(Pictured below: Cruzeiro's starting line-up. My little sister was one of the kids who walked in with the team. She's in the middle wearing blue shorts and a blue jersey.)
The "futebol" culture is taught at a young age and begins with the selection of a team. In Minas
Gerais you are either a "Cruzeirense" or an "Atleticano".
I will now take a brief moment to interject with my bias.....CRUZEEEIIIRROO!!!!....The team selection can vary family to family. My family right now is Cruzeirense. My next family is Atleticano (my host mom's grandfather was one of the original founders of the club), and my third family is divided between the two teams. Once you have chosen your team (or have been born into a team), it's your team. There's no going
back. No matter how many times Atletico loses this year they will still have their fans screaming that "Galo" is the best (the team's mascot is a rooster, or "galo" in Portuguese). And no matter how many times Cruzeiro wins, Atleticanos will never jump ship. There just is not a true comparison to Brazilian futebol fans' dedication in the United States. I think the greatest contributing factor to this is that Americans follow many different teams of different sports and levels, whereas in Brazil, it's soccer, soccer, and more soccer. Their enthusiasm is concentrated in a single sport, and therefore, general craziness ensues.
(Pictured below: Fans celebrate after Cruzeiro scores their first goal of the game.)
I have experienced three Cruzeiro games (four after tonight) and consider myself a new Cruzeirense for life. It's hard to put a Brazilian soccer match in words, though I will do my best, accompanied by some photos. The first thing that you should know is that Brazilians are
generally very warm, welcoming people. However, at a soccer match, they are not. There's not really such a thing as good sportsmanship here. The other thing to know is that the fans also have a very limited vocabulary at these games, comprised mostly of swearwords, inappropriate name-calling, "VAI!" (which means "go!"), and when it occurs, "GOL!" ("goal!"). In general, the swearing and name-calling is reserved for the opposing team and referees, and occasionally the coach. Whenever a player from the other team gets close enough, for example, when there's a substitution, fans take the opportunity to bombard the player with name-calling, as illustrated by my host father and sister in the picture below.
My favorite is when the older men yell, like the man pictured on the left, after the picture of my host dad and sister. I can't put it in to words, firstly because it would be hugely innapropriate, and secondly because I don't know how to spell half of what was said.
The third thing about Brazilian soccer matches is that there can be a lot of violence. This is why only fans from one team are allowed to watch the match--at least, that's how it happened in Sete Lagoas in the game between Cruzeiro and Atletico. Only Atletico fans were allowed to attend that game in order to prevent fighting between the fans. The three other Cruzeiro games were attended entirely by Cruzeirense, minus maybe a dozen supporters of the other team, who sat in a small section on the end. Not only is there violence between the fans of opposing teams, but there can be violence directed at, and between, members of the opposing team as well as the referees. One of my favorite parts of the game (besides Cruzeiro scoring goals, of course) is when the referees are walked off the pitch by five fully armored police officers (pictured above). It's great.
These games are not all violent and hateful, as it may have come across. The fans are just very passionate people! One example of the love shown by fans was at the last game the entire stadium sang "happy birthday" to Cruzeiro's amazing, beautiful goal keeper Fabio (pictured on the left). It was seriously so cool! I want a stadium of 17,000 people to sing me happy birthday...
I get so much joy from going to these games, and will never miss a Cruzeiro game in Sete Lagoas if I can help it. The stadium is conveniently located just up the street from my first host family's home. Before the game there are usually between a dozen and twenty other people all hanging around, drinking beer and talking about the upcoming match. We walk up to the game, watch and cheer, and return only to turn on the television and watch interviews with the players, highlights, and clips from other games. The next morning at breakfast, the television is on and once again we watch highlights from the night before. So. Much. Soccer. But, I love it!
Tchau e beijos gente......e VAI CRUZEIRO!
The pre-game huddle and the "Raposas", the Cruzeiro mascot.