Day 4: Sunday 20th July 2014Centenary matchday celebrating 100 years of the Seleção with their first opponents, Exeter City, returning to once again play at the Laranjeiras Stadium. Sounds grand, even fanciful but it’s true and it happened.
Matt Grimes is greeted as he leaves the Fluminense coach
I also think we had more supporters than last time too! Over 150 City fans were resplendent either in red and white, special yellow tour shirts or freshly purchased Fluminense shirts. They gave the historic Laranjeiras Stadium a feeling of Devon as the game kicked off to the strains of ‘Cider’!
The locals were surprised at the numbers but we all know travelling Grecians have got used to long journeys from Devon to away games. My money is on this being the longest away trip of the season! We do just have the best fans ever!
Banners on the pitch pre-match
So pleased that the lads performed really well. Tis had concentrated on the structure and shape of the team and the players did their bit. It was a competitive match and all the better for that – proper as Stevie P would say. Fluminense’s team had 6 players, I think, who played when they lost 3-5 to Italy just before the World Cup. They created chances against us but I thought we coped well. The best opportunities came to us and ‘we wuz robbed’ by the lino’s flag too often – Jimmy and Tom had the ball in the net, maybe just offside, but Matt Jay was onside and one on one with the keeper but didn’t get the chance to be a hero – allegedly offside again.
City line up in their classic kit
Fluminense had suggested before that City would receive the Cup they had provided for the occasion should the teams draw. Maybe they thought it wouldn’t come to that but it was me leading Scot Bennett up into the stand to pick it up.
You’ve seen it on the TV, a Brazilian football media scrum and this is exactly what transpired. Scot disappeared, which was a shame for the City fans but you just couldn’t physically drag about 60 press guys away. Eventually he was able to return to the dressing room where most of the players had already showered. It took that long!
Julian Tagg addresses the crowd before kick-off
There was so much warmth for Exeter City and the players contributed to giving a great impression of the club to the people of Flu, Rio and beyond. Even FIFA tweeted about it! I feel immensely proud of the club and being part of this historic occasion. The week before was the World Cup with corporate this and that. Today was a reminder that football is about more than that and if we don’t take time to celebrate our past we can lose our perspective.
Bit of a treat for the players and the fans afterwards. Courtesy of the club, we got to see the Fluminense first team play their home league game against Santos, Pele’s old team. I say home but it was played in Volta Redonda, two hours away as FIFA hadn’t handed back the World Cup stadia to the CBF in time for the games to be played once again in the Maracana. That was a bit disappointing but it had only been a week since the final and you can’t expect miracles here!
Scot Bennett holds the trophy aloft
For a while the highlight looked like being Jimmy Keohane’s attempt to eat very dry crispy potato snacks in one go, thanks to losing a game of chance with the players but then a belter from Conca in the second half sent the home fans away happy.
Jimmy was to feature prominently later on as well. Doing our best Fluminense impression again (we had use of one of their team buses), we were heading home on the motorway when just ahead a lorry shed its load and flipped over blocking the carriageway in the end for two hours and in the middle of nowhere.
We wandered down for a look and pretty soon our resident lumberjacks, Jimmy and Dave Wheeler, took the lead and started moving the planks of wood (the shed load) to the side of the road to create a path through, and built up a head of steam swinging the planks over the edge of the road and hopefully not onto a forest dweller’s house below!
Finally someone dragged the lorry to the side (don’t worry about the sparks, nothing will ignite!) and we were clear. Not sure how long everyone would have stood there thinking about it if the lads hadn’t pitched in and got started on that wood!
Still it was yet another inventive way to enforce another late night! But a great day and, as I said above, I really am proud the club went to the lengths it did to head to Rio.
Day 1 – Destination: Rio
Day 2 – Heathrow–Frankfurt–Rio–Xerem
Day 3 – Flying into the centenary match
Day 5 – A day of rest
Day 6 – Project visit in Juiz de Fora