.

What Sao Paulo didn't really look much like
Interested in seeing how Sao Paulo would be celebrating, 15 minutes later myself and my housemates were sat in the back of a taxi heading to Vila Madalena. This neighbourhood is an upper/middle class area of the city that has a lot of bars… and so we guessed it would be an area that would also have a lot of people out in the streets partying. As we stepped out of the taxi and walked up to the square, we weren't disappointed.

Crowds of people were dancing in the streets, some were throwing lit fireworks into the air and plenty were knocking back beers…. like sailors on their last night of shore leave. Everyone was in incredibly high spirits.

Not sooner than we’d got out of the taxi than I saw a bus driver heading down the road to the square. He’d obviously not got the memo about avoiding this particular area like the plague in the event of Corinthians winning.

As he drove towards us, the sea of people gradually parted to allow it to pass. As they did this, they began to push the bus, making it rock from side to side. I could see an elderly woman sat near the front clutching her bag of groceries close to her chest.

She was clearly terrified. It was obvious that she was not just holding this bag to stop things from falling out, but she was hugging the shit out of it for some sort of reassurance that she would be ok. It is with relief that I can tell you she did!

I realised just how infectious the atmosphere on the street had become when my flatmate, an IT specialist and self-confessed nerd, looked at me with wild eyes, and said this: 

“Come on! Let’s go and push the bus with these people”.

Alarmed by his sudden and unexpected transformation from white-collar worker to street yob, I replied:


We partied in the streets until well into the early hours of the morning, and I was seriously impressed by the unexpected carnival-like rowdiness.

“We are just partying with Corinthians fans Andrew, imagine what the streets of Brazil will be like if we win the World Cup. People will probably be celebrating like this for a whole week!”

This I can well imagine, because having been in Brazil during the last World Cup, I saw the country in the midst of football fever….

Which brings me nicely onto the topic of my third football related blog, the World Cup in Brazil (I'm really surprising myself with having this much to write about on the subject of football....even though I'm sure there aren't too many football blogs out there containing references to Mariah Carey, Deadrie Barlow and Diana Ross!)

To Be Continued!


  1. As a Paulistano I can confirm all the madness surrounding a soccer match in here.
    But I need to add the correct reference regarding the way Brazilians raise their voices when 'chatting': Blame the Italians :-) We learnt from the best!