Bouncing Brazilians & Mancs in Montevideo
Sunday meant a Gremio away game in Novo Hamburgo, an hour north of Porto Alegre.
It was in the Gaucho tournament, played by all the major clubs of Rio Grande do Sul and 7,000 away fans flooded into town, then paid eight quid for a ticket before taking over three sides of the 9,000 capacity ground.
Then they sang non-stop for two hours, bouncing up and down. I love the enthusiasm and passion of the Brazilian fans, but they must have been more knackered than the players.
Another 500 didnÃ¢ÂÂt buy tickets, but stood instead in the nearby streets, drinking beer and buying meat from impromptu BBQs. And chanting Gremio. A line of police on horseback made sure they didnÃ¢ÂÂt overwhelm the small stadium.
"You're supposed to be at home..."
Gremio won 5-1 against their opponents who had no less than five shirt sponsors. Word went round that their rivals Inter were about to sell their best player Alex (who came on for Kaka to make his Brazil debut in October) "to England."
Ã¢ÂÂWhere in England?Ã¢ÂÂ I asked a nearby fan.
Ã¢ÂÂEngland.Ã¢ÂÂFrom Brazil we left the airport where Robinho was on the front cover of the respected Veja news magazine for his off-field exploits under the headline "Why doesnÃ¢ÂÂt he grow up?" and headed south to Montevideo, Uruguay.
After hiring a car which the Flintstones would have turned their noses up, we drove two hours east to Punta Del Este Ã¢ÂÂ the Ibiza of South America at the edge of the River Plate.
Argentinian money (and a fair few corrupt European politicians who fled rather than face charges) helped Punta prosper, so I was surprised to hear a northern English accent as we settled down in a bar at sunset.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs AlrightÃ¢ÂÂ by Sterling Void was playing and life was close to perfect. Then my curiosity got the better of me.
Ã¢ÂÂExcuse me, where are you from?Ã¢ÂÂ I asked the lad with the northern twang.
Ã¢ÂÂOldham, but I live over here. You?Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂManchester,Ã¢ÂÂ I replied.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm a blue. YouÃ¢ÂÂre not a United w**ker are you?Ã¢ÂÂ
That was it. I politely inquired where he was from and he asked me if I was a United w**ker. I could think of many who would have sparked him out there and then, but their middle name isnÃ¢ÂÂt Boutros Boutros-Ghali like mine.
I thought about saying: Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not into football, but if you need any hints on carp fishing IÃ¢ÂÂm your man. ThereÃ¢ÂÂs a good bait shop near Boundary Park as it happens.Ã¢ÂÂ
Instead I said: Ã¢ÂÂYes, I support United.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂOh f**k off,Ã¢ÂÂ he replied, with genuine anger. It was my time to be a smartarse.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve just got back from watching them in Tokyo.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂWhy, what happened there?Ã¢ÂÂ
An imaginary drum roll rippled through my head. A sell out Free Trade Hall awaited.
Ã¢ÂÂYou know, when United were crowned world champions.Ã¢ÂÂ
He didnÃ¢ÂÂt want to hear any more.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve not seen the papers for a few weeks,Ã¢ÂÂ I lied. Ã¢ÂÂDid Kaka join City? I mean, you could see why he wanted to swap Maldini for Richard Dunne.Ã¢ÂÂ
Richard Dunne almost had Kaka fooled... almost
With that he was off. And the sun had finally set.