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‘Three-nil against Liverpool’: Flamengo fans dream of history repeating itself

Carl De Souza/AFP via Getty

“Three-nil against Liverpool,” chants the bar packed with Flamengo fans, singing with the kind of rhythm that only South American fans can. “It went down in history. In Rio there is no equal, only Flamengo are world champions.”

After a tense opening 78 minutes, they have just seen their team score two late goals to secure a 3-1 win over Al-Hilal in Qatar and book its place in Saturday’s Club World Cup final.

The nervous air is broken by their cathartic celebrations and replaced by joyous songs that last well beyond the remaining 10 minutes of the match.

Giant Flamengo flags hang on the walls and cover the windows, hiding the raucous scenes inside from passers-by and there is barely enough space inside for fans to make their frequent trips from the big screen to the bar.

Only Portuguese is spoken here — though this isn’t Rio de Janeiro, the home of Flamengo.

The Consulado Fla Londres, a Flamengo fan group, provides the opportunity for these like-minded fans to come together and, for 90 minutes at least, feel like they’re back at the Maracanã and not in south west London.

The fan group organizes viewing parties, like this one in Battersea, for every Flamengo match and members volunteer in the communities around the pubs and bars that host them.

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“Flamengo isn’t an allegiance, it’s a religion,” says lifelong fan Maritza Teixeira. “We love Flamengo to such an extent that you say you support Flamengo more than you do the national team.”

Teixeira, 66, is the only fan in the bar old enough to remember the last time the club reached what was then the Intercontinental Cup final, that historic 3-0 win over Liverpool that still forms the basis for one of their favorite chants.

Flamengo reached this year’s Club World Cup — which pits the winners of every major continental club competition against one another — in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

Two stoppage-time goals from star striker Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa overturned a 1-0 deficit against River Plate, giving Flamengo its first Copa Libertadores title since 1981.

The victory sparked wild scenes in Rio de Janeiro, with some estimating that hundreds of thousands of Flamengo fans lined the streets for the parade that welcomed home their heroes.

In 2014, a report published by Brazilian magazine Mundo Estranho revealed that Flamengo had by some distance the biggest fan base in the world, counting on 32.6 million supporters across the globe.

Historically, British teams have a had lukewarm relationship with this competition, but for fans of South American clubs the Club World Cup is without doubt a major trophy at the pinnacle of the sport.

“I wasn’t born [in 1981], so I couldn’t feel what was to be a Libertadores champion, to be a continental champion,” says Francisco Sousa, one of the Consulado Fla Londres co-founders.

“Part of that Flamengo team in ’81 was the Brazilian team in the Copa [World Cup] in 82 that everyone says is one of the biggest Brazilian teams ever. We were proud to be champions once, we beat Liverpool in the Club World Cup in 81 as well but you don’t know how it feels.

“Winning the Libertadores in the way it was, you know, with two goals inn the last minutes of the game was the best, best moment.”

If history repeats itself on Saturday, Flamengo could join an exclusive list of clubs to have held the national, continental and world titles simultaneously.

For years, these Flamengo fans — all except Maritza — have only heard the stories about 1981 passed down by an older generation.

Their excitement about this time being part of another landmark moment in the club’s history is palpable.

“I remember all the fuss [about 1981] and also singing something sbout that I never watched,” says Roberta da Cal Brazao, who was born two years after that final.

“It means to me … watching something that I sing about and I know about, and my dad knows about. It’s amazing, happening 30 years … 38 years after!”

Maritza admits she has a “sweet spot for Liverpool” but isn’t letting it cloud her judgment ahead of Saturday’s final.

“However, I love Brazil and winning in 1981 against Liverpool was great. We’ll do it again. We’re going to win again.

“This time round, the emotion is two-fold. It’s very difficult for you to imagine this set of events happening again. Write it down, I’m giving you the score — it will be minimum 3-1, 2-1 … but we’re going to win.”

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