Attending a futbol match between local teams in the Maracana stadium in Rio officially makes my list of mandatory Rio experiences. Through some stroke of luck, the famous Maracana stadium, which was supposed to be closed for Olympic renovations already, stayed open long enough for us to see a game between Botafogo and Flamengo -- two local rivals with diehard fans. The stadium itself is quite a sight -- 200,000 people reportedly filled the stands for Pele's last game -- but it isn't the soccer you come for so much as the fans.
The fans for the different teams are given separate sections, separated by a white "neutral" section. The true fans go for the "green" section -- where we sat based on the advice of local Flamengo ("Mango") fans. More than 95% of the people there were wearing their team colors and all seemed to know every chant. The highlight for us, though, was one particularly overzealous fan in the row in front of us who would wring his hair when Mango made a mistake, cover his eyes like he was holding back tears when they missed a chance to score, slam the bench or stomp his feet when the ref made a bad call and various other overly dramatic gestures. When Mango managed to score the winning goal, he turned around, threw his arms around a startled Juan and literally swept him off his feet in joy. I've never seen Juan look more confused and I've never thought trekking through the rain in a foreign city to see a futbol game was more worth it. Ha!