When Julia and I were planning our Brazil trip, we turned for advice to our friend Will. Will was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and was a tremendous source in helping us with planning our trip. Upon learning that we were going to visit his homeland, Will offered us to stay for free at his father’s apartment in Rio. His father, as luck would have it, was planning a visit to Chicago to see Will at the same exact time we were going to Brazil. We couldn’t believe our luck and gladly accepted the generous offer. Will’s cousin who lived nearby was tasked with meeting us and handing the keys to the apartment. We started our Brazilian trip in Sao Paolo, spent a couple of days there, and finally arrived in Rio. After taking a cab to the apartment building and introducing ourselves to the doorman, we were asked to wait. Ten minutes later, Will’s cousin appeared all smiling and waving to us. She was accompanied by her husband, a slim, tanned Brazilian, who was carrying a bulky bag. This charming Brazilian couple in their late 30-s with infectious smiles kissed us on both cheeks and cheerily gave us a tour of the apartment, chatting in a mix of Portuguese and English. Pictures of teenage Will adorned the walls and shelves, and it was strange to see a 6’4" well-built man as a scrawny teenager. The tour of the apartment finished on the balcony that provided stunning views of the city. The day was unbelievably hot, the temperature climbing well into 100 degrees. As we were thanking Will’s relatives for taking time from their busy day to take care of us, Will’s cousin’s husband opened his bag, retrieved a nice black jacket and handed it to me.
“What is it?" I asked perplexed.
“This is your welcoming gift,” he said. “This is a jacket of Flamengo. Flamengo is one of the four futbol teams in Rio, and the club I root for.”
I took a closer look, and the jacket was absolutely beautiful: a double-sided, black on the outside and white on the inside with an elaborate club emblem of interlocked letters C, F, and R, standing for Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (an official name of the club and a reminder that the club was initially established as a rowing club). The jacket was for cooler days, not for 100-degree weather.
As I was holding the jacket, I could not believe the generosity of this Brazilian stranger. On some level, I even felt uncomfortable. Not only we are getting a free apartment for 5 days in Rio, but we are also getting showered with such cool gifts. Will’s cousin and her husband urged me to try the present on. Although standing on the balcony in 100-degree heat and profusely sweating through my shorts and T-shirt, I could not say no. I put the jacket on and, oh my God, it fit me perfectly. Will’s relative kept smiling and then jokingly said that I was one of them now. He complimented the jacket and insisted we take a picture. Standing on the balcony with me dressed in a warm Flamengo jacket, we hugged like old friends and posed. His wife snapped multiple pictures of us grinning into the camera and handed the phone back to her husband. He checked the pictures, satisfactorily nodded, and wished us a wonderful time in Brazil.
Julia and I then went to explore Rio, and every day, we would see someone wearing Flamengo’s black-red-white colors. I would then excitedly point to Julia that I root for the same team in Brazil as these random strangers. I also went on Wikipedia and read about the storied history of the team.
We had a blast in Brazil and enjoyed our two-week stay there. The time bomb was waiting for us when we came back to Chicago. Upon returning, we visited Will and his family to tell him about our trip and to thank him for the apartment.
As we were telling our Brazilian stories to Will and his wife, Will looked me straight in the eye, deeply sighed, and said:
“Victor, Flamengo’s fans are scum, and the club is shit. My cousin’s husband and I have been on opposing sides of this turf war since the beginning. He gave you the jacket just to troll me! He’s been sending me a picture of you in that damn jacket every day!”
Julia burst out laughing and I was momentarily taken back. However, I quickly regained my composure.
“Will, I am sorry, but you now offend my feelings as a new Flamengo fan. I am a fan for life now. Flamengo ‘Till I Die.”
Everyone including Will laughed at this unexpected bravado.
Will’s wife later filled us in. She told us that once Will’s cousin’s husband took that picture with me dressed in Flamengo colors, he immediately sent the picture to Will and accompanied it with multiple emojis of a middle finger and a laughing face. Will, who supports Vasco da Gama, one of the other four clubs in Rio and archrival of Flamengo, got super upset and was hysterical, running around the apartment, yelling and screaming profanities in both English and Portuguese, cursing his sneaky relative who recruited me as a supporter of the despicable Flamengo team.
Every time now we see Will, I make sure to check on Flamengo news and scores ahead of time just in case he decides to talk futbol. For some reason, he never does…