Fluminense is an iconic, idiosyncratic veteran of Brazilian football. FIFA.com delivers the inimitable tale of the third-oldest existing football club in the country and the oldest in Rio de Janeiro, whose patriotic, passionate supporters have celebrated over 10,000 goals, ranging from the breathtaking to the last-gasp to the bizarre.
Birth of an institution
Born in Rio to an English diplomat father, Oscar Cox was studying in Switzerland when he became obsessed with forming a football club in his home city. He realised this goal on 21 July 1902 and three months later, Fluminense Football Club overwhelmed Rio FC 8-0 on their debut.
The team adopted their hallowed claret-green-and-white striped jerseys in 1904, and won the first Campeonato Carioca two years later. State honours followed in 1907, 1908 and 1909, the former shared with Botafogo, which provoked fierce contention.
However, a more intense rivalry was born after the Campeonato Carioca 1911. No fewer than nine of Fluminense's title-winning players defected to Flamengo. Had James Calvert and Oswaldo Gomes followed the crowd, the club's existence may have come under scrutiny. Instead, they helped O Tricolor Carioca survive and triumph 3-2 in the inagural Fla-Flu duel.
Making of a legend
Harry Welfare, a robust former Liverpool striker, helped establish Fluminense, courtesy of 163 goals in 166 appearances and three consecutive state prizes from 1917. After a barren period thereafter, Flu won five of six Carioca crowns between 1936 and 1941, the charm and prosperity of this side indebted to midfielder Romeu, right-winger Pedro Amorim, forward Preguinho and particularly Tim, a left-lying playmaker to whom the extraordinary was second nature.
More luminaries graced the Laranjeiras over the next three decades, namely midfielder Didi, future Brazil coach Tele, and Waldo, scorer of a club-record 314 goals in 403 games. But if that period delivered moderate success, the 1970s proved the most fruitful in Fluminense's history. It began with their maiden national crown, ended with four state titles, and was illuminated by the inconceivable dribbles and swerving thunderbolts of the greatest player in their history.
The goalkeeping of Felix, dynamism of midfielder Denilson and prolificacy of Mickey headlined their conquest of the Torneio Roberto Gomes Pedrosa, a precursor to the Brasileirao, and Nense won the Campeonato Carioca in 1971 and 1973, when the average age of their triumphant side was a mere 24. Nicknamed Young Flu, Ze Maria, Ze Roberto, Cleber, Rubens Galaxe and the outstanding Pintinho would soon be joined by Rivelino, who was in his late-20s and his immaculate prime yet had curiously failed to win a title a club level.
That would all change in Rio de Janeiro, his three-year tenure incorporating 158 appearances, 53 goals and victorious Campeonato Carioca campaigns in 1975 and 1976. Moreover, A Maquina reached the semi-finals of the Brasileirao during these years. Rivals fans' taunts of timinho (little team) were extinguished. Rivelino had given birth to O Fluzão.
Riva's departure sent Fluminense into mild decline, but their capture of regional gold in 1983 - thanks to a solitary Assis goal against Flamengo with just 15 seconds remaining - hinted that their emerging side was on the cusp of something special.
That something special was the Brasileirao title, which owed much the output of Casal 20, a partnership between Assis and Washington. Although distanced by age and height (Washington was eight years younger and significantly taller), they shared an extrasensory, irrepressible bond. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, keeper Paulo Victor, centre-back Ricardo Gomes, left-back Branco and forward Romerito also made significant contributions to this conquest.
The 1990s would have been forgettable for Fluminense, save for a night of compelling drama at the Maracana. There, Renato Gaucho scored arguably the most famous goal in the history of the Campeonato Carioca - a late effort with his belly against Flamengo - to snatch Flu their first title in ten years.
This joy was, nevertheless, to be short lived. The agony of relegation into Serie B befell Fluminense in 1998, followed by the humiliation of demotion into Serie C the following year.
The recent years
Fluminense began the century by resurfacing among Brazil's elite and, after a spell of mediocrity, they won the Copa do Brasil 2007 to earn a ticket into the Copa Libertadores 2008. Inspired by Thiago Silva and Thiago Neves, they cruised into the last eight, where an 11th-hour Washington goal against Sao Paulo snatched a place in the semi-finals from the jaws of elimination. Defending champions Boca Juniors then bowed to O Fluzão, before they agonisingly lost on penalties to LDU in the final.
The Estadio das Laranjeiras was built in 1905 and, on Fluminense's 12th birthday, hosted the Brazilian national team's debut: a 2-0 friendly victory over English outfit Exeter City. The stadium's capacity has since been reduced from a high of 32,000 to 8,000 and, consequently, O Tricolor Carioca now play their home matches at the Maracana.