Flamengo’s Journey to Qatar from Brazil for the Club World Cup | Football Adventures

The Club World Cup is often a footnote for most fans in England. But in Brazil, and for the supporters of Flamengo, the tournament holds a huge significance. My name is James Montague, and I’ve travelled to Rio to meet with the most passionate fans of Flamengo, before an incredible 18,000 of them travelled more than 7,000 miles east to Qatar in the hope of meeting Liverpool in the final. It would be a replay of the last time the two met in this tournament, when Flamengo, led by Zico, won 3-0 in 1981. Organised fan groups in Brazil are known as “torcidas” – kind of the equivalent to ultras in Europe, or the “barras bravas” in Argentina. And the biggest in Brazil is Flamengo’s torcida, Raça Rubro-Negra. Torcidas have gained a violent reputation in recent years. Raça’s former president was arrested and accused of murdering a rival. That, and persistent fighting, has meant Raça’s banners and flags are banned from their home stadium, the Maracanã. But first, the torcidas that weren’t banned gathered to give the team its traditional send-off. Why’s it so important, like, the Club World Cup? – In Brazil, it’s the most important title. It’s against Liverpool, who is the best team in the world. But we are Flamengo. I’ve sold my car. – You’ve sold your car?! Man, what are you going to do when you come home? – All this for Flamengo. – Everyone seems pretty excited. So, I think this could be pretty explosive when they [Flamengo] arrive. The bus arrived, helicopters arrived, and everybody just descended on the bus. It was absolute mayhem. We met Raça’s founder, a leftist activist and former policeman called Claudio Cruz. He’s aiming to shed the group’s reputation for violence and inspire a new generation of fans to better channel their fire and their fury. Claudio led Raça’s trip to Qatar to watch Flamengo’s bid to make history. – We have always been leftist, always worked on it, always helped. So Raça was a torcida that was made not only to cheer, but to question and to change behaviours, to change everything. – We’re going to meet Benfica, who’s one of the main guys involved in the tifo and the singing at the Maracanã, and they’re getting prepared for the big trip to Doha. – In December of ‘81, you put the Englishmen in circles, 3-0 against Liverpool, it left a mark in history, and in Rio there is no other like you, only Flamengo is world champion, and now your people ask for the world again! C’mon, c’mon, c’mon ‘Mengo! Go over them, Flamengo. – We’re about to take a flight to Sao Paulo because it would have taken six hours on a bus. Then we’ve got a flight to Casablanca. Then Casablanca to Doha. It’s as long a journey as I think I’ve ever taken in my life for a football match. So we’re going to the stadium; it’s about six hours before kick-off. But we’re going to go there with these “trapos,” these big banners. We’re going to set it up before kick-off. – Travelled halfway around the world in the back of his backpack. All for this moment to be displayed here. Because that’s how important it is to have your banner, to have your flag, to have your standard, to have your identity displayed at a football match. The Espérance ultras are absolutely uncontrollable. First game, they stormed the security checkpoint with 400 people at kick-off, so that they could smuggle in a load of flares, which they let go in the stadium. The first time that Qatar has ever had pyro in a stadium. And now, they’ve basically turned up with their own banner. Security are all over them, so they are fighting at the front with security. Riot police are going in right now. They’re circling right where the Espérance ultras are. I’ve just been questioned by the police out on the concourse. Basically, any filming of the police doing what they just did, and they were on us like a flash. So we’ve only just got back in. I don’t really want to go through that again. So, yeah, kick-off is in about half an hour. Al-Hilal have just scored—Salem Al-Dawsari. But they started singing louder as soon as the goal went in. Well, it’s half-time. The Saudis are 1-0 up. Flamengo have been terrible. They’ll be pretty upset if they lose. 1-1. Claudio’s crying. Crikey! Chairs, water, love, hate, everything just thrown onto the pitch. – It’s over! It’s over! Liverpool, we’re going to get you! – But look at it. Everybody is in tears. In England nobody cares about this, but here… That was a close shave. So now Flamengo’s fans had a few days to kill before the final. The tournament was seen as a 2022 World Cup warm-up for Qatar. The country has been heavily criticised for their treatment of migrant workers and a perceived lack of football culture. An invasion of thousands of Brazilian fans was their first serious test to see how they could handle a tournament of that size. Everybody is super-nervous. I mean, it is a good eight hours before kick-off, and we’re having to go to the stadium now to make sure all the banners are done again. Bruno. Rooney. Bruno. Rooney. It’s amazing. We’ve travelled thousands of miles. We’ve gone to Rio, and we’ve come to Doha, and this is the song I’ve heard for almost every minute of every day. In my dreams, and it’s all for this moment when they come out. Liverpool have been awarded a penalty. It’s gone to VAR. Crikey O’Reilly. That’s it. – This is part of the game. Flamengo believed until the end; that’s all that matters. They honoured what we do here, so it was all worth it. – History was not to be repeated, and so Claudio and Benfica travelled the 7,000 miles home, just in time for Christmas. You know, I think it was Eduardo Galeano who said “there’s nothing emptier than an empty stadium,” but I think there probably is: an empty stadium after you’ve lost. – Next year there’ll be more. It’s not over. James is one of Raça now.

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