Why should I visit São Paulo? And why should I go to a football match?
When the subject is visiting Brazil, the sprawling megacity of São Paulo is often, amazingly and disappointingly, overlooked. Despite being the largest city in the southern hemisphere, I remember thumbing through a mid-2000s edition of Lonely Planet’s guide to Brazil and being shocked that São Paulo warranted a mere 20 pages of information. On the back cover of said book, it cheekily claimed that the edition included “50% more coverage of São Paulo”.
The city is often labelled as being ugly, stuffy, a concrete jungle and no fun for tourists. These labels are wrong, wrong, wrong and most certainly wrong. Because of its sheer size, São Paulo has everything. If you like to have fun, São Paulo is paradise. An edgier London, a tropical New York. Too often, people listen to the opinions of business travellers whose only interaction with the city is from inside a taxi or hotel. In my opinion, no visit to the massive, continent-sized country of Brazil is complete without at least a few days in São Paulo.
Where does football come in to all of this? It is often said that the best way to understand a city is to go and watch a game of football. You could argue that nowhere is this truer than in São Paulo. The city’s football culture is incredibly rich, with a population big enough to support three gigantic clubs in Corinthians, Palmeiras and São Paulo FC.
Paulistanos’ attitude towards the sport is reflective of their attitude towards life. Passionate and serious. Football in São Paulo is not a party, instead it’s a thrilling mix of tension, pounding drums, hypnotic chants and pure emotion. To understand São Paulo, you must first experience its football culture. And that’s where I come in. I’ll guide you through your São Paulo football experience, taking care of all of the boring (and often mind-numbingly complicated) parts. Interested? Read on.
Who am I?
My name is Euan, I’m a journalist from Glasgow, Scotland, and I’ve been living in São Paulo since 2011. As such, I’ve got a detailed knowledge of the city and its football culture. I speak English and fluent Portuguese, so tours will be conducted in either of these languages. You can follow me on Twitter @euanmarshall.
Before we go any further, how much does it cost?
Approximately US$100 (£75) per person.
The price of each São Paulo football tour will be negotiated separately, as ticket prices in Brazil vary wildly from ground-to-ground and game-to-game. For example, a crucial Palmeiras vs Corinthians match at the brand-new Allianz Parque is going to be pricey, while an early afternoon lower-league game at Juventus is going to cost considerably less.
The agreed price includes your match ticket and transport to and from the ground*, as well as paying for my ticket with a small fee added on the top.
The price does not include food or drink, but I’ll be more than happy to meet you for a beer/coffee/bite to eat before or after the match.
*- Due to some late evening kickoffs ending after public transport has closed (don’t ask me why), transport back from the ground may be restricted to taxi/Uber journeys. For these games, taxi fare may be included in the tour price, or left up to you. All of this will be explained and agreed upon beforehand.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
What does the São Paulo football tour include?
- I’ll pick you up from your hotel or the location of your choice in the city. Bear in mind that São Paulo is huge — I live centrally so can reach most neighbourhoods, but depending on time we may have to meet halfway!
- Transport to and from the ground.
- Entry to the match.
- Answers to any questions you may have about football, Brazil, São Paulo, the match, the players, the fans …
- If tours aren’t your thing and you’d like to go it alone, feel free to get in touch and I’ll advise you on where to go, who to see and how to get tickets. I’m always available for a beer/coffee if you’re looking for tips about the city or a chat about football. Furthermore, I can also purchase your match tickets for you for a small fee.
Why should I be interested?
I handle all the boring stuff – Getting to stadiums and buying tickets can be a nightmare for even the most seasoned of Brazilian stadium-goers, never mind tourists that don’t speak the language. I take care of all of this for you. All you need to do is turn up and have a great time.
I give you the context. As an expert on Brazilian football, I can give you a background on the teams playing, which players to watch out for and what the fans are singing. I’ll answer any question you can throw at me, from the deepest philosophical musings on Brazilian culture, to the most straightforward questions about the rules of the game (who’s that guy with the whistle and why does everyone hate him?). I love Brazilian football almost as much as I love talking about it.
You get the real experience. Too often, football tours are over sanitised, with special buses and tour guides that may well speak five different languages, but don’t know much about the local football culture. With me, you’ll travel to the game with the fans, drink with the fans, enter the stadium with the fans and watch the match with the fans. This is the Real McCoy, accept no imitations etc.
I’ll keep you safe. For your average punter, going to football matches in Brazil is largely as safe as it is anywhere else in the world, but it never hurts to have your wits about you. I know the streets to avoid before and after the match, as well as the best places to sit inside the stadium. What’s more, I’ll tell you what you can and cannot bring with you to the ground so you don’t get caught out.
Don’t take my word for it…
If you love football, you simply can’t visit Brazil without getting to a game. Like many things in Brazil, that process is complicated but totally worth it. Trying to organize it yourself is a headache but Euan and his team take out the pain and allowed us to focus on enjoying the match, the culture and the atmosphere. A truly unforgettable experience.
We made it as challenging as possible for them by bringing a diverse range of foreign business people to São Paulo and asking them to plan a match. Somehow they got us to an amazing Corinthians game, taking care of the travel logistics, tickets and our safety. Can’t recommend these guys enough for what is an unmissable São Paulo experience.
– Harvey Millar, UK. Corinthians 2-1 Fluminense, 15/04/2018.
Even if you can get the tickets on your own—and you’ll have a heck of a time trying—call Euan. A Brazilian football match without him would have been like watching a movie with a blindfold on. He is an ace sports reporter with a passion for the game and for Brazil. He not only helped me navigate the bureaucracy of purchasing tickets with ease, he also gave the match beautiful context. His tour was my favorite experience during my time in São Paulo. I highly recommend him.
– Alia Orra, USA. Corinthians 3-0 São Bernardo, 16/02/2022.
How do I get in touch?
Drop me an email at email@example.com and we can go over your match options. Put “São Paulo Football Tours” in the subject line to make sure I see it right away.
Santos – Though they are technically a São Paulo club, Santos is located in a different city altogether, 50 miles from São Paulo and on the Paulista coast. Logistically, tours to watch Santos home games are far more difficult and expensive. They are not impossible though, so if you have your heart set on a trip to Santos, give me plenty of advance notice and I’ll see what I can do.
Derbies & other high-demand games – For derby matches or important cup games, tickets can be hard to come by and impossible to guarantee. For that reason, when planning a tour to one of these high-demand matches, I don’t take any payment until I have the match tickets in hand.
Away fans – As a general rule, tickets will only be bought for the sections where the home fans sit. This is for a number of reasons: away tickets are hard to get and often involve dealing with shady organised fan groups; the away fan experience is very different in Brazil, police will treat you differently and you will be shepherded in and out of the ground by riot squads; away fans generally have awful and uncomfortable views of the pitch. Trust me, it’s a lot more hassle than it’s worth.
Group size – I’m able to take groups of up to four people, in order to ensure safety and give everyone the best matchday experience. For bigger groups, I’ll bring along another guide, which will alter the cost of the tour. Children welcome!
Disabilities/special needs – Regrettably, large parts of São Paulo are not very accessible for wheelchair users or anyone with walking impairments. Many of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods are hilly and full of irregular pavements. Thankfully however, the city’s two new football stadiums (Allianz Parque and Arena Corinthians) are sufficiently accessible and have structures in place to cater for disabled punters. Most public transport is also wheelchair-friendly.
Advance booking – Expressing interest in advance is preferable, whenever possible. However, as the state and national football federations often announce fixtures, kick-off times and venues at fairly short notice, tours can only be properly finalised one or two weeks before the match. Either way, if you know when you will be in São Paulo and you are interested in going on a football tour, get in touch as early as possible and I’ll take care of the rest.
Updated: 16 February, 2022
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit Brazil hard, and it took its toll on football. Stadiums are now allowing fans back inside grounds, though this could change at a moment’s notice.
Be aware that masks are mandatory in São Paulo, inside and outside of football stadiums. Furthermore, to gain entry, you will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.
I am thrice vaccinated against Covid-19, and during tours we will be abiding by all coronavirus measures laid down by the São Paulo state government.