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Fluminense |© Fotos Flu/Flickr
Fluminense |© Fotos Flu/Flickr

An Introduction to Rio de Janeiro's Four Rival Soccer Teams

Picture of Sarah Brown
Updated: 10 March 2017

Brazil’s oft-cited devotion to soccer rings true when it’s match day in Rio and the streets fill with a sea of fans declaring their allegiance by the colours of their shirts. The Campeonato Carioca (Carioca Cup) is the most important state championship, its history marked by the rivalries of four of Rio’s largest teams.


This team’s colors are easily identified by the striking contrast of maroon, green and white, earning the team its nickname of tricolor carioca. Founded in 1902, it has a notable history of success with 31 wins at state championships and four wins at Brazil championships to add to its impressive CV. Fluminense has a well-recorded rivalry with Flamengo – another large team in Rio – which dates back to 1912 when members of the Fluminense team abandoned their club following a dispute with management, thus creating the foundations of the new Flamengo football team. Games between these two soccer giants are known as Fla-Flu matches.


The team Botafogo de Futebol e Resgatas (more commonly known as Botafogo) is based in the neighbourhood of the same name and was originally founded as a rowing club, as was Vasco and Flamengo. It was only later that Botafogo developed its soccer team. Members are easily identified by their black and white colours and distinctive dog mascot, always present in large flag format at the Botafogo matches. It later acquired another symbol of a boy urinating that represents the landmark Manneken Pis in Brussels. Manuel Francisco dos Santos, known as Garrincha, used to play for Botafogo for 12 years. Despite his death in 1983, he is still regarded as one of the best Brazilian soccer players, notably for his dribbling skills that are considered some of the best in the world.


Vasco’s full name is Clube de Regatas Vasco da Gama and was founded originally as a rowing club before later building its soccer team. It has an impressive success rate with 22 wins at state championship and four wins at Brazilian championships. The team’s colours are black and white, as with Botafogo, but the mascot of Vasco – a red and white admiral ship that represents the Portuguese helmsman Vasco da Gama – clearly distinguishes it from rivals. In terms of fans, Vasco is the second largest team in Rio de Janeiro.


As the largest soccer team in Rio de Janeiro in terms of fan numbers, it is also the largest supported team in Brazil with approximately 40 million supporters, followed by the Corinthians from Sao Paulo in second place. Clube de Regatas de Flamengo – otherwise known as Flamengo – originally started as a rowing club until members of the Fluminense team broke away after a dispute and started Flamengo’s new soccer team. The team’s colours are red and black with a vulture as a mascot and the boastful slogan of O Mais Querido do Brasil (the most beloved in Brazil). It is one of the most successful clubs in Brazil having won five Brazilian championships, 32 state championships, three Copa do Brasil and one interclub World Championship.