Brazilians aren’t shy about their love for football, but we’re pretty certain Julie Garcia now has a fan story unlike any other. As the winner of our Night At Maracanã Stadium, Julie woke up the morning of the Fla-Flu derby to a view even the stars would envy.
A lifelong football fan, Julie entered our contest with hopes of sharing the experience with her dad, Eliezer, who taught her everything she knows about the sport. Eliezer always dreamed that Julie would be a professional football player. He took her to practices and supported her through the years, so this was her opportunity to repay him. As luck would have it, though, he had to work that Saturday night, so instead Julie brought her husband, Thiago. We weren’t sure what could top Julie’s reaction to winning the contest, but we were excited to find out.
After a delicious lunch in Rio’s hip Santa Teresa neighborhood, Julie and Thiago’s special evening began when they were welcomed at iconic Maracanã Stadium by their host for the night, former star player and coach Renato Gaúcho. Known by longtime fans as the “King of Rio,” Renato was no stranger to the stadium.
Hands shaking with excitement, Julie said, “I can’t believe I’m here.” Renato led the couple to their room for the night, a fully-loaded suite centered above the midfield, lending to the best view possible of the stadium. Everything was football-themed, of course, from the art on the walls to the foosball table. Julie and Thiago were made to feel right at home. Renato looked on and said, “I want to stay for a night inside Maracanã.”
Julie and Thiago’s VIP tour of the stadium included a journey through the president’s suite, the locker rooms and press booths, and ended on the field. This is where Julie put to use all those years of practice. Several rounds of intense penalty kicks later, the group sat down for a well-earned picnic, a variety of local favorites. All this set, of course, to acoustic Brazilian music, performed by Caio Prado and Felipe Campos. A local Airbnb Superhost, Felipe worked his magic to make Julie and Thiago feel even more at home.
A huge fan of photography, Julie was once again wowed when Renato Gaúcho presented one last gift before heading out: a book of iconic football pictures, as well as jerseys for Julie, Thiago, and Eliezer, each personalized with names, favorite numbers, and signed by the Brazilian national team. The new friends hugged goodbye.
Back in their suite, Julie and Thiago were met by Rio Superhost, Doris, who works as a sommelier at a popular local restaurant. After good wine and even better conversation, the couple were left to enjoy what remained of their Maracanã evening.
In the morning, Julie and Thiago headed to Copacabana Fort for breakfast. In what may have been the happiest surprise yet, there was Eliezer, who made it from Sao Paulo in time to enjoy the day. After the meal, the three took a helicopter tour of Rio, a first for all three. Flying over the stadium, Eliezer said, “It’s amazing seeing Maracanã from this view, so fantastic!”
As the stadium began filling up, Julie, Thiago, and Eliezer pre-partied back in the room, enjoying good music and snacks. By the time the game was underway, it was clear it didn’t much matter which team won the Fla-Flu rivalry match–their favored team, Flamengo, lost 3-2. Julie and her two lucky men were met with wild applause when they appeared on the stadium’s big screens, an unexpected moment that made it all the better. They sat together throughout the game, cheering and taking in the energy around them, celebrating their favorite pastime in style. No doubt they’ll be sharing stories of their Maracanã night for years to come.