"Chaos before the Grêmio v Internacional game in Brazil - The home fixture", by Luke Simmons
My wife is from Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) which has around 11 million passionate football fans who are mad about either Grêmio or Internacional. In case you do not know, Grêmio is where Ronaldinho got his initial break.
While I was living there in the state's capital (Porto Alegre), I got a ticket to the "Grenal" which is the name given to the fiercely contested derby match.
The day arrived and I had been instructed by my Brazilian friend (Leandro) to head to a popular meeting spot near the ground so we could "prepare" with some beers.
When I arrived, the temperature had already hit 30 degrees and the whole area was absolutely packed with the cars moving through at snails pace.
As the beers took effect, I even started to get used to the policemen walking by with their full riot gear carrying shotguns - locked and loaded full of deafness inducing blanks.
I noticed some commotion on the road and, through the sea of blue Grêmio shirts, I saw that someone had "stupidly" decided to pass through the crowded thoroughfare in a taxi wearing their distinctively red Internacional shirt.
I don't know whether he flashed his middle finger at the mob - but his taxi got showered in beer bottles almost immediately. And as someone attempted to open the car door to, presumably get a better shot, this attracted the attention of the police who stormed over and started firing off their super loud rounds into the crowd. In terms of crowd dispersion, I'd never seen anything so quick and effective! With the space now clear to pass, the taxi limped on it's way - complete with a very pissed off looking police guard.
And once the dust settled, we quickly reverted back to our pre-game preparation activities. Wow.
"Chaos before the Internacional v Grêmio game in Brazil - The away fixture", by Luke Simmons
A little while later, an opportunity came up to head along to watch Grêmio play a crucial away fixture against Internacional. It sounded like fun...
Once again, I met Leandro near Gremio's home stadium to "prepare" and this is where I learned that we'd be getting a police escort for the 3.5km walk to Internacional's ground. Okay then...
The time came to head to the meeting point where I saw about 20 cops in riot gear who were riding horses that were clad in matching apparel. We knew we were on our way when all of the police moved to their positions which was meant to provide us with protection from the front, back and sides.
"Protection from what", I naively thought to myself.
Without much of a wait, about 500 of us Grêmio supporters pressed forward making our blue-coloured beeline towards the ground through the back streets which was to avoid the Internacional supporters who were also on their pilgrimage to the ground.
I knew we were in their territory due to the abuse that was yelled at us from people on the apartment balconies - which were bursting with banners and flags all matching Internacional's red. It wasn't one-way traffic with our guys returning insults and even dedicating cheeky, one fingered salutes back up.
Our group moved a bit like an accordion at stages as the police leading us had to stop us all to avoid a clash with the groups of chanting Inter' supporters all around us. As we approached the stadium, the crowds had dispersed thanks to an especially created no man's land. And into the packed stadium we went.
"Okay, what happens next?", I thought to myself.
Fans on both sides put my fellow Fulham FC fans to shame as they simply did not stop chanting throughout the game. In fact, not even conceding a goal could make them stop!
Unfortunately my adopted team lost thanks to a late Internacional goal leaving us having to return home with our tails firmly tucked between our legs. It was another amazing experience though.
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