Crickets Brazilian outpost: how CCC thrive in the corridor of sun certainty
The rural backwater of Itagua has become an unlikely hotbed of cricket, kept alive by a combination of expats and eccentricity. Providing a world-class excuse for a party
In all of this there was a comforting sense of the ridiculous. So wrote Peter Fleming in Brazilian Adventure, which eight decades after it was published is still the sharpest piece of travel writing in English about South Americas biggest nation.
He was lampooning a hare-brained expedition of foreigners that set off from Rio de Janeiro in 1932 but his words could just as easily describe the cricket match that took place last Saturday in the citys remote suburb of Itagua.
The last game of the 2016 season for the Carioca Cricket Club (CCC) proved an occasion of high drama, rich entertainment and rank incompetence even by the standards of a team who have rarely had reason to disturb the trophy cabinet.
Formed five years ago in the Pavo Azul (Blue Peacock) bar, the CCC who have as their logo an image of Christ the Redeemer in an umpires jacket signalling a wide is an anachronism wrapped in an anomaly inside an expat bubble that's doggedly found a niche in the most unpromising of circumstances.
Outside the Caribbean Latin America has always been considered a cricketing desert. Countless reasons are given for the sports failure to grip the popular imagination here: the colonial history is Spanish and Portuguese, rather than English. The geography dominated by Amazonian forest and Andean mountains is uninviting. The climate ranging from the humid tropics to Antarctic Patagonia is insufficiently temperate. Megacities such as So Paulo and Mexico City are too crowded and chaotic to allow hectares to be set aside for pitches. Football is too dominant to allow any other sport to prosper (as the many empty seats at this years Rio Olympics appeared to affirm). The old Rio Cricket Club founded in 1872 now exist in name only, with all of their playing area taken by football pitches.
But through a mix of eccentricity, real-world denial and a passion for the game the CCC chairman and president the long-term English residents Tobias Hanbury and Craig Allison have overcome these excuses to build a set of cricket facilities that'd do an English village club proud.