Latin America has become red and black. But it didn’t happen all of sudden. Flamengo had a perfect weekend—champions of the Copa Libertadores on Saturday and then winning the national league on Sunday.
It began with big acquisitions in the transfer window and a well-calculated gamble on Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus. It’s hard to imagine a better 48-hour period in the history of the Rio de Janeiro club. Especially when they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against no less than the reigning South American champions, Argentina’s River Plate.
While Brazil’s national team conquered the Copa America earlier this year, their performances weren’t all that. Pressure is mounting on Brazil manager Tite, with pundits suggesting he won’t last until Qatar 2022. Well, maybe they can pick up some lessons from Flamengo.
Back in the first half of the 20th century in the then-Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro, Flamengo had a strong black working-class support, yet also held the favor of a significant part of Rio’s elite. It was the perfect mix of “racial democracy” the federal government was trying to sell, and thus Flamengo’s matches were broadcast on radio all over Brazil, creating millions of new fans.
Oddly enough, however, despite being the most popular club in Brazil, Flamengo has rarely been the most successful, making the team without equal around the world. Except for five years at the end of the 1970s (the so-called “Zico Era”), Flamengo have often been starved for trophies. At the time they became Brazil’s most popular team, they hadn’t won anything in 12 years
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