The real-life tales of a football writer
I’m in Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil’s south. The capital is Porto Alegre, home to two million and a veritable footballer factory.
Ronaldinho’s from here, Anderson too. Both played for Gremio. Anderson’s mates are right rum coves. They use pea shooters, don’t file their tax returns on time, go through traffic lights on amber, that kind of thing.
It’s a football state and you see the flags of the two main teams flying above houses all over the region: Gremio, who wear blue and black and Internacional, who wear red and white.
Both are huge clubs with their own 50,000 plus capacity stadiums just a mile apart. And both are among the most successful in South America and have won the Copa Liberatadores.
Gremio's fans make a din
Gremio were Inter-Continental champions in 1983 and Internacional world champions in 2006 following a sweet victory over a Barca side containing Ronaldinho – a former star of their detested foes Gremio.
I’ll return for their Gre-Nal derby game one day. The easily mocked Danny Dyer went in 2007 and the footage he got was superb, with fans creating a din only an Old Firm game can come close to matching in Britain. I like the fan culture in Brazil and wanted to experience it again.
With the Brazilian football season starting, I looked in the paper for any fixtures. Inter were at home in a cup match. My girlfriend reckons she’s Inter and loathes Gremio, but the closest she has come to seeing either team was when she saw a Lenny Kravitz concert at Gremio’s ground.
Which is a poor substitute on many counts.
Kravitz makes a racket
I suggested that we watch Inter vs Santa Cruz - and sit with their ultra style fans in the cheap seats. Her friends said that it was far too dangerous. They also raised their eyebrows when I told them I’d used the excellent - if incomprehensive - Sao Paulo metro.
Apparently muggers and murderers lurk down there. Apparently nothing, it was fine.
We arrived at the ground an hour before kick-off and bought tickets for around £8 in one of the cheapest sections where all the vocal fans stand. It was a great experience, but as I’m writing about it for another magazine I’ll limit my vague description to ‘great.’
I should mention the minute’s applause before the match, held at the start of the game to honour the players of second division side Brasil de Pelotas.
A bus carrying their team crashed into a ravine after a game against Santa Cruz recently and three passengers – including two players – died.
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