Sunday, September 03, 2006

Brazil 3-0 Argentina, five pitch invasions and a Kaká wonder goal

As part of the celebrations for Arsenal’s new Emirates Stadium, the two biggest footballing nations (and rivals!) in South America were invited to play a match there and showcase their talents. Many of the stars were listed to appear (though not Ronaldinho, unfortunately), and it promised to be a great match.

I got to the stadium two hours before kick-off and already the atmosphere was very different to a club game. There was far more of a carnival feeling, with a sea of yellow shirted Brazil fans talking and singing loudly and exchanging lots of friendly banter with the much smaller group of Argentina supporters. The fans were not segregated which, despite the teams’ rivalries, made it seem more like a match between friends.

When the teams were announced and the national anthems started playing the banter stopped temporarily, but Brazil dominated the early exchanges and when they scored the first goal there were loud celebrations and exuberant dancing all round. Midway through the second half, with Brazil two-nil up and in control, a supporter draped in a national flag decided to liven up proceedings by running on to the pitch. He went to hug one of the players, and what followed was a comedy chase round the ground as he tried to evade the guards. He was quite agile, and the crowd cheered every time he managed to escape from the pursuants. Seeing the guards preoccupied, another fella decided to join the first on the pitch, which caused even more chaos. Play resumed a few minutes later, but at the next stop another two fans tried their luck, and in total there were five pitch invasions. When one of them was wrestled to the ground I thought he might need first aid, but he wasn’t hurt and we had little to do throughout the match.

By that time the crowd were becoming restless, but that was all forgotten when Kaká scored a wonder goal. Running the length of the pitch, he escaped from three defenders before slotting in a shot past the keeper. What a goal.

All in all, a fun day.