We’re on tour for 3 weeks in South America with a combined Easton Cowboys/Cowgirls & Republica IFC team, heading via São Paulo, Brazil, to Jesús María, Argentina.

Autonomos, Cowboys, Cowgirls & Republica combined into mixed friendly teams

Three or four years ago our friends from Bristol, the legendary Easton Cowboys & Cowgirls FC, made internet contact with a Brazilian anarchist football collective, Autonomos FC from Sao Paulo, and took a team to Brazil on tour over there  in May 2009.  In summer 2010, these ballsy Brazilian punks  accepted our invitation to come to our very own ‘Yorkshire’s Alternative World Cup’, and finally, in 2012, some of us are now able to accept their reciprocal invitation. We’ve formed a joint team under the Cowboys/Cowgirls banner, and Sao Paulo is the first footballing stop on the way to a tournament in Argentina (which you’ll hear more about next week).

We arrived in Sao Paulo late last night, into the middle of a fund-raising  gig organised by the Autonomos at their self-funded social centre ‘Casa Mafalda’. This would be our HQ for the weekend, with mattresses piled up in adjoining rooms for us to crash out on after the gig. It’s an oasis of alternative culture in the Lapa district of this immense concrete jungle. Quite a contrast from the tropical beaches we’ve been holidaying on for the last few days, but brilliant hospitality from the Autonomos.

The late, great Socrates, an important icon for Autonomos FC

At noon today, we were off to an informal mixed football tournament on a dirt pitch a couple of miles away. We managed about an enjoyable hour of friendly football before the skies opened and the mother of all storms was unleashed. Or so it seemed to us, but apparently this is nothing too unusual here, even though the pitch was soon semi-submerged.

By mid-afternoon, we were drinking some post-game beers at a bar next to the pitch when another team arrived, some of them friends of the Autonomos, trying to recruit a few more players for a friendly match, they said. The only volunteers were Claire and I, as everyone else was already organising lifts back to HQ. We thought that we were about to carry on playing some sort of informal match amongst friends, but little did we know what we’d let ourselves in for – quite a serious 11-a-side pre-season friendly between two competitive amateur  league rivals. Our opposition, Uniao Marechal FC, were a young, skilful outfit with four substitutes available. We, playing for the veteran XI of Lado B (it means “B- side”, as in the B-side of a single, rather than a football club) had just 10 players in total. And did the opposition lend us a player to make up the numbers, as you might expect for a friendly? Did they f*ck.

The pitch had largely drained, apart from the odd few remaining lakes and ponds, notably in the two goalmouths, where the mosquitoes were already settling in to raise their new families. ‘In Brazil,’ Danilo from the Autonomos  explained, ‘the rich can afford to play on Astroturf, or sometimes even grass if they play at a high level. We have to make do with this dirt, and when it rains we play in this sludge. If you fall down,  please don’t swallow anything – the drains always overflow here.’

When I fall down,’ I corrected him – Claire and I had only brought Astros, but had already noticed that most of these players sported moulded studs.

Like the water, the opposition came at us in waves from the start, but we kept a tight 4-4-1 formation, giving them few clear chances. The ball boggled on the uneven surface or got stuck in the mud; they shot over the bar several times, and our keeper performed heroics in the mud. Soon he was covered head-to-foot in the chocolate-coloured sludge.

Up front for us was Claire; a breakaway attack, a quick one-two and she slotted us firmly into a 1-0 lead against the run of play after 25 minutes. The opposition were visibly shocked, and we held the lead for at least 10 minutes. Even after they equalised with a cross-shot, I myself could and should have put us back in front again, sneaking up at the far-post to meet a free-kick. I just couldn’t force the ball through the sticky swamp of the goalmouth and their keeper gratefully smothered it.

At half-time, our chocolate-coated goalie was still keeping our spirits up at 1-1

At half-time, the opposition must have thought they had spotted a weakness in the oldest player on the pitch, the left back…. i.e. your humble correspondent himself. They brought on their young substitutes and the extra player always seemed to be overlapping on my side. The waves were now a tsunami. They ran me into the ground, and then they just kept on running. I think at least four of the seven goals they scored in the second half came down my side of the field.

We had chances too, and Claire could have scored again from one of several good breakaway moves as  the game stretched out, but, after what seemed like a hundred and ninety minutes, it finished 8-1.  I’d always dreamed of playing a match in Brazil. But when you imagine yourself in your nightmares, thrust into a scenario you have no ability to control, taking an exam in a subject you know nothing about, having to fly a plane with no idea how… well that’s how this match felt at the time. To cap everything, I think I was actually starting to come down with a stomach bug during the afternoon, but I say ‘at the time’, because of course looking back now I’m just glad I had the chance to play in the match and to have another story to tell … so  BIG THANK YOU TO ALEX & THE LADO B LADS!

So I’m afraid it looks like I’ll have to rule myself out of most of tonight’s partying, and I’ll be sitting on the sidelines during the 5-a-side games that have been arranged for us tomorrow. Not due to the humiliation or the exhaustion, you understand – just those stomach issues, which only surfaced just before kick off !

But would I like another caipirinha, did you say? Oh, go on, after all it it’s only about 45% proof, and the vitamin C in those limes might just do me good. Just one more, then…



mmm, yes please
  1. alex says:

    It’s great to remember that day on the submerged pitch! You and Claire were so brave to join that extra match when i’ve invited you…. I didn’t expect that it would be such a great adventure! It was a pleasure to wear the same uniform and fight against those young “devils” on that fateful day. Lol. Hope I can see you guys in Bristol next summer. Cheers!

    • nige says:

      Great to hear from you Alex – thanks again for the chance to play in your local derby match – we’ll never forget it! We really hope you can make it to Bristol this summer. Forza Lado B!

  2. Hello man!

    I’m Fernando Toro, the one who you presented a Liverpool shirt, just before the penalty kicks that decided the CAA 2012. So, i’m very interested in the 30 minute YAWC 2010 video! I’ll be in Bristol next august for the Cup – for sure! Can i buy it there?

    Thanks and cheers!

    • nige says:

      Hi Fernando,

      It’s great to hear from you. I’ll ask Claire(Blue) to send you a copy of that DVD & something we filmed at the CAA as well. You don’t have to pay!

      See you in Bristol!


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