World Cup Fans: Why Brazilians love this Sydney landmark

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Brazilian Fields is a special place for many in the city – particularly fans of the beautiful game.

'World Cup Fans' is a special SBS News series running in the lead up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. It looks at the 32 qualifying countries through the eyes of their fans in Australia. 

Brazil still reigns supreme when it comes to the World Cup; they’re one of this year’s favourites alongside Germany. And for many Brazilians in Australia, football remains integral to their identity.

In Sydney, no place means as much to some expats than a small corner of Centennial Park.

Every Sunday since the early 1970s, groups of Brazilians have come together on the turf to play football. And when the weather permits, a BBQ will usually follow.

Footballers take part in the 2018 Les Murray Cup at Brazilian Fields in Sydney's Centennial Park.
Footballers at Brazilian Fields in Sydney's Centennial Park.
John Baldock / SBS News

It has become such a mainstay for the community that the Centennial Parklands Trust formally changed the name of the area they play on to ‘Brazilian Fields’.

Brazilian Gelcimar Freire knows the Brazilian Fields well. 

"Since we started back in 1972 the gathering is getting stronger and stronger, the football never stops," he told SBS News.

The players are known as 'The Canarinhos' (Portuguese for canary) as are the Brazilian national side - who play in yellow - in tribute to the country's native saffron finch.

Gelcimar Freire
Gelcimar Freire.
John Baldock - SBS

Every year, Mr Freire organises the Les Murray Cup on the fields, a football tournament first held eight years ago and named after the late SBS broadcaster known as 'Mr Football'.

For Mr Murray, who died in July last year, the fields were always synonymous with Brazil, his Brazillian partner Maria Olson, told SBS News.

"This is part of the Brazilain culture. Even the Brazilians that live away outside Sydney, the ones from Melbourne, Canberra, Perth they all know that this exists," Ms Olson, who attended this year’s tournament, said. 

The couple used to go to the fields every Sunday to watch the games and be with the Brazilian community.

This year's Les Murray Cup - held last weekend - saw 22 teams taking part. As well as Brazil, other countries represented included Croatia, Portugal and Iran, as well as a team from Football United, a drop-in football program for refugees in Sydney.

Gelcimar Freire, Ross Warren and Maria Olson
Gelcimar Freire, Ross Warren and Maria Olson.
John Baldock - SBS

Already attention is turning to Russia later this year where Brazil is looking for redemption and perhaps a record sixth World Cup title.

"This year we're hoping Brazil will be right there on top again," Mr Freire said.

The hosts were plunged into the depths of despair four years ago when they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in their semi-final. 

But whatever happens in Russia, Sydney's Brazilian Fields will play host to much of the local Brazilian community for many years to come.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins 15 June. SBS will broadcast the biggest games, including the opening match, semi-finals and final, live, free and in HD.

The World Game: World Cup 2018 match schedule and How to watch live.

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