Skip to main content

Corinthians: Craziest fans in the world?

By James Montague, CNN
updated 1:13 PM EST, Fri December 14, 2012
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
FĂștbol y economĂ­a

"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
CNN Football Club
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
Dutch football team head coach Louis van Gaal (L) and Dutch's assistant coach Patrick Kluivert (R) look on before a friendly football match between Belgium and Netherlands in Brussels on August 15, 2012.
Should the Manchester United board have insisted upon a more radical overhaul of the club's football operation when Alex Ferguson stepped down?
updated 9:26 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Sunday Oliseh plays for NIgeria at the 1998 World Cup in France.
When Sunday Oliseh was a young boy, he never dreamed he would one day carry the hopes of 170 million people on football's biggest stage.
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
The 1989 Hillsborough stadium tragedy, which claimed 96 lives, brought the red and the blue halves of Liverpool together.
CNN's Don Riddell says the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has caused irreparable damage to the families of the 96 victims and the survivors.
updated 8:44 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
The Champions league trophy stands on show during the draw for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions league at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on March 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO/FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two European heavyweights will collide in the Champions League semifinals after Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were drawn together in Switzerland.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
West Bromwich Albion's French striker Nicolas Anelka looks on during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, central England, on January 1, 2014.
England prides itself on being the home of football, but is the nation dysfunctional in dealing with racist abuse?
updated 9:39 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
In a city where football is a religion, Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge is fast becoming a deity.
updated 10:55 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
"Everyone is scared about war -- they are very nervous," former Ukraine football star Oleg Luzhny says of the rising tensions with Russia.
updated 1:07 PM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Bayern Munich's present success rests on one key decision, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge tells CNN.
updated 4:22 AM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
Neymar
"More than a Club." It is an image Barcelona has carefully cultivated, but could the controversial deal to sign Neymar sour that view?
updated 1:25 PM EST, Sat February 1, 2014
Affectionately known as "the wise man of Hortaleza," Luis Aragones -- who died aged 75 -- left the legacy of helping Spain's ascension to the top.
ADVERTISEMENT