On arrival in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, there was one thing that stood out to me. The financial hub of Brazil brings less touristic hot-spots then its glamorous sister Rio de Janeiro, but as a fan of football it’s a pot of gold. I did my research and had a look at what clubs called São Paulo their home, finding three big names: Palmeiras, Corinthians and São Paulo FC.
Three big teams brings an abundance of riches to mind. The stadia of the city is impressive, and includes a brilliant fusion of modernity and tradition that represent both the history and developing future of the sport in the country. The paulista people are football-mad and every taxi driver or guy in a bar will be able to discuss and debate with you for however long you wish – there’s no better way to improve my Portuguese. The city’s heart is pumping with football-infused blood.
The final, and most important, benefit of a city with such footballing heritage is the potential to go to games. However much football you watch on TV or online, nothing compares to the live experience. This is especially relevant in South America where the atmosphere created by the fans is a cauldron, wherever you go whenever you go. Having been to see San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors in Argentina and already seeing a Brazil international in Rio de Janeiro, the consistency is clear; the fans make the experience.
The quality is far inferior than that in Europe’s top leagues, there’s no contesting that, but the support is in a league of its own. As a Chelsea fan, I can hold my hands up and bow down to the home-support that they offer over here. We’re watching Eden Hazard and they’re watching Jô (ex-Manchester City flop) but we’re clapping and they’re screaming.
So I had a 10 day period in São Paulo before heading back to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, and I ticked off the main tourist hotspots in my first few days. So what’s a football fan to do with themselves? Well, I wanted to see some football. I knew that I had arrived in a time of the year when football is most accessible, with the Campeonato Paulista* in full flow. I checked the websites of the ‘Big Three’, and selected three games for the next week. This schedule would take me to the stadiums of Palmeiras (Allianz Parque), São Paulo (Estádio do Morumbi) and Corinthians (Arena Corinthians) in each corner of the city. Despite all ‘travel advice and warnings’, I would go alone to every match and experience a match-day as the locals do it. First up was a trip to see the champions of Brazil – where else to start – and I was off to watch Palmeiras.