Know Thy Classics: Fla-Flu

This guy says Pope JP2 was a Flu fan.


Gesundheit! We’re headed to Brazil today for Sunday’s classico between two giants from Rio de Janeiro: Flamengo and Fluminense. The Fla-Flu derby dates back to 1912, and the matches have been played at the gigantic Maracaná stadium going back decades. Back in the day, fans would pack out the stadium in massive numbers. The record attendance was over 194,000 in 1963, though only 177,000 tickets were sold (good ol’ South America). Flamengo and Fluminense frequently dispute the final of the Campeonato Carioca, which is the regional cup for the Rio region (Brazil has a lot of regional tournaments).

A bit more about each club. Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, known as Mengão (Big Mengo), dates back to 1895 as a rowing club. The Flamengo football team was formed in 1911 when a group of Fluminense players decided to leave and start their own team. Flamengo have won six Brasileirao titles, two Brazilian Cups, and 32(!) Carioca championships. They also won a Copa Libertadores and Intercontintal Cup in 1981, during the club’s golden age. The current club president is Patricia Amorim, who (you guessed it) is a woman. Very cool in a male-dominated sport. These days, Flamengo is running around midtable in the Brasileirao and not doing much on the continent, while their Flu rivals are doing much better. The squad is made up mostly of journeymen with very Brazilian-sounding names. One you may have heard of if you ever played fantasy Champions League is Vágner Love, who played a few seasons for CSKA Moscow. He’s got 11 goals on the season.

Fluminense FC are probably as famous for their ugly tricolor maroon, green and white kit as anything else. The club was founded in 1902 by Oscar Cox, a man of English descent, in the tony Rio neighborhood of Laranjeiras. They’ve won 3 Brasileirao titles and 31 Carioca titles (one less than their redheaded stepchild Flamengo). Fluzao has done well in South America lately, reaching the Copa Libertadores final in ’08 and the Copa Sudamericana final in ’09 (though they lost both times). The current squad is top of this year’s Brasileirao league and is captained by Fred, who you might remember from his days at Lyon (or not). He leads the scorers table with 12 goals this year.

Historically, these two teams have met 391 times, with Flamengo getting 139 wins to Fluminense’s 124. Fluminense won the most recent edition of the Fla-Flu in July, so I would expect Flamengo to be out for revenge Sunday (though they’ll probably fail in the effort). Fluminense has a 4 point lead in the standings over Altetico MG, and only two losses on the season. Regardless of the football being played on the pitch, you’re guaranteed to see on old-fashioned mini-carnaval in the stands if you tune in Sunday afternoon.

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