Our first opportunity came on Sunday, November 11. A co-worker of Eric's invited us to attend a Galo game. When word got around that the Americans were attending their first futebol game, a bunch of the other Galo fans at the office decided to come too. We were given few, but simple instructions on Friday before the game: don't take your wallet, don't take your purse, don't wear any jewelry, don't wear a watch, put a little bit of cash in your pocket, and dress down (jeans and a t-shirt were suggested.)
I wasn't real sure what type of place we were going to when given that set of instructions, but we both were excited to get our first taste of futebol. It also helped knowing that we all bought the 'expensive' tickets; I was hoping that might put us in a safer part of the stands! And by expensive, I mean that we paid about $18 each for the tickets, while the cheap seats sell for $3 each. Felipe and his girlfriend (who is actually an avid fan of the other BH team and only went to the game because Eric and I were going) picked us up at the hotel and we headed to the stadium to meet everyone else.
Before the game, everyone hangs around outside the stadium. There are tons of little vendors selling everything from popsicles to beef kabobs right off the grill. Tons of people were selling cokes and juices and then there were the people with small 'lunchbox size' coolers who were "illegally" selling beer. (Apparently, in an effort to keep people a little less rowdy, they banned beer in the stadium a few years back and also made it illegal to sell beer outside. It is still ok to drink beer, you just aren't supposed to sell it. And by illegal, it really just means you have to hide it in a little cooler. That way everyone knows you have beer to sell and the police are content because you have it covered . . .)
While we were 'tailgating' everyone informed me that my t-shirt of choice for the day wasn't acceptable. No one had bothered to tell us the team colors, and honestly, it never even crossed our minds. I had inadvertantly worn Cruziero's (the other team in BH) color: blue. OOPS! I felt like I was getting the evil eye from an awful lot of people in the crowd, so I decided to buy one of the bootleg Galo shirts for sale on the street. Everyone agreed that was much better!
About 45 minutes before gametime, we headed into the stadium to try and find some of the other people who were going to the game with us. I have to include this video clip here. This is one of the guys trying to get our attention as we entered through the gate . . . you finally get to hear my husband's name pronounced in Brazilian Portuguese. The really funny thing is that he has started introducing himself as "Earrikee" now, so people understand his name and how to spell it. Also, you might notice that on the left side of the screen there are 2 police officers. One is male, to frisk the men coming into the stadium and the other is female, to check the women for weapons. We were warned pregame that this would happen. Unfortunately, it wasn't caught on film, but as we entered the stadium, I walked up to the lady cop. She let me by and then Eric stood in front of her. Everyone was yelling and trying to tell Eric he had to go to the male cop, but he didn't even notice until the female officer looked at him, shook her head no, and pointed over to where all the men were being checked. By that point we were all cracking up, and Eric just shrugged his shoulders and said, "She was better looking than him . . . I wanted her to frisk me." It was quite humorous!
If you can't get the video to work here, try this link:
Once in the stands, we observed the stadium as it began to fill up with people and then as the crowd got more and more excited. I spent the better majority of the game trying to figure out how to describe the experience. The best I could come up with is this: It has all the enthusiasm of a Georgia football game between the hedges in Sanford Stadium on a Saturday night against Auburn MINUS any amount of refinement and sophistication. It was an intense 2+ hours as everyone in the stadium was chanting, singing, taking off their shirts (ok, mostly just the men) and swinging them around their heads, and yelling everything from the famous "GOOOOOOL" to all sorts of Portuguese profanity directed at the other team, specific players, and the officials. Despite that Galo was in the lead the entire game, if someone missed a good shot or a pass, everyone in the stadium experienced what looked like gut wrenching pain and misery. Then, something good would happen and everyone went right back to their chanting, setting off fireworks in the stands (yeah, really), and jumping up and down continuously. (Eric and I also spent a bit of time discussing the structural stability of concrete and our concerns given the construction techniques we have been observing down here lately. With like 50,000 people all jumping at the same time, your strength of materials classes are replayed in your head as you try to remember what exactly you determined was the failure point in that one problem . . . and then you decide you'd be better off not thinking about it. Eric finally looked at me and said- "Just remember the safety factor!") I don't know a better way to describe the action than with a video. Please note that this was before the game even started, the crowd was just warming up here.
If you can't get this video to work here, try this link:
A few of us just as we got to our seats
A couple other observations we had that may be 'blog worthy':In this picture, you will see a large moat around the field. It was probably 10+ feet wide and even deeper. While it lacks water with hungry crocodiles and piranhas, it was built to keep the fans off the field we were told. Eric later questioned the presence of the drug dogs on the field with all the police. "Oh," someone told us, "those aren't for finding drugs, they are trained to attack anyone from the crowd who might run onto the field." At that point, Eric was like, but there is a huge moat??? To which our friend replied, "Yeah, but Brazilians are crazy enough to try and jump it . . . and some of them make it onto the field." I would suggest that maybe the crocs would be a good idea, but I guess that if the risk of a hard fall onto concrete doesn't intimidate you, nor does the dog on the other side waiting to make you his lunch, then flesh eating water creatures probably don't phase you either!
We also decided that paying for the pricier tickets was probably worth it. The stadium is divided into 4 sections : one on each side of the field, and then one on each end behind the goals. The cheap seats behind the goals are divinded from the better side seats by 12' tall fences with spikes at the top. (With the spikes directed towards the cheap seats.) You enter through different gates depending on your section and there is nowhere to cross between sections. The loudest, most energetic and rowdy fans with the most fireworks came from those cheaper end areas. I was pretty content just to be surrounded by shirtless men and a chanting crowd. I just don't really need sparklers being thrown around me to enjoy the game, ya know?
The food inside the stadium was new for us too. Not actually what we were eating, as it was very normal Minas Gerais stuff. But to be eating a plate full of pork loin, rice, fried pork skins, farofa, vinagarette, fried egg and greens was a bit different than your hotdogs, nachos, and peanuts in the USA. It was nice though, especially since we got an entire meal for less than what you'd expect to pay for a coke.
Oh yeah, and one more thing . . . listen to the chanting on this video. I swear it is to the tune of "Popeye the Sailor Man"! See what you think because Eric thinks I'm crazy!!!
And, I thought this would be a final score shot of the scoreboard. Then, Galo scored one more goal in the last minute of the game. But anyway, they won, 4-1!
Again, you may have to follow this link to get the video:
For a little more information about the teams in our city, here is a blurb from Wikipedia:
"As in the rest of Brazil, football is the most popular sport among locals. Belo Horizonte has two of the most successful teams in the country, and the city also has one of the biggest football stadiums in the world, the Mineirão, opened in 1965.
The older Independência Stadium hosted a legendary victory of the United States World Cup Team 1950 in a 1-0 triumph over England. See England v United States (1950) and 
Atlético Mineiro, which is also called by its nickname and mascot "Galo" (rooster) is one of the oldest football clubs in the city and was founded in 1908. Atlético Mineiro was the first Brazilian champion, in 1971, and has also won two CONMEBOL Cups (nowadays called Copa Sudamericana) and 39 State Championships. In spite of so much tradition, the team has suffered through very difficult times recently and was relegated to the Brazilian Série B. However, the club won the championship in 2006 and is back to Série A in 2007.
Cruzeiro was founded in 1921 by the members of the local Italian community. Cruzeiro has been one of Brazil´s most successful clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning 4 National Cups, 1 National League, 2 Copa Libertadores, and 2 Supercopa Libertadores, and is also the winner of Taça Brasil in 1966 and 34 State Championships."