Monday, December 07, 2009

The World's Greatest Fans!

Carnaval 2010 in Rio is coming early this year. Flamengo, Brasil's most beloved (“o mais querido”) football club with a 40-million-strong fanbase in the Scarlet & Black Nation, a club whose 115-year history is as rich and storied as the history of football itself, became Champions of Brasil Sunday.

The title ended a 17-year drought for Flamengo in 2009 as the team capped a Cinderella season vaulting from 14th place to 2nd, with three games to go, then to first place with one game left in the season. In its last 17 games, as it made its victorious run at the title, the team’s record was a dazzling 12 wins, 4 ties, and 1 defeat.

Yesterday, with the team playing its last game at home, in majestic Maracanã Stadium, they needed one more win to make the fans explode in an awesome display of color and improvised pageantry. And they did. Flamengo won its last game, 2-1, and the celebration was on. The poet Nelson Rodrigues (who rooted for another team but could never hate Flamengo) said, as he gazed upon a sight such as this, “Flamengo, this force of nature, is like the wind, the rain, thunder and lightning”:

From the very beginning, Flamengo was the club of the people, representing the everyday struggles of the common man and woman against seemingly impossible odds with faith, perseverance, and hard work. Game day Sunday with Flamengo playing at Maracanã is a foil for the great expression of joy from the masses.

And when Flamengo wins, things just don't seem as gloomy as they did just a day ago. It's no accident that Saint Jude, patron saint of impossible causes, is also Flamengo's guardian angel, or so the fans believe. As everyone's favorite passage in the team anthem goes, “I'd have a profound sadness, If there were no Flamengo in the world.”

It’s a special thing, and once you fall in love with Flamengo, it’s a forever thing. For me, it's a trip back to my childhood when I would go to Flamengo games with a home stitched red-and-black flag on a bamboo pole, soaking in the atmosphere, feeling the energy and the excitement approaching the stadium, that force of nature of 100,000 souls breathing, sweating, crying, bleeding scarlet and black.

League MVP Adriano "The Emperor," powered Flamengo's road to the Championship with an awesome offensive display of goals:

Once Flamengo . . . always Flamengo!

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