Flamengo: Brazil’s Club
The country’s most popular club represents the power of Brazilian football.
Originally a rowing club, Flamengo started its football program at the start of the twentieth century, at the height of Brazilian football dominance. Building their fanbase over the many years, Flamengo became the most popular club in many parts of Brazil. But some people looked down on the club because they only saw them as a team that can perform well domestically but cannot challenge world-class clubs from Europe. In the early ‘80s, a monumental matchup between the ‘Rubro-Negro’ led by João Batista Nunes shut out the English Premier League superpower, Liverpool FC, 3-0.
For the first time ever, the Brazilian club participated in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar. They went on to defeat the Saudi Arabian team Al Hilal SFC in a 3-1 drubbing in the semifinals. Flamengo eventually ended in a historic rematch against Liverpool in the final on a stoppage-time goal by Roberto Firmino.
The club’s performance in the Club World Cup was not only a testament to Flamengo’s world-class talent but also proved that the club is not just Rio de Janeiro’s club, it is the entirety of Brazil’s. Unseen since the early ’80s when Liverpool and Flamengo met for the first time, Brazil had a club that they can match up with the Liverpools and the FC Barcelonas of the world.
Paying tribute to the 10 young victims of the tragic event, 2019 became the most successful year in Flamengo’s history. The club broke multiple records en route to its win in the Campeonato Carioca, Campeonato Brasileiro, and the Copa Libertadores, their first title victories since 2009. They were the first club to win all three titles in the same season since all-time great Pelé's Santos team back in 1962. The club dominated the competition with their closest adversaries and were 16 points out of Flamengo’s placing.
Abel Braga resigned from his managerial position in the team, which led to the hiring of the Portuguese manager, Jorge Jesus. Now bolstered by the additions of Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Bruno Henrique, and Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa, the club’s 2019 campaign included a 24-game stretch when they did not drop a single game. The 23-year old Barbosa became the Brasileirão top scorer in the double-round-robin-era which was established in 2006.
Because of his superstar performance in the season, Barbosa who was previously on loan from Inter Milan was signed to a permanent deal by Flamengo running until 2024. Locking down the superstar was definitely the number one priority because this team will do their best to defend their crown as the kings of Brazilian football.
Flamengo’s 2019 run has fundamentally changed the landscape of Brazilian football. When all attention is given to European football leagues, Brazil’s champion has put a massive spotlight on its football tourneys once again. Further proving the truth of their nickname ‘O Mais Querido do Brasil’ or The Most Beloved in Brazil.
Words: Cholo Martin