Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'm an Idiot, Part 2

(Hopefully last in a series)

Now I know why the upper classes don't go to soccer games!

I was so excited to go to the Rio league championship today. They are so crazy about soccer that they have an entire league just for Rio. This game promised to be extra interesting because it involved Flamengo, which is like the Yankees or Man U, against one of their main rivals, Botafogo.

I went with a friend from the place I volunteer with and we met up with her boyfriend, a Brazilian and Botafogo fan. We got great seats in the Botafogo section and the game was as advertised. Botafogo went out to a 2-0 lead, and with each goal the crowd went nuts.

At one point in the second half, the Botafogo goalie grabbed a Flamengo player that was about to score a goal, which got the goalie a red card and gave Flamengo a penalty kick. For those that don't know about soccer, a penalty kick is when you get an up close kick with nobody between you and the goalie. Usually this leads to a goal. So the Flamengo side went nuts in anticipation. They started jumping, and hundreds waved large banners. They also lit hundreds of flares, Roman candles, and these things that look like big cigarettes that create flashes of light. It was quite a sight to see, and I started filming it. This was the first mistake.

A girl came up to me and pushed my arm with the camera. "Are you for Flamengo? This is Botafogo." She said in Portuguese. She then noticed I was a foreigner, but didn't care. She started speaking in broken English, "you want a video, make a video of Botafogo, idiot." She said a few more things, and kept repeating idiot (clearly the only insult she knew in English) but things were eventually fine. I said sorry. She threw her cigarette at me and eventually went back to watching the game (Flamengo made the penalty kick).

My second mistake was that I wanted to be like, "I'm not for Flamengo" just to calm her down. I had bought a shirt of the Botafogo team (it's hilarious. One of you will get it as a gift). I showed it to her. But she was drunk, and yelled, "he's for Flamengo." Her boyfriend came up and started yelling. I was like "tranquilo, tranquilo", and he really just wanted to be loud and yell. But then a huge drunk guy came running down the steps, just looking for a fight. I started getting away, trying to make my way down the aisle to the exit. My friends were still talking with the original guy. This of course caused a scene, and a bunch more people started chasing after me. I started going very fast down aisles and across rows. I contemplated trying to jump like an 8 foot barrier between sections, but then saw I had a chance to get to one of the exits in that section. Apparently there was a group of people after me at this point, and 6 or so police officers were coming in from the exit. I eventually hopped over the railing to the exit, and by then was surrounded by police officers.

This part was a bit wierd. So first they wanted to know if I was okay. Later I realized I had sprained my ankle, and I had lost both sandles running, but I was fine. Then they wanted to know if I was a Flamengo fan starting stuff on their side. I was like, "I'm just a gringo and there's a misunderstanding." The girl's boyfriend explained everything, and eventually things calmed down. One officer was escorting us, but there were tons of other fights. There were multiple people lined up against the wall, multiple ambulances hauling people off, and multiple injured people. The newspaper says there was going to be over 1,000 police officers at the game, and now I see why they need every one.

That was ridiculous! I couldn't believe how fast that escalated. Anyway I probably won't go to any more soccer games, and now I see why my upper-class friends have never or rarely been to a game. I'm glad to be safe. I was just happy to walk away. As I was leaving the drunk guy that more or less started it was fighting someone else in the walkway, and the police broke it up and tackled him. Walking out barefoot was awkward, but we found a cab, made it home, and everything is fine.

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