Cariocão, The Rio de Janeiro State Championship

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Cariocão, The Carioca Football Championship

The Rio de Janeiro State Championship, known as Campeonato Carioca or Cariocão, is the third oldest state championship in Brazil and has hosted historic names such as Garrincha, Roberto Dinamite, Romário, Rivelino, among others.

The beginning

The First Cariocão was played in 1906 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, which at the time was the capital of the Federal District (State of Guanabara) of the 1st Republic of Brazil (Old Republic), so Cariocão was the third state championship to be played on Tupiniquim soil, behind only the Campeonato Paulista that started in 1902 and the Campeonato Baiano started in 1905.

The first game in the history of Cariocão was the 7-1 victory by Fluminense over Payssandu, the match took place at Street Gyanabara Field in the Laranjeiras neighborhood, where the Stadium of Laranjeiras is currently located, opened in 1914 and owned by the Fluminense Football Club, the first goal of the Carioca Championship was scored by the striker of the tricolor (three-color) club Horácio da Costa.

The 1906 Cariocão was disputed only by teams from the city of Rio de Janeiro (which occurred until 1975), the participants were: Fluminense Football Club; Payssandu Cricket Club; Rio Cricket and Athletic Association; Botafogo Football Club; Bangu and Football and Athletic. The 1906 Cariocão was played in the form of consecutive points, where each team played with the others twice, thus totaling ten games per team.

After an impressive campaign with 9 wins and only one defeat, Fluminense was crowned champion. Below is the complete ranking.

League Table
Pos Team Pts Played W D L GF GA GD
1 Fluminense 18 10 9 0 1 52 6 +46
2 Paissandu 14 10 7 0 3 26 12 +14
3 Rio Cricket 12 10 6 0 4 23 9 +14
4 Botafogo 8 10 4 0 6 18 34 -16
5 Bangu 6 10 3 0 7 13 18 -5
6 Football and Athletic 2 10 1 0 9 2 55 -53

From 1906 to 1909, Cariocão was dominated by Fluminense, which won the four disputed titles, but in 1907 it shared the title with Botafogo, as both tied in points and there was no tiebreaker for one of the two giants to be crowned as the only champion.

Fluminense team in 1906 in line for a photo.
Fluminense team, carioca champion of 1906.

From Amateur Championship to Professional Championship

Cariocão was disputed in an amateur way from 1906 to 1932 and at that time as its greatest exponents was Fluminense with 9 titles won, followed by Botafogo with 7, Flamengo with 6, América do Rio de Janeiro with 5 and Vasco da Gama with 4.

The amateur phase of the competition was marked by several divisions and were organized by different entities, from 1906 to 1912 it was organized by the Liga Metropolitana de Sports Athleticos – LMSA. In 1911, Botafogo left the LMSA and created the Rio de Janeiro Football Association, which the following year was incorporated by the LMSA, in effect until 1917, when it was succeeded by the Liga Metropolitana de Desportos Terrestres – LMDT, which lasted until 1924.

In 1924 Fluminense, Bangu, Flamengo, América and Botafogo decided to abandon the LMDT and created the Associação Metropolitana de Esportes Atléticos – AMEA, Vasco in the following year also joined the AMEA, so the LMDT ended up losing strength but only had its end in 1934, among these years it was disputed by smaller teams.

The AMEA,  was extinguished in 1933, since some of the main teams at the time were already thinking about the professionalization of football in the wonderful city, including some of them was already paying salaries to their players, so they could dedicate themselves only to football.

Thus, Flamengo, Fluminense América, Bangu, Vasco, São Cristóvão and Bom Sucesso decided to create the first professional football league in Rio de Janeiro, the Liga Carioca de Futebol – LCF, but several clubs, led by Botafogo, defended that football in Rio should remain amateur. This discussion continued until 1937 when there was the unification and definitive professionalization of football in Rio de Janeiro with the creation of the Football League of Rio de Janeiro – LFRJ.

In this context, the 4 big clubs in Rio de Janeiro started to stand out and took over Futebol Carioca, proof of which is that from that time until today, only two teams were champions, except for the 4 Big Cariocas, they were , América in 1960 and Bangu in 1969.

Garrincha leaving opponent on the ground
Garrincha leaving a player on the ground in a Cariocão game in the 60s.

The Unification of Cariocão

Until 1979, Cariocão was played only by clubs in the city of Rio de Janeiro, it did not cover the entire state of Rio de Janeiro, but only the state of Guanabara, where the wonderful city was located. In 1975, the State of Guanabara was incorporated into the State of Rio de Janeiro, with the city of Rio de Janeiro being elected as the state capital.

In this context, four years after the unification of the State of Rio de Janeiro, there was the unification of the Liga Carioca de Futebol (which comprised the dispute between teams from the city of Rio de Janeiro) with the Fluminense Football Federation (which comprised the dispute of the teams from the interior of the State of Rio de Janeiro), thus creating the Football Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro – FERJ, which organizes Cariocão to this day.

A curious fact is that the Championship became a State level but received the name Campeonato Carioca, carioca is nothing more than the term used for those who are born in the city of Rio de Janeiro, while those who or what are born in the State receive the denomination of Fluminense, for this reason FERJ thought it best to keep the name of Campeonato Carioca, as there was already a very traditional Club called Fluminense, thus being able to cause discomfort with the other teams.

The 3 Cup Championship

With the Unification of Cariocão, FERJ took 3 years to find the dispute model it intended. in 1982 decided to divide the championship into two shifts, the first with the name of Taça Guanabara which was created in 1965 but as a separate tournament from the Campeonato Carioca, until 1970 the Champion of the Taça Guanabara won a place to compete in the Taça Brasil, the Brazilian Championship at that time. The second round was called Taça Rio which was originally created in 1982.

From 1982 to 2013, Cariocão was played as follows: the Champion of the Guanabara Cup (1st Shift) played in the final of the Carioca Championship with the Champion of the Rio Cup (2nd Shift), thus, 3 Trophys were distributed per championship. With the exception of the 1995 championship, which was played in rounds of consecutive points, including the final phase.

Nowadays, there are still three cups, but the method of dispute of the Campeonato Carioca has changed. Since 2014, the Taça Guanabara (1st Shift) has been played and the top 4 teams qualify for the semifinals of the Campeonato Carioca, while the Taça Rio is a “consolation” title played between the clubs placed in 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th place of the Guanabara Cup.

The constant change in the regulations of the Carioca Championship, as well as the unique types of dispute, which differ greatly from other state championships, has been the subject of jokes and memes on the internet in recent years.

Cariocão Trophy, Guanabara Cup and Rio Cup.
Cariocão Trophy, Guanabara Cup and Rio Cup.

The most Charming State in Brazil

The Cariocão, for many, but mainly for the cariocas and fluminenses is the most charming state championship in Brazil, at first sight it seems that this nickname is given to the competition for the beauty of the state of Rio de Janeiro, mainly its capital, the wonderful city , but it’s not just because of that fact.

The history of Cariocão is full of great players, historic teams and monumental games. It was there that great Brazilian football stars paraded exuberance and mastery with the round, such as: Garrincha, Zico, Roberto Dinamite, Romário, Renato Gaúcho, Rivelino, Júnior, Nilton Santos, Juninho Pernambucano, Carlos Alberto Torres, Edmundo, Petkovic, Romerito, Bellini, Ricardo Gomes, Andrade, among many other stars, that, if I were to list here, there would be no space in the article.

With great players in all the decades of Cariocão dispute coupled with extreme rivalry between the 4 giants of Rio de Janeiro, the Carioca Championship was the stage for games that made history.

One of these magnificent games was the Fla-Flu played in the 1995 final, more than 120,000 fans saw Fluminense win the title by beating Flamengo 3-2, it was an electrifying game from end to end, right at the beginning of the game Renato Gaúcho opened the score for Tricolor, then Leonardo expands, at 26 of the second half, Rubro-Negro scores with Romário, who on the occasion scored his first goal against Fluminense.

After Flamengo’s goal, the match heated up, and there was almost a fight between the teams after the celebration of Flamengo’s goal. The game was getting closer to the end until Fabinho received the ball on the right, with just one cut leaving two Flu players on the floor and tying the match. With this result, Flamengo was crowned champion, as it led the table in the final phase.

Even taking the goal almost at the end of the match, Fluminense did not surrender, at the 43rd minute of the second half, Aílton invades the Rubro-Negra area on the right, cuts inwards, right after to try to open more space he cuts out and kicks crossed towards the goal, the ball still slips into Renato Gaúcho belly and dies inside Flamengo’s goal, making one of the greatest Classics ever seen in a championship final.

Renato Gaúcho celebrating Fluminense's third goal in the decisive Fla-Flu of 1995.
Renato Gaúcho celebrating Fluminense’s third goal in the decisive Fla-Flu of 1995.

Games like this show that Cariocão really is charming, but much more than that, it is one of the best state championship in Brazil, mainly due to the 4 giants that dispute it, in recent years, mainly at national level, Flamengo among the 4 big ones stood out more on the national scene, but the return of Fluminense, Vasco and Botafogo to the elite of Brazilian Football is imminent.

What’s your opinion? Is Cariocão really the most Charming?

Below is a list of the greatest carioca champions:

  • Flamengo 37
  • Fluminense 32 (atual campeão)
  • Vasco da Gama 24
  • Botafogo 21
  • América RJ 07
  • Bangu 2
  • São Cristóvão 1
  • Payssandu 1


Written by João Felipe Miller

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