Back in the days before satellite television and the internet, football shirts from international clubs had an awesome paranormal quality to them, especially when they closely resembled the colours of our own clubs.
Purchased from a stall on Romford Market rather than the Maracana in Rio, this Flamengo shirt holds a cherished place in Sartorial Soccer’s maximum security vault (ok, carrier bag under the bed).
Those red and black hoops stood out like a beacon amongst the standard West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United replica shirts available in deepest, darkest Essex.
To these adolescent eyes, those Dennis the Menace style black and red hoops seemed twinned to the QPR away kits of the 1980s, albeit with an entirely unfamiliar sponsor in Lubrax (the Brazilian equivalent of Castrol GTX), and a completely indecipherable monogram on the right side of the chest.
For just £10, the scarlet & black shirt represented an early 1990s bargain and a smart alternative to wear on trips to Loftus Road and whilst I probably couldn’t have told you the difference between Flamengo and the Flamenco, I knew I had to have that shirt.
Nowadays, anybody with a search engine and a copy of Football Manager can feign an expert knowledge in world football, but prior to the dawn of the internet and dedicated sports channels, the ability for UK football fans to follow international leagues was vastly diminished.
In the early-1990s, there was no such thing as Twitter or YouTube for fans to see match highlights and connect with supporters on the other side of Planet Football.
Instead, it took serious dedication and an eye for the extraordinary to gain an education in the global game.
All we had to create little legends in our minds and feed our fascination for the global game between World Cups, were Keir Radnedge’s columns in publications like Shoot! and World Soccer, and if we were really, really lucky, brief glimpses of the exotic colour and vibrancy of South American football shown through Channel 4’s Transworld Sport.
It was only in later years that the significance of the Rubro-Negro (the scarlet and black) as Brazil’s most beloved club side kicked in.
Founded in 1895 as a rowing club from the Flamengo district of Rio de Janeiro, the multi-discipline sport institution we know today as Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, didn’t kick a ball until 1912.
Since then Flamengo have won 5 national Brasileirão championships, 3 Copa do Brasil crowns, 1 Copa de Libertadores and an Intercontinental Cup title as well as dozens of Rio state championships.
There is a saying in Brazil;
“Everyone is born a Flamengo fan, but some degenerate along the way.”
Those red and black hoops are reckoned to have a global following of 40 million supporters which would place a Flamengo nation between Iraq and Poland on a list of the world’s most populous countries.
By the time Flamengo wore these Adidas shirts between 1990 and 1992, the great Zico had moved on to start his love affair with Japanese football at Kashima Antlers, leaving Junior as the star of the side.
These jerseys coincided with Mengão’s fourth Brasileirão title in 1992, and whilst the days of this writer fitting into this beautiful shirt may have long since passed, the colours of Brazil’s most popular club still have a magnetic hold on us.
Like so many football supporters across the world, we were terribly saddened to learn of the tragic fire that claimed the lives of so many promising young Flamengo players in February.
This post is our small tribute to the 10 talented young men who died, and is dedicated to those who mourn their loss.
May heaven receive them with open arms.