Opinion: Brazil has the most passionate fans but...
Counter-Strike has seen a lot of crowds. Since the early days of the Cyberathlete Professional League and World Cyber Games, there has been a lot of love (and hate) shown by the fans on-site. IEM Rio was the most recent event to have a crowd, and a lot of questions were raised because of the said crowd.
From the get-go let's set one thing straight: Brazilian fans are the most passionate fans out there, no question about it, but the Brazilian crowd isn't on par with that. In order not to create confusion, in this case, fans are seen as supporters of the teams, and the crowd is the audience in the arena. There has been a lot of discussion about this during and after the Major but often the terms are mixed together.
Brazil was left waiting for an event after the ESL One Rio was canceled due to the pandemic at the time, with many fans addressing the Brazilian crowd as the best in the world. 2 years after, Rio de Janeiro got the opportunity to host a CS:GO Major and the fans flocked to it. Quickly after the tickets went live, they were sold out. ESL decided to open the Challengers and Legends Stage to the public in order to allow more people to enjoy a Counter-Strike show live. The TO even set up a Fan Fest outside the Champions Stage arena due to the lack of tickets for the big stage. The rest is history.
During the last days of the IEM Rio Major, and with the shuffle from the Riocentro Arena to the Jeunesse Arena, the second being a much bigger venue, the streams have more often than not shown a lot of empty seats on the rafters, which sparked a lot of discussion on Twitter, with some people attacking the Brazilians and others justifying for them.
Starting off in the Riocentro Arena, the decision to make this stage open to the public was spot on. With gAuLeS and the Tribo "casting" in the venue, Brazilians had the chance to have all of their icons together in one place, as this would also be the only chance for them to watch the former SK/Luminosity legends playing on stage during the Major. This was the peak of the Brazilian crowd. You could see former renowned pro players supporting their peers, such as Renato "nak" Nakano, Raphael "cogu" Camargo, you could enjoy two of the biggest Brazilian CS:GO streamers hosting the Challengers and Legends Stages live, alongside commentary from CS 1.6 legends Alexandre "gAuLeS" Chiqueta and Michel "mch" D'Oliveira. As previously noted, this was one of the highlights from the Major, but when the move was made to the Jeunesse Arena, things took a downturn.
In another opinion article, I already mentioned the general problems that came with the Champions Stage but didn't talk about the crowd there. For starters, the Jeunesse Arena had a queue problem, with long lines to enter the building, but that's not all. The different types of tickets, the change of seats, the Fan Fest outside, the jumbotron position and its size, and the simple lack of interest in the games going on, all culminated, in their own way, in a less-exciting crowd during the playoffs (there is a Twitter thread talking about the arena and why it appears so empty). Except for the games involving Brazilians, and that's why we need to separate the Brazilian crowd from the Brazilian fans. As seen in the games against NAVI and Heroic, it was rare to have silence in the venue, well, at least when FURIA was winning. That's because the Brazilian crowd only cares about the Brazilian teams.
There are a lot of reasons for that, so let's start unpacking things. The Fan Fest would attract a lot of people, mostly so during the non-BR teams' games. This was the problem that involved the tournament organization, the rest of the problems are mentality problems, and those stem from one big name: gAuLeS. The streamer has a lot of power within the CS:GO scene in South America and has been shaping the mentality of his fans for some time now.
With the IEM Rio Major announcement, gAuLeS would be in the spotlight, even on ESL's publicity, and this gave him the power to command all arena operations in the sense that fans would want to replicate whatever he would do. And so, as is normal coming from him, while the games between non-BR teams happened, his commentary would turn into a talk show, with some casual mentions about the game. Also, there would be times he would start chants for FURIA even when the team wasn't in the building. Therefore, the games, such as the grand final of the Major, would turn into a snooze fest in the rafters, because the crowd was not paying attention to the game itself but rather to gAuLeS' and co. commentary.
This is not a sign of the best crowd in the world, but the most biased crowd ever. Would it be the same if gAuLeS was not there? Remains to be seen, but, even though Brazilian fans are the most passionate, the Brazilian crowd is not even close to competing against Cologne's or Katowice's crowds.