By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After a breathtaking end to the 2011 Campeonato Brasileiro, football (soccer) across Brazil is on an extended break for the Christmas and New Year holidays until the Campeonato Carioca starts January 21st. The good news for fans traveling in Rio before then, is that there are still some soccer sights to see.
A committed fan might be interested in taking a peek at what some Rio clubs have to offer by watching some of the training, which is open to the public on production of an identification document.
The easiest clubs to watch train are Fluminense and Botafogo, both conveniently located in the Zona Sul (South Zone) area of the city. Fluminense still train at their ancient seat in Laranjeiras, nestled calmly amongst the hustle and bustle of traffic passing from the city center to the south of Rio.
Botafogo train a little further down the road at General Severiano, just beyond the Botafogo Praia shopping center and at the mouth of the entrance to the bairro of Urca.
A usual must see for football followers here is a visit to the famed museum of football at one of world the sport’s most famous arenas, the Maracanã Stadium.
Unfortunately, with extensive building work going on at the stadium as builders race against the clock to ensure the ground is ready by early 2013, the museum has been closed, alongside the famous “tunnel walk”, the passage visitors can tread from the changing rooms to the pitch as you imagine ascending into the din of the lion’s den.
Luckily, there is another, unique shrine that should be on all enthusiasts’ lists. The only major club to be situated in Rio’s grittier Zona Norte (North Zone), Vasco’s São Januário Stadium stands out for several reasons, but one is striking in the extreme.
At Rio’s oldest football arena, the stands only cover three quarters of the field instead of the entire circumference. This is due to the fact São Jauário is Brazil’s only football stadium that comes complete with its own church and priest.
The place of worship is open year round, and such is the originality of the stadium’s layout, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
So while there is no competitive action to savoir over the holidays, a visit to Carioca football’s “Holy Grail”, as well as seeing some of Rio’s finest prepare for upcoming challenges, can keep the most demanding of connoisseurs satisfied.
The jogo bonito (beautiful game), the world’s most popular sport will be back in Rio de Janeiro by the end of January in full force with twice weekly games when the state championship, the Campeonato Carioca, kicks off. This regional action will be followed by South America’s biggest tournament, the Copa Libertadores.