Friday, August 24, 2007
Brazil June 2007
1. The Copa Libertadores Final 2nd leg
When a big Argentinian team plays in Brazil it is normal to apply some precautions. So many of the Boca fans making their long bus journey from Buenos Aires to Porto Alegre were escorted by the state police from the Uruguyan border - some 600km.
When they finally arrived they would find the roads packed with local buses threading their way through the street markets. Walking amongst this throng were taller than normal Brazilian women in their platform boots - some in Gremio shirts. Above it all were the guys on stepladders overseeing the traders' stock.
In contrast to the heady atmosphere outside, the large indoor market offers somewhere quiet to have a pre-match meal , welcomed by your correspondent.
When the time came to depart for the game (the 2nd leg of the Copa Libertadores Final) the scenario is familiar.
Roads jammed with buses and cars packed with flag waving fans heading for the stadium.
As you near the Monumental stadium the heady mixture returns with a vengeance as the streets are filled with beer & food stalls & the air thick with smoke from fireworks.
This is a big night.
Inside , some hour & half before kick-off, the two-tier stadium is a mass of blue/white & black shirts (that is apart from about 2700 Boca fans)
The atmosphere builds to a crescendo until the Gremio players appear when you see the full fireworks display. But thats as good as it gets for the home team.
They needed an early goal to have any chance of pulling back the 0-3 deficit from the first leg.
Despite showing promise down the left & hitting the bar a couple of times Gremio couldn't get too close to a well organised Boca side.
Star player Riquelme was to deliver the blows that quietened the 'Vamos Gremio Vamos' , the first a superb right foot into the top corner , the 2nd after a combination with Palacio.
Many tears are shed.
Whilst the Argentinian supporters celebrated their triumph the adrenalin (and songs) would no doubt help them survive the long bus trip back to Buenos Aires.
2. Gre-Nal the Port Alegre clasico
Played four days after the Copa Libertadores final in much cooler conditions (12 degrees) in Internacional's Beira-Rio stadium around 34000 saw this derby.
Rather disappointingly there were a very limited number of away fans present(c. 2500) , because of security concerns.
Even so both sets of fans didn't hold back on the fireworks & Inter did have one eye-catching banner - 'gracias Riquelme' just to remind Gremio of their grief.
But Gremio did recover some pride as they secured a convincing win with two great goals, one in each half.
Although Porto Alegre would certainly not be high on the tourist's list of places to see in Brazil it did provide some memorable football moments (and the caipirinhas are excellent)