By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After Olaria’s monumental effort in this year’s Taça Rio, in which they narrowly fell to Vasco da Gama on this past Saturday evening, it is time to look closer at the blue and white corner of Rio that came so close to emulating their success in the 1961 Taça Guanabara. For many new to Rio, the name Olaria may not conjure images of football (soccer), but they have a long history in the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Few would argue that the inauguration of the Campeonato Brasileiro, Brazil’s national championship that began in 1971, has advanced the domestic game enormously in the past forty years.
With progress always comes casualties however, and the gap between Rio’s traditional ‘big four’ – Vasco, Botafogo, Flamengo and Fluminense – and the smaller state sides that make up the Campeonato Carioca, seems to have grown wider with each passing year.
These days, it is almost taken for granted that the semi finals for the state titles will hold no surprises. Which is why Olaria’s effort (and Boavista’s in the Taça Guanabara) are all the more remarkable.
It was 41 years ago, in the first ever Guanabara tournament, Olaria defeated Vasco and Fluminense, as well as drawing with Botafogo, on their way to Guanabara glory. Last Saturday’s encounter was the first time they have been out of the group stages since.
It is a momentous honor to hold for such a small club and in recent weeks they have hardly looked off the pace when confronted with teams of superior skill. Of course, to see such a feat is a rarity nowadays, which has made the side’s run all the more special, grabbing the attention of both the media and the public.
The neighborhood of Olario, translated as “Brick Factory”, lies on the outskirts of the city, close to Galeao airport. It is a striking place; the image that springs to mind of Olaria when it is mentioned is of the old church perched on top of one of the neighborhood’s many hills, overlooking the city.
Despite its modest standing in the Carioca football hierarchy, the club has seen two of Brazil’s greatest players pull on its blue and white shirt; Garrincha, winner of two World Cups, ended his career at the club in the early 1970s. A few years later, a natural born poacher by the name of Romario started his impressive goal scoring record in the club’s youth team.
The club have a Brazilian Third Division title to their name and three Rio Second Division championships, won when they were not considered one of the leading forces in Rio state soccer. Nowadays, they may not be able to challenge the cream of Brazil’s crop regularly, but they have shown that it is possible to remain fighting against opponents with far greater advantages.
Now playing in the second division of the Campeonato Brasileiro, if they can continue producing disciplined tactical displays combined with a canny ability to take chances when they come, days in the national spotlight could be just around the corner.