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Brazil day 11 – Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas tour and Crazy soccer game

Posted by on July 23, 2011

Today was a two-part adventure day consisting of going to Rio’s favelas and of course, no Brazilian trip would be complete without going to at least one soccer game! After getting ready, I jumped down to the lobby to wait for the tour guide to lead me and several others to going to Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. Even though it’s really a neighborhood, it’s still considered to be a shantytown or slum so it’s highly recommended to go with a local guide so you don’t lost or worst, get robbed, raped, injured, or killed. These places are known to harbor drug dealers and criminals and carry reputations or stereotypes of high levels of crime which could be or not be true depending on the source of information. I’m not sure if Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, The Incredible Hulk, or Fast and the Furious give such accurate portrayals of what a favela is. That’s why I decided that I had to go and see for myself.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela on the hillside

Rio’s favela on the hillside

As everyone was getting ready, we were told that this was going to be a more interesting trip as we were going into the favela with a documentary crew. How about that, huh? Getting filmed while touring the place? Not bad. Just makes better stories especially since I was thinking this if they got robbed in the favela. That would have been funny despite how bad that sounded. But no worries here since we were going with a guide who had been working with the people in the favela for years. He stated that he never had any issues with any of the people there despite the ongoing police and military battling it out with the drug lords and criminals. We were cautioned not to take pictures or videos of any of the gangsters out here!

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil street sign for favela, Brazilian slums

The street sign for the favela

The first thing was getting into the van to go to the favela. Initially, the neighborhood didn’t look bad at all from the outside. It looked like any other in Rio. Then we were informed that we would take motorbike taxis to take us to the top of the mountain. This in my opinion was crazy and yet awesome of just hopping on the back of a motorcycle and watching the craziness unfold of weaving in and out of up-and-downhill traffic. We were told not to take pictures while on the bike but I still managed to use the GoPro camera to record whatever I could especially when my bike almost ran into a bus head-on!

Riding a motorcycle in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

I had to hold on the bars behind the bike when we did a hard right to avoid the bus!

I thought that the bike trip was worth it alone of negotiating through all that traffic. And supposedly, if any of them were paying attention to the people on the streets, there were some gangsters carrying machine guns watching their turf. Apparently, there would be many times we’d come across a guy with a gun in his hand but they would be quick come and goes since they didn’t want any part of a picture or video.

After getting off of the bike, that’s when the tour really began with the walking around in the favela. Some of the others were commenting that it was like India but didn’t smell. While walking around, I just thought of a city that got crushed from the sides and made all the buildings go higher. It was quite interesting to see such cramped spots and places and yet, so many people were living in it to where there were stores, beauty salons, and other types of services rendered. Often people wonder why would anyone want to live there? Well, for the most part, it’s cheaper. These people don’t pay rent or taxes and I think they get free water and electricity just by tapping into the power grid. Plus, these people live really close to their family and friends so they never get the notion of ever being alone like in some western countries I’ve been to.

Walking the narrow streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

Narrow streets of the favela

Cramped spaces/neighbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

It can and will get cramped for space out here

Walking with a guide in dangerous parts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

As I stated before – if you go to the favelas, go with a guide!

Just check out how they get power.

Tangled big mess of power lines in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

I have no idea how you fix this mess

Cramped places with trash everywhere.

Garbage, trash, mess of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

This is pretty common to see in the favela: garbage and the stench of trash/feces everywhere

And one of the best secrets the favela has is having one of the best views of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Great view from building, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

Rio’s poor gets to look out at Rio’s rich and the beach

There’s even a NGO that works with these people. Our tour guide took us to a daycare center for little kids. The thing that got me was how in the world can a day care center get one of the best views of the city???

View from day care center of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil favela, Brazilian slums

This was from the top of a children’s daycare center – I can’t believe they got such a great view!

Eventually we walked all the way down back to the main street where we first started but I think it’s an experience that most people especially living in Western countries should go to at least once in their lives. If you’ve never seen or experienced hardship or poverty, this is a place to see it. You’ll gain a whole new profound gratitude of having the things that you do have.

After coming back from that trip, I relaxed for the most part until the craziness was going to begin! I was ready for the craziness of the most popular sport in the world especially in Brazil: soccer or otherwise known as football outside of the U.S. This country, along with many others, is a diehard for moving and kicking that white-and-black ball into the net. I was already experienced with going to one loud game in South America by going to one in Buenos Aires, but I had a feeling that this was going to be bigger and it was. There were more people, more teams, and best of all, this was a playoff game between Atletico PR and Vasco, one of the biggest and more well-known teams in Brazil. This was the last game of the semi-finals and it was back home in Vasco territory with a 1 aggregate goal advantage to Vasco (meaning that if this game is tied, Vasco wins and continues onto the finals). The fans were going to be riled up big-time for this one and the national police was also coming out in full force as well to maintain public safety and order.

Watcing a football/soccer match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil

Look how there were no seats but basically this auditorium style seating; Brazilians don’t sit anyway, they stand for the games!

Again, I had to go to the lobby/waiting area in order to wait for the guide to take me and several others to the stadium where we were explained on what was going to happen and the procedure and so forth. After getting into the stadium, I noticed some differences between this and Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires had actual seats to sit on and had surrounded the field. This stadium in Rio was open on one end but the seats, which were basically flat slabs of concrete, were much closer to the field and you can basically see the faces on these players. It’s as close as you could get and these were the cheap seats!

Vasco Brazilian players playing football/soccer match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil

Players playing the game – the crowd was into every detail of the game!

The crowd itself was very active as well. The people were singing and chanting songs and words prior to the game starting just like in Buenos Aires but there was just something in the air that made it more animated, fierce, and passionate about it. But when the game finally started, that’s when I saw that things were going to go up a notch. The singing and chanting got louder and louder and I could clearly hear every groan by the crowd when the home team made a mistake or had a near goal. The crowd was a big part of the game just as much as the players were on the field giving the entire thing an awesome environmental dynamic that cannot be captured on film. I can only show so much through pictures but it has to be there and then in front of you in order to really experience it through not only sight but sensing the whole thing.

Crazy, rabid fans, Brazilians, celebrating football/soccer match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil

Brazilians don’t screw around when it comes to soccer – they’ll wave their team’s flags all night if they have to!

I could even sense the unhappiness of the crowd when the opposing team scored. The crowd was completely un-pleased and instead booing the home team, it immediately started singing fight songs to encourage the home team to do better. It helped somewhat but every time Vasco had the ball near the opposing team’s goal, I could feel everyone in the stadium holding their breaths just hoping to score a goal. It just built the anticipation more and more as time went on without a goal that everything just exploded when the home team finally scored one to make it 1-1. It was just a celebration that had to be seen there in person, live. I even saw this one 50+ year old man get down on both knees and scream in joy that his team had a goal. Guys take off their shirts and started swinging them while others would grab team colors and flags and wave them with passion, but overall, the entire stadium just blasted into one huge chorus of singing a song together in unison. Wow, what a sight.

Celebrating the win in a football/soccer match in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil/Brasil

Brazilians, as the soccer-crazy fans they are, going ballistic over their team’s victory

The crowd again went into a frenzy when the final buzzer went off, signaling the end of the game and Vasco winning the series on aggregate goals. Everyone immediately started chanting and singing like it was celebrating Christmas and New Years Day and their birthdays all in one. I’ve been to several professional sports games in the US and Canada but this was completely epic and mind-blowing to see such passion and desire to see their teams win. I understand why Brazil has effectively done so well at the international level such as the World Cup because of such high interest levels in soccer. Brazil is so into soccer that they have soccer fields everywhere and even have over 300 professional teams in the country alone! The US and Canada however, only has anywhere from 30-60 professional teams per sport and not all the fans are still crazy about it like this at all. No, not even close to it.

I must highly recommend both the favela tour and going to a professional Brazilian soccer match to see and experience what Brazil has to offer. Both are very unique to this country that are musts! The organization that I went with both tours was:

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