Sporting events a unique fan experience in Brazil

Go to a sporting event in Brazil and you will be mesmerized by

fanatic crowds, nonstop chanting and an incessant party atmosphere.

Go to a sporting event in Brazil and you will also be shocked by

outdated venues, widespread disorder and endless violence.

There’s nothing like being a sports fan in Brazil.

But it’s not easy being a sports fan in Brazil.

Brazilians are passionate about their soccer – and sports in

general. Fans idolize their stars on the fields, courts and tracks.

They’ll cheer loudly at any sporting event they’ll go to, be it a

World Cup match, a Formula One race or a mixed martial arts fight.

They’ll instill a party atmosphere whether they are in a $500

million stadium or at the neighborhood court for an amateur

volleyball tournament.

And they do it despite challenges that fans in the United States

or Europe are not used to enduring. There are no decent ticketing

structures and no marked seats inside stadiums. Rather, there are

outdated venues providing very little comfort and an overall lack

of safety inside and out.

Things are improving after the country was selected to host the

World Cup, but sporting events in Brazil are still far from being

well organized. Fortunately, the problems are usually offset by

boisterous crowds and vivid fans, with games filled with people

waving flags, cheering with choreographed moves and chanting

nonstop to the beat of drums and samba songs.

It’s an atmosphere that can easily impress.

American filmmaker Spike Lee will tell you that. He was at the

Maracana Stadium for the Brazilian Cup final two weeks ago, when

the country’s most popular soccer club, Flamengo, won the

title.

”I can’t lie. Tonight’s match made our Super Bowls look like

the Little League World Series,” he said on his Instagram account.

”This place was crazy for the entire game. My ears are still

ringing and it ended over (an) hour ago. I have never heard (a)

crowd that loud in my life.”

F1 drivers will say the fan enthusiasm in Brazil is what makes

it worth coming back to the country every year.

Drivers have been complaining about the lack of structure at the

Interlagos track in Sao Paulo for a long time, saying it’s the

worst among all venues they visit all year. But for just as long,

they’ve also been saying how much they enjoy racing in front of the

Brazilian fans.

”It’s one of the best atmospheres of the whole season,” Heikki

Kovalainen of Finland said before this year’s season-ending race in

November. ”The fans are incredibly passionate. They’re very

knowledgeable and they turn the whole weekend into a giant party in

the stands. It’s pretty cool on Sunday when you’re on the grid and

all the stands are bouncing. It really is a cool place to

race.”

British driver Paul di Resta said ”there are drums playing in

the grandstands and a party mood all the time. It’s great to see

and it definitely gives you a buzz.”

The fan atmosphere is similar for nearly every sport.

”I’ve been doing events all over the world over the years and

Brazil wins for the loudest crowd ever,” Ultimate Fighting

Championship president Dana White said after bringing MMA to the

country for the first time a few years ago. ”The place was packed

from the first fight. It was incredible. We might be here every

weekend now.”

For the fans, though, the experience, sometimes, is

negative.

In the quarterfinals of the Brazilian Cup at the refurbished

Maracana just a few months ago, fans who paid about $200 for a

ticket found out that their seats were already occupied. A steward

was called in to help but said he couldn’t do anything, saying it

would be impossible to rearrange all those fans to the correct

seats.

”That has been the tradition here, it’s part of the fan culture

in Brazil,” said Erich Beting, a sports marketing professor and a

sports business specialist in Brazil. ”People have been doing

these types of things since they were kids, so it’s normal that it

still happens. It can be changed, but it’s going to take time. We

say here that going to a game in Brazil is not an experience – it’s

an adventure.”

Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, the government official in

charge of the country’s preparations for the World Cup and the 2016

Rio Olympics, said Brazilian fans don’t expect to be treated as

consumers.

”What drives the fans in Brazil is passion, is fantasy,”

Rebelo said. ”Fans don’t go to games looking for good

entertainment. They will be happy if the best player of the rival

team can’t play. They are not there to see a good product, they are

there for their team.”

Nothing will attract the Brazilian fans’ attention like a World

Cup, an event that brings the nation to a near stop. When Brazil

plays in soccer’s showcase tournament, students are allowed to skip

classes and nearly all workers get the day off.

And with the tournament at home this time, it’s hard to say what

it’s going to feel like to Brazilians.

The players got a glimpse of the excitement during the

Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament this year, when the

crowd put on a show by continuing to sing the national anthem even

after FIFA would limit the length the music.

”It was something wonderful, very special,” Brazil goalkeeper

Julio Cesar said after it happened for the first time in the match

against Mexico in Fortaleza. ”We couldn’t be more motivated after

experiencing something like that. Everyone was caught by surprise

when it happened. Even the referee (Howard Webb) came to us and

said that he had never seen anything like that.”

Opponents better be prepared during the World Cup next year. It

will feel like paradise for Brazilian fans.

Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni