Why should I visit São Paulo? And why should I go to a football match?
When the subject is visiting Brazil, the city of São Paulo is often, amazingly and disappointingly, overlooked. Despite being the largest city in the southern hemisphere, I always remember thumbing through a mid-2000s edition of Lonely Planet’s guide to Brazil and being shocked that São Paulo only deserved 20 pages of information. On the back cover of said book, it claimed that this 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. Think New York, but cooler. 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. 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.
Paulista’s attitude towards the sport is reflective of their attitude towards life. Passionate and serious. Football in São Paulo is not a party, instead 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 complicated) things. Interested? Read on.
Who am I?
My name is Euan, I’m a freelance sports journalist and exiled Scotsman. I’ve been living in São Paulo for five years and as such have 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.
So how much does it cost?
Approximately US$75 (£50) per person, including transport and match tickets.
The price of each 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 (though I’m more than happy to take you to 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 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 tour include?
- I’ll pick you up from your hotel or the location of your choice (providing it is actually in São Paulo)
- 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.
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 sanitized, with special buses and tour guides that may well speak five different languages, but don’t know much about the local football culture. Here, we 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.
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.
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 the coast, 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 booked 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.