By Santiago Carbone and Concepcion M. Moreno
Montevideo, Nov 26 (EFE).- After a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile), 48-hour car journey from Rio de Janeiro, Clever arrived in Uruguay’s capital to attend the Copa Libertadores final between Brazilian clubs Palmeiras and Flamengo.
A supporter of “Mengao,” he is one of many fans responsible for turning Montevideo’s streets, markets and eateries into a veritable sea of red and black (Flamengo) and green and white (Palmeiras).
Clever is among many visitors who made their way to Mercado del Puerto, a major tourist attraction known for its grilled meats and privileged location in the Ciudad Vieja, the capital’s historical district.
The old town has no shortage of beer, although before choosing their beverage all visitors are invited to sample a “Medio y Medio,” a traditional Uruguayan cocktail that combines dry white wine and sweet sparkling wine.
“We’ve toured around the country. It’s very nice and pretty. We’re very happy here,” Clever told Efe. “I’m expecting a great match, a good game, and that Flamengo will be three-time champion.”
A win for Flamengo would mark their second championship in Montevideo, where 40 years ago Zico led that Rio de Janeiro club to their maiden Libertadores title in 1981 by scoring a brace against Chile’s Cobreloa.
The Brazilian fans feel right at home in Uruguay in large part because of the delicious meat on offer at restaurants like La Chacra del Puerto, which is decorated with banners of different teams and where an asado grill is observable in the distance.
“These are the famous Uruguayan meats. You’ve got the strip roast, entrecote, baby beef and sirloin cap,” Darsi, who works at that eatery, told Efe while showing tourists a plate containing all the different beef cuts.
Gabriel and Sinval, fans of Copa Libertadores defending champion Palmeiras who met each other on the flight, are among the diners at La Chacra del Puerto.
“We arrived on Wednesday. Montevideo is great. It’s a really laid-back city, a very nice place to walk around. It’s been an excellent stay,” Gabriel told Efe.
He said Saturday afternoon’s match at iconic Estadio Centenario will be a very closely contested battle but that Palmeiras’ “grit and physicality” will lead the Sao Paulo club to a repeat of the Copa Libertadores title they won last year over another Brazilian side, Santos.
A few kilometers away, a group of Palmeiras fans stand on top of a 3D sign spelling out the word Montevideo and take some cellphone photos with the picturesque Pocitos beach – and the Rambla, or boulevard, that runs alongside it – in the background.
Now the most emblematic place in Montevideo, the Rambla was once the part of the capital where its brothels, cemeteries and salteries were located, a place to avoid, Fernando Amado, the regional government’s tourism director, told Efe at his office near the Mercado del Puerto days before the large influx of Brazilian tourists.
He said that 20-kilometer (12-mile) promenade running along the Rio de la Plata is an integral part of Montevideo’s identity and a feature that distinguishes it from other cities around the world.
Amado said the Copa Libertadores final, like last weekend’s Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores Femenina championship matches, is “a unique opportunity, unprecedented and historic,” to showcase Montevideo and Uruguay as tourist destinations.
He therefore called on local residents to “capitalize on this enormous opportunity by being good hosts.” EFE