Vinicius returns to the Maracanã as the star of the future
The Real Madrid player joined football greats Kaká, Adriano, Djalminha, Seedorf and Junior, in a charity match organized by Brazil legend Zico.
There's always a distinct party vibe in the air in Rio de Janeiro during December. It signals the arrival of the summer, holidays, the hot summer sun and the beach - seeing the year out on the sand at Copacabana beach and that feeling that Carnival is approaching. And in that euphoric mood, the stands of the Maracanã were filled to capacity in the early hours of Thursday morning to watch Vinicius Junior's reencounter with the fans who took him to their hearts when he was just a fledgling 16-year-old. He returned for a charity match organized by Zico, and was shown the same worship by the home crowd, but this time as a superstar.
Zico and friends unite in Rio for charity
When football is put on hold in some of the European leagues, it's a chance for Brazilian players to escape the cold weather, spend some free time with their families and friends and take part in some of the benefit matches which take place of the festive period. Vinicius played two - the first, alongside Neymar in Minas Gerais on Wednesday when he scored another one of those impossible goals he's fast becoming renowned for. Then the following day he was back in his home city, Rio to participate in one of the more traditional friendlies of the Christmas holidays. Zico has been organizing his own charity game at the Maracanã, every year for the past 15 years. A Brazil, Flamengo and football legend, El Galinho brings together players from different generations every Christmas for a football fiesta - a brilliant atmosphere always at the Maracanã full of joy, hope and nostalgia.
Flamengo's youth system
Ever since Zico and Junior led Flamengo to victory in the Intercontinental-Toyota Cup against Liverpool in 1981, the club has been of the leading lights in Brazil for developing new talent in their youth academy - a prolific youth school which produced the likes of Djalminha, Adriano, Jorginho, Julio César, Sávio, Mozer and Zinho. The most recent to have come through the ranks with the responsibility of being the “New Zico” was Vinicius, who was already a national idol after making his debut for the Under-17s then joined Real Madrid as the most expensive signing in Brazilian football history.
Tidy finish and a song on the whistle
On Thursday, together with his idol Zico, Kaká, Adriano and Junior, Vinicius beamed from ear to ear throughout the game and thrilled the crowd with every touch of the ball. And he had the fans in ecstasy when on 38 minutes, Zico put him clean through on goal. He dodged past Jorginho before beating Germano with a clean strike stuck just inside the post. With a huge smile, he left the pitch and watched the rest of the game from the stands with the fans. Moments after the final whistle, Vini delighted fans again by launching into song with a television reporter and was given an ovation. An unforgettable summer night for the Real Madrid ace.