Hello everyone. Firstly, if anyone that hasn’t read the Palmeiras piece (HERE), I suggest you go there now to see a full briefing of what’s going on with this little series. As a quick recap, I am currently living in São Paulo, and in my first week here I found myself going to three matches in the space of seven days.
For any football fan this is an exciting, stimulating experience, but considering I have this platform to write about my experiences, I watched every gave with an especially keen eye on the quirks and traditions that make Brazilian football special. This match especially set itself aside from the two fixtures that had sandwiched it into the centre of my week. It was edgy, alternative and a very raw exposure to the beautiful game. I hope you enjoy the read…
São Paulo FC vs São Bento, Campeonato Paulista*, Estádio do Morumbi, 21/02/2017.
So we march onto the next fixture and to the following Tuesday, as I took a trip to watch the city’s namesake in action. One may assume that this gives them the title of the main team in São Paulo, and trophy-wise they are, but in terms of supporter-ship Corinthians are the darling of the city with over 26million fans (compared to 16million São Paulo fans and 13million Palmeiras fans). Out of the three matches this was definitely, on-paper, the least appealing, but the ticket cost about £5 so there was no-way I was turning that down.
Why did I see this as the least appealing? Well for starters, the São Paulo FC team doesn’t possess the names that the Palmeiras does. Luckily I’d played a ‘bit’ of Football Manager in my time so I knew the likes of Rodrigo Caio and Andrés Chávez, and the manager of the team is currently their legendary ex-goalkeeper Rogério Ceni, who scored 131 goals in a 22 year career stemming over 3 decades. The stadium also lies on the outskirts of the city, a good 40 minute drive from my flat and outside the ring of accessible public transport. I quickly realised that the taxi costs would a least quadruple the outlay for the ticket. Then again, a 67,000 seater stadium always warrants a bit of a trek.
I wasn’t wrong. The access into the stadium was as easy as a contactless scan of the credit card I used to buy the ticket (pretty fancy and VERY out of character for South America), and I strolled up to my block, feeling much less gringo having already had my experience at Palmeiras. The next feeling I had can only be described in one way. Compare the Estádio do Morumbi to the big stadia that knock the breath out of you when you first see them: Old Trafford, Nou Camp, Wembley. It sounds crazy but the sheer size of the vintage bowl really took me by surprise. It was practically empty (14,000 all packed into the sectors behind the goal), but as a pure structure it was quite the sight.
The process of ‘taking my seat’ consisted of finding my place and then standing on the row of seating instead of sitting. This wasn’t the last time that an anarchic scent of rebellion would be felt. Considering the small capacity, it felt pretty packed where i was and the stand was rumbling as the São Paulo faithful went through their song-sheet. The pre-match music consisted of old school rock and roll, which only added to the vintage feel of the place. It felt like one of those ageing pubs that smells like beer and piss and hasn’t changed its track-list for about 20 years. It felt like a proper football ground to be fair, a million miles from the Hollywood set of Palmeiras’ Allianz Parque.
The game itself was a cracker. I haven’t mentioned São Bento yet because, in reality, I had no clue who they were or what they would bring, but they had a lot more to them than São Bernardo and quickly went a goal to the good. In England this flattens the fans; in Brazil it cranks the volume up. The fans (myself included) roared the team forward and we were rewarded with two goals either side of half-time to put the home side 2-1 up. Two headers by the current first-choice Argentina striker and new signing Lucas Pratto (one on video, of course), and our stand was rocking. That was until São Bento scored an absolute worldie and everyone was stunned into silence – for about 20 seconds that is, until the roar returned with more venom, and a bit more acidity.
The game was poised at 2-2. I had one goal for the Instagram post, but I wanted more. It seemed like I had the support of my peers as they sang, groaned and swore louder as every missed opportunity went by. Then, as if scripted by the Lord above, the referee gave a penalty right in front of us. Hallelujah. Christian Cueva slotted the 86th minute spot kick home and 14,000 paulistas went mental (and one bloke from Hertfordshire). Considering I wasn’t that bothered about this game before-hand, it had encapsulated my and I was really buzzing, hanging onto every kick with the fans around me. The atmosphere was red-hot.
I then experienced something I’ve never seen before at a football match. Before I describe what happened, bear in mind that we were on the steepest stand in the upper tier of the stadium. Got it? Okay, well there was a commotion behind me and I turned to see a few of the harder blokes creating a huge circle, spreading fans away from their spots and giving it the big one to get everyone going.
It was a massive mosh pit.
I’m not joking when I say I was a row forward from being fully engrossed in the whole thing, which would not have ended nicely. It wasn’t necessary malicious, but it was a hardcore mosh with people throwing some hard fists and elbows around, leaping up and down stand. People were knocked down a few rows and sent tumbling towards us, and ‘shock-horror’ eventually a proper fight broke out. It was like when your Mum tells you and your brother to stop fighting because there’s only one way it would ever end.
Luckily the full-time whistle blew and I could make a quick exit from the carnage before it swallowed the gringo. Despite the unsavoury scenes at the end (which were quite enjoyable providing I was watching from the outside), I was on a real football high that you get when your decision to go to a match is repaid. I saw 5 goals and was part of a red-hot midweek atmosphere that was unique to anything I’d really seen before. At times it was as much Glastonbury as it was Wembley, with the rock music, mosh-pits and a significant number of joints lit up throughout the game by those around me. Replace the players with the Rolling Stones and we’re ready to go.
As I stood outside with my £2 pizza (always available outside matches here), I got rejected by Uber and then got my pizza nicked by a group of ultras who I thought were going to rob me. I offered the pizza before they asked for the phone and they went on their merry way. Eventually I paid double the Uber fare for a normal cab and headed home with a very amicable driver. So that was round 2 complete, how did São Paulo compare with Palmeiras?
Ticket Price – BR$22 (£5.50)
Players on Show – Diego Lugano (ex-Fenerbehce, PSG and Uruguay), Lucas Pratto (current Argentina striker) and Rogério Ceni (ex-goalscoring goalkeeper who is now manager of São Paulo).
Game – 9/10
Stadium – 9/10
Fans – 9/10
Safety – 7/10 (would be higher if not for MMA fighters and pizza thiefs)
Overall – 8.5/10
FOR FOOTAGE OF GOALS, PENALTIES, FANS AND THEIR MOSH PITS, CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM VIDEO HERE – https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ0OOFqgyL2/?taken-by=jack_colman&hl=en
TO READ THE OTHER PARTS OF ‘ONE WEEK, THREE MATCHES’ PLEASE CLICK BELOW
*The Campeonato Paulista is a pre-season tournament that takes place in São Paulo (everyone region has their own version) and involves every team in the area. Every team plays eachother before the best-performing teams head to the final knockout rounds and subsequent final. Whilst not as serious as the league, it’s taken very seriously by every team and spreads across over 2 months of action. You often see the the strongest possible squad put out by the big boys (São Paulo, Corinthians, Palmeiras and Santos) and the will to win the competition is visibly evident.