Despite the fact that our immersion is sandwiched between the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, two of the world’s largest football events, we have still managed to witness Brazil’s enduring passion for futebol. Futebol is integral to Brazilian culture and is inescapable in Rio. It is not a game; it is a way of life, a national pastime and a magical unifier for the city’s diverse population. During our first weekend in town, we attended the Flamengo-Fluminense football game, witnessing a inter-city rivalry play out on the famed Maracana pitch. The following week, we celebrated in botequinhos overflowing with Neymar fans during the Champions League final. This week, the men’s national Selecão competes in the Copa America while the women’s team competes in the Women’s World Cup. Every day in between, the green pitches of Brasil’s Campeonato Serie A illuminate the TV screens in bars and restaurants, day and night.
These major football events play second fiddle to the carioca soccer way of life. Cariocas are active and make the most of every opportunity to spend time on the city’s fabled beaches, particularly during the autumnal 30 degree (Celcius!) afternoons. When strolling around Ipanema, the gorgeous view of the sea, the sand and the Morro de Vidigal are peppered by countless soccer balls arcing through the air. Cariocas, tanned and fit, juggle the ball endlessly while teams of two or three people cram the futvoley courts, displaying a dazzling array of skills. And don’t assume that these activities are exclusively practiced by men; around these parts, it’s no surprise to see women beating their male counterparts!
Talk of futebol is also pervasive and is woven into everyday conversations. Taxistas, who have proven to be our insider guides, proudly share their team affiliations ( Rio has 4 major teams) and lament the 2014 World Cup Final result, even while sharing their views on topics as varied as the economic downturn, bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption which continue to affect the country. The rhythm of football is superseded by only two other cultural pastimes: food and music
From the world-known Samba to Bossa Nova, Brazilian master the rhythms with their bodies and souls. That’s how they enjoy life and we do as well! From day one, we learned the lyrics of the famous Garota de Ipanema, we went to dance to Rio Scenarium to learn by doing before even having a formal samba lesson and also listened to a live carioca band on top of the Pão de açúcar at night. This week was all about the role of dance and music in the Brazilian culture, we had a live music seminar on Brazilian music in the XIXth century and of course a samba lesson where we could practice the moves we had spotted before. We are now ready to hit the dancefloor!