Skip to main content

Corinthians: Craziest fans in the world?

By James Montague, CNN
December 14, 2012 -- Updated 1813 GMT (0213 HKT)
It is estimated 30,000 Corinthians fans are in Japan to support the Brazilian club in the Club World Cup. It is estimated 30,000 Corinthians fans are in Japan to support the Brazilian club in the Club World Cup.
HIDE CAPTION
Jogo bonito
Sao Paulo celebrations
Corinthians fan wall
Ink art
Rousing sendoff
Corinthians procession
Pounding out the beat
24/7 support
Obrigado
European domination
South America vs. Europe
Corinthians star man
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The FIFA Club World Cup is currently taking place in Japan
  • Brazilian side Corinthians will play England's Chelsea in Sunday's final
  • FIFA's six confederation champions fight it out
  • Corinthians have bought with them tens of thousands of fans

Nagoya, Japan (CNN) -- Marcos Nunes swigs from his badly concealed bottle of red wine on a chilly street corner in the Japanese city of Nagoya before deciding the question was something between a joke and an insult.

"Why have we come here?" he asks tetchily before offering his bottle, sloppily wrapped in a blue plastic bag. He is wearing a black and white football shirt.

"Corinthians is like a nation, a religion ... people are borrowing money from banks, from relatives to come here. They are quitting their jobs, selling their bikes, their cars, even their fridges. It's true."

Goal line technology gets rave reviews
Cech's recovery from fractured skull

Sports fans are no strangers to sacrifice in the name of the teams they love and for the fans of Brazilian champions Corinthians no sacrifice is big enough. But forsaking the ability to chill your food is another level entirely.

The current South American champions are in Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, an annual tournament that brings together all six continental champions, including Chelsea, the English winners of this year's European Champions League.

But unlike the other teams, who have brought a few thousand at most, 30,000 Corinthians fans had turned up in Nagoya, bathing the city in black and white, to watch their semifinal clash against the African champions Al-Ahly of Egypt.

Corinthians is like a nation, a religion
Marcos Nunes

"It is natural for us to travel to watch Corinthians," explains Nunes, who unlike his compatriots, has booked his trip as a vacation.

"My boss knows I'm here. But even if he didn't we'd still be here ... If we have to go to Japan OK. If we have to go to Chelsea to play at Stamford Bridge, OK. We'll be 30,000 there."

Unloved

The Club World Cup is little loved by European teams; seen as no more than a mid-season annoyance given the travel involved. But in the rest of the world the tournament is taken very seriously indeed.

Footless footballer to meet Messi
Quick fire: Brazil's football stars

An incredible 15,000 fans turned up at the airport just to see the team off. More than 200,000 Brazilians live in Japan and the Japanese government issued record numbers of visas to Brazilians for the tournament, a sign not just of Brazil's well-known soccer passion, but also its growing global economic and political might.

Brazil will host the next World Cup and the next Olympic Games too. The effect of both can already be felt.

"We were in the second division five years ago," explains Carlos Eduardo Martins, one of several thousand noisy Corinthians fans singing songs on the Nagoya Metro on the way to the match, much to the puzzlement and amusement of the Japanese commuters. He had taken a 25-hour flight via Istanbul to be here.

"The government has given us a stadium, which opens in 2013. The first game of the World Cup will be played there. They sold a lot of advertising on the shirts, we get money from television network Globo for the TV so Corinthians is rising up.

They are crazy for the team and follow the Corinthians all around the world
Carlos Eduardo Martins

"Corinthians has one advantage, the [former] president of Brazil Lula is a fan of Corinthians. So we got a lot. We have poor fans and then very rich men as fans. We have a new organization."

The prodigal son returns

But equally as important was the return of Brazil's prodigal son.

In 2009 Ronaldo returned to Brazil and played for Corinthians. Brazil had always been a net exporter of footballing talent. So much so that FIFA had to change its rules on national team eligibility to prevent countries around the world filling their squads with naturalized Brazilians.

But when the big names started returning home -- the likes of Robinho, Ronaldinho and Elano -- on wages comparable to those in Europe, it sent a message to the rest of the world that Brazil, and Brazilian football, was changing.

Neymar dealing with the pressure
Fútbol y economía

"After he [Ronaldo] came, the club rose a lot," agrees Martins. "Young people started supporting us, even people from other teams. They were supporting Corinthians and Ronaldo. It was a beautiful story for everybody."

Second time lucky

This isn't the first time that Corinthians has appeared in the Club World Cup.

They won the inaugural tournament in 2000 as hosts. But this is the first year they have appeared as South American champions after winning the Copa Libertadores for the first time.

The club's roots can be found thousands of miles away from its native Sao Paulo in a small amateur football club. In 1910 the English club Corinthians traveled to Brazil on a tour to bring football to the masses. The game, and the name, stuck.

"Many teams form Brazil want to win this Cup so it is very important for us," says Martins. "The team is for the poor people. They are crazy for the team and follow the Corinthians all around the world."

Sure enough, the Toyota Stadium in Nagoya is covered in the club's colors. A huge Union flag -- a reminder of the club's British roots, bastardized in black and white -- flies behind one of the goals.

The match is like a home game for Corinthians, who win 1-0 thanks to Paulo Guerrero's goal. However, it's not the best performance with Al-Ahly dominating the second half.

"We were dominating the game in the first half and this was because of the supporters. We had to respond to them," Corinthians coach Tite admitted after the match.

"Thanks to the supporters we were able to show our style."

Corinthians' 12th man proved to be the difference.

"The Europeans don't give the Club World Cup much attention. We are the 12th player for the team and go anywhere they go," said Tony, a native of Sao Paulo, who had only made the relatively short 11-hour trip from London. He didn't have to sell his own fridge either.

"We will definitely win it, Chelsea will go down," he said of Sunday's final, where once again there will thousands of Corinthians fans in the stands.

"We want to win big and win over the champions of Europe."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
While many top European clubs are targeting the U.S. market, French football is setting its sights on expanding into Asia -- with China playing a key role.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Major League Soccer has snared another big name from England with former Chelsea star Frank Lampard committing his future to New York City FC.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
Europe's top clubs have booked a summer holiday to the U.S. -- but this is business not pleasure as they look to cash in on the World Cup afterglow.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Brazil's new coach Dunga won the World Cup as a player in 1994.
Former World Cup-winning captain Dunga is appointed coach of Brazil's national team for the second time, charged with restoring national pride.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez continues Real Madrid's long tradition of signing "Galacticos."
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm has decided to go out at the top by announcing his retirement from international football.
The U.S. government recognizes Kosovo, as do most European states, but getting football's ruling bodies to play ball has proved harder.
June 4, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
National heroes don't always belong to one country. Ask France's World Cup hero Patrick Vieira, who is rediscovering his roots.
CNN's John Sinnott on the quiet Cambridge graduate behind Liverpool's resurgent campaign.
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 1519 GMT (2319 HKT)
They are the dispossessed -- stateless, and unrecognized by football's ruling body. But these teams will still play at their own World Cup.
Louis van Gaal will be a perfect fit for Manchester United the club, business and brand, says CNN's Patrick Snell.
May 19, 2014 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
There's a new force in Spanish football -- and Atletico Madrid's ascendance is sharply contrasted by the fall from power of Barcelona.
ADVERTISEMENT