Anyone that knows me will be fully aware that I am fanatical about Grêmio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense! After winning the Copa Libertadores (the Champions League for South American clubs) for the third time in our history in 2017, we were automatically entered into the FIFA Club World Cup being held in Abu Dhabi. There was really no choice but to travel and follow my passion…
This was a unique opportunity to celebrate the Copa Libertadores win (pictured above) with other Grêmio fans from all around the world and despite travelling there by myself, I was sure that I would meet and be welcomed by other members of the Grêmio world wide ‘family’. We would also be able to see first hand the players and management team behind the club, and staying at the same hotel as them in Abu Dhabi certainly helped to do just that (below).
I was also there representing Scotland as the Grêmio ‘consul’ (representative) in the country and it was amazing to meet and greet consuls from England, USA, Canada, China, Australia and beyond, covering all continents, there to support the club we all love. During our stay in Abu Dhabi, we met with the management of the club who outlined their ambitions for the future from 2018 and beyond.
This event was led by club President, Romildo Bolzan Jr (pictured below with me), and he also encouraged us to bring forward ideas on how to improve the interaction of the club with fans worldwide.
This meeting in Abu Dhabi was in effect the first global Grêmio ‘consuls’ forum meeting and was reported in the club website (in Portuguese) – click here for link.
The club and its fans are known for believing in the impossible, for being ‘imortal’ and this is probably best exemplified by our return from the Brazilian League Serie B (2nd division) in 2005 when we won the final match 1×0 to become champions and return to Serie A, despite having 7 players on the pitch and a penalty against us in 37th minute of the 2nd half (match was 0x0 at that stage). A draw or a loss would have been enough to have kept us in Serie B for another year and the almost impossible win ultimately became known as the ‘Batalha dos Aflitos‘.
The atmosphere with the Grêmio fans was electric and there was a real feeling that this could be our day despite all of the odds stacked against us, which is nothing unusual for Grêmio.
At the hotel, whilst waiting and celebrating the game to come later that day, we even managed to convince some local expats from the UK and USA to ‘convert’ to supporting the club and attend the match with us. Grêmio fans generously donated their own Grêmio football tops for them to wear and I don’t think they really knew what had hit them!
We were all very aware that in Real Madrid we would be playing against a team of ‘galacticos’ assembled for far more than our own team, Cristiano Ronaldo alone being worth more than our entire team.
The remote possibility of winning the final of the FIFA Club World Cup was a dream fuelled by hope.
However, the final came at a time when we were probably at our limit, hitting us at the final stretch of a long season and hindered by having lost some key players in striker Pedro Rocha (sold to a club in Russia) and much coveted midfielder Arthur (injured in the Copa Libertadores final after 50mins and still voted man of the match). Despite that, we still believed in the dream, led by our manager, best ever player and club legend Renato Gaucho (below).
The game itself was a difficult one and Real Madrid quickly imposed themselves. We managed to frustrate the Spanish team, with defenders Walter Kannemann (below), Pedro Geromel and keeper Marcelo Grohe in particular all playing extremely well in defence.
But unfortunately we gave away possession too eagerly and missed the controlling influence of Arthur in the middle of the park. Aside from an Edilson free kick, we lacked any real opportunities at goal in a first half that ended 0 x 0.
Early in the 2nd half the inevitable took place and Cristiano Ronaldo scored from a free kick that went through our wall. The real ‘what if’ moment came moments before this goal when Ramiro from Grêmio seem to have been pushed in the box by Sergio Ramos, but the referee disregarded it and did not even use the VAR system to check what the Grêmio players felt was a clear penalty. In an alternative reality, perhaps this could have been a goal for us and the impetus to win the watch. In reality, life as it seems to be so often the case, played a cruel trick on us with the goal for Real Madrid immediately afterwards.
Marca TV (Spanish) captures the penalty claim – click here for video. Or alternatively see the video below and make up your own mind on the controversial incident:
In the end the local crowd supporting Real Madrid got what they wanted, another title for the Spanish club. Locals seemed interested in our club and history, however no Grêmio football tops were available for sale there, something that the club and our shirt sponsors (Umbro) need to look at in order to make the club more accessible internationally.
After the game was over, we were all left with the taste of wanting more and assuming we can maintain at least some of our base of players and our manager going into 2018 – which is unusual in Brazilian football – then there is hope for more success after the recent winning cycle for the club, following the Brazilian Cup in 2016 and Copa Libertadores in 2017.
Hopefully we will not have to wait another 22 years before winning the Copa Libertadores again and returning once more to the world stage at the FIFA Club World Cup…but the sense of pride remains for all that has been achieved!