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Global Soccer, Global NYC

Soccer in NYC Reimagined Through the Rivalries, Identity, Migration, and Politics of the World's Game in the Preeminent Global City

Clássico dos Milhões. Flamengo 1 - Vasco de Gama 1

27 November 2012, 5:00 pm. Villa Café Brazil Grill, Rio Market, Joe’s Pizzeria, and Copacabana Steakhouse, Astoria Queens

Astoria is home to the largest concentration of Brazilians in NYC and the Brazilian community is centered along 36th Avenue and 30th street, although it also dots a few other areas within Astoria and Long Island City.

Having seen other matches at Villa Café Brazil Grill in the past over tasty churrasco and Brahma beers, we didn’t foresee the possibility of the restaurant being filled to the brim not with Brazilians watching the Clássico dos Milhões, perhaps the most important derby match in Brazil, but instead dozens of middle-aged Brazilian women glued to a popular telenovela.

Skillful improvisation was needed and we proceeded to head west to Rio Market and Travel Agency in hopes of catching the match. Despite having a popular sit down cafe and offering a bevy of imported Brazilian products, including nearly every kind of soccer accessory for all the main teams in the country, a TV and the elusive match were nowhere to be found. Apparently, the TV had been removed years ago because fans would sit all day and watch soccer matches and not buy anything. It apparently worked because, surprisingly, there were no Flamengo or Vasco fans in sight anywhere in the area.       

A customer at the market informed us that since the Campeonato Brasileiro had already been won by Fluminense, the Clássico dos Milhões between Rio de Janeiro’s two biggest teams was just not as important this year.

"Poor scheduling," he said disappointingly. Demographics of Brazilian migration to NYC are also changing as more young men are now staying in Brazil as their economy continues to grow, employment options increase, and the allure of an expanding middle class becomes more attractive than working menial jobs in Queens

As we left Rio Market disappointed and about to admit defeat, we walked by a seemingly nondescript pizza place, Joe’s, with no one inside except for two employees and a TV showing the Clássico dos Milhões. 

The match was sparsely attended in Rio but still featured the creativity, skill, improvisation, flair, and comical absence of tactical defending that often characterizes the Brazilian game. Vasco went up 1-0, but Flamengo equalized through a somewhat fortuitous Marcos Gonzales shoulder in the box in the dying minutes.

After the match ended, we drowned the sorrows of our fruitless search for Clássico dos Milhões fans in Astoria in the most delicious way possible: by-the-pound churrasco buffet and açaí juice from Copacabana Grill.

Who would have thought it would be so hard to find Brazilian soccer fans watching one of Brazilian soccer’s biggest matches in the largest Brazilian community in NYC?