By Martin Kocandrle, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANERIO – A couple of days before a big match between two of Rio’s major soccer teams – a classico – a stranger to Rio may sense an eerie calm gathering before the storm. People start to wear their futebol jerseys to work and newspapers are increasingly sprinkled with pictures of the players and the latest dramas that surround them.
It is on the way to the match itself where one can see this storm erupt into the full-blown passion and excitement for which Brazilian soccer is famous the world over.
Several hours before the match starts, fans gather outside the stadium and the atmosphere within is soon electric courtesy of the drum and flag-carrying fanatics guaranteeing their regular space in the thick of the action. One look inside the cauldron-like Maracanã and it soon becomes obvious why a trip to a game is near the top of many tourists’ must-do trips.
Fortunately for visitors there are four major teams in Rio (Flamengo, Botafogo, Fluminense, Vasco) so there is no shortage of matches to choose from. However squeezing one in to an already packed travel itinerary can be a somewhat difficult task, and this is where you might be grateful for a helping hand.
Taking a futebol tour maybe a little more expensive than buying the tickets and going to the stadium by yourself but there are certain advantages. If safety is a concern you will be with a guide who is familiar with the area, knows where (not) to sit and you won’t have to wait for a bus or the subway as transport is usually provided. Some will also include a tour of the stadium and offer background information and history on the teams and game.
Robert Shaw is one such operator and a sports contributor to the Telegraph newspaper in the UK who has been doing futebol tours since the year 2000. His are personalized affairs, customized to fit your group size and travel itinerary. Robert has conducted trips to see international games in Sao Paulo in his time, but mainly sticks to matches hosted in Rio. As well as the game he offers background information about the history of the Maracanã and a separate stadium tour giving visitors a fuller perspective on Brazil’s foremost passion.
“The advantage of smaller groups comes in being able to answer more questions from people who come on the trips,” he explains. “I tend to offer a smaller group approach that lends itself to more flexibility and I look to offer people some practical information in advance of the trip.” Prices for Robert’s tours vary depending on the type of game but the average is R$90 -120 per person. To contact Robert send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (21) 2275 8811.
Besides offering favela tours the guys at Be a Local have also ventured into the world of futebol tours. These are usually taken in groups conducted by local guides and more often than not games take place on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons. Prices may vary according to the games being played so make sure to contact them in advance to confirm.
Other operators such as World Football Travel are willing to co-ordinate the purchase and delivery of your tickets to international destinations. They can also organize accommodation and transportation to and from the match. Besides these you could consider employing the help of larger operators based in Rio such as Brazil Expedition, Rio Turismo Radical and Rio de Janeiro Tours.
Before booking your tour check the schedule of matches at WSN to see if there are any upcoming derbies. Whenever any two of Rio’s teams play against each other the atmosphere is always elevated and the fans more frenetic – the recent trouble between Vasco and Flamengo supporters highlighted that while rare, violence can erupt among rival fans and it is best to be alert.
However no matter what game you decide to see you cannot fail to be impressed by the level of skill or affected by the contagious atmosphere of passion and enthusiasm both on and off the pitch.