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If there is one rivalry in the city of Rio de Janeiro that in recent times won’t die is Flamengo vs. Vasco.
At least, that should be the case, if wasn’t for this man, Eurico Miranda.
Eurico is the archetypal South-American populist, much like historic figures like Vargas in Brazil, Peron in Argentina and, why not, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He is responsible for a series of tragedies, scams and horror shows that transformed Vasco from a mass team, with great popular appeal and long history of victories in and out of the four lines, to a pathetic, stumbling cemetery for old have-beens that still carry a name but cannot carry their own legs.
I don’t like Vasco. I won’t pretend I do. I am Flamengo and to be Flamengo is to suffer a extreme allergic reaction anytime Vasco’s name is pronounced 100 miles around you (the only known antidote is to hear Flamengo’s name, so most flamenguistas get by fine).
But Vasco was the first team to fight for the inclusion of black and working-class players, having even suffered a boycott in 1921 from other major soccer teams in Rio for creating a squad that was mostly black and working-class. Vasco, as opposed to other Rio teams like Fluminense, was always and always wanted to be a popular, working people’s team, the team of the masses ( a title that they slowly saw Flamengo, when it decided to become the people’s team instead of following Fluminense’s path, take it from Vasco).
Besides, Vasco is from Rio de Janeiro, and the press had decreed that soccer in Rio was dead. Flamengo as the leader of the national tournament and Fluminense in the finals of the Libertadores ought to be bothering them.
A short story that illustrates Eurico’s personality. A state final in the 90 had Maracana (at the time still the largest stadium in the world) packed. Since it was considered Vasco’s home game, the money from ticketing belonged mostly to Vasco. The regular procedure in this case is to leave the money at the stadium’s safe, and pick it up in an armoured car on monday. Eurico bullied the administration in Maracana and, citing supposed lack of trust in the Maracana’s vaults, said he was taking the proceeds home. That was on a saturday evening. On monday afternoon, Eurico shows up at a police station, claiming to have been robbed of the game’s proceeds on saturday night. When asked why he didn’t report the theft earlier, he claimed he did not know police stations were open on weekends.
He will walk on the middle of training and tell the coach who to put as starters, not for the well-being of Vasco, but to put them on display for the international market.
When the old, worn Sao Januario stadium’s guard rail could not handle the weight of the public and came crashing down in a middle of the national tournament finals, Eurico, like a callous general, walked into the field field with people writhing in pain and demanded the game continued as scheduled.
He has also used Vasco to launch a political carreer, promising that as state senator he would make Vasco great again, when was his own parasitic presence that made Vasco small.
Enter Roberto Dinamite.
Dinamite is the greatest idol in the history of Vasco da Gama, a pantheon that includes giants like Vava and Romario. Seeing his club, that one that gave him so much and to which he gave so much, in such agony, he ran a relentless electoral campaign against Eurico for the seat of Vasco da Gama president and lost.
Of course, because the election was rigged.
Dinamite struggled on. He ran again. He challenged the electoral rights given to dead people by Eurico.
After four years of constant struggle he unseated Eurico and unmasked how bad the situation is at Vasco. No money, no perspective and a line-up to cause shame to any third division team.
Good luck to him. I miss the days when a Flamengo vs. Vasco was a game worth watching.