It was Saturday afternoon – the game was between two second-tier teams for the Rio de Janeiro state championship. São Cristóvão and Serrano were playing a game unworthy of Brazilian football, far below the dignified tradition that these two teams once had as members of the first division of the powerful Rio de Janeiro state football league. The stage was set on the pitch of the Olaria Atlético Clube on Rua Bariri in a suburb of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Behind me, an impassioned fan for São Cristóvão furiously swore at the black manager of his team, mixing insults with nasty jokes. He called the manager ‘Feijoada’ (literally, ‘black bean stew’, a racial slur), and when he looked at his watch, the fan loudly asked: ‘are you checking to see if it’s time to dance samba?’ Since it is not the goal of this essay to contemplate the peculiarities of Brazilian racism and how it is expressed on the pitch, I merely want to point out the contrast between the fan’s uncontrollable passion and the degree of professionalization and mercantilization that football has achieved. The fan himself was completely aware of this: he called the players ‘upstarts’, accusing them of having no love for the club, and only using São Cristóvão as their ‘showcase venue’. Even more aspersions were cast upon the manager: the fan accused ‘Feijoada’ of taking orders from an agent about which players should start. I was growing tired of the verbal assault when I spied a Raça Azul banner – the Serrano
fan club – in another section of the stands, so I made my way over there. A fan sporting the club’s jersey asked me to take a picture of a corpulent but kind-looking gentleman. He tells me that he is the club’s president. The ethnographer in me, out of professional curiosity, asks how much Serrano players make. An unexpected answer is given: the president can’t give me that information, since Serrano had rented out the pitch and jersey to an agent. I had found the same thing on both sides of the bleachers.