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Brazil feels hand of history upon it

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Tim Vickery | 09:10 UK time, Monday, 28 May 2012

From Roberto Carlos and Juan Sebastian Veron, through Roque Santa Cruz, Ronaldinho and Kaka, to Lionel Messi (with Argentina's Under-20s) and Sergio Aguero, to the likes of Neymar today, the biggest privilege South American football has given me is a chance to catch the early steps of players on the way to global stardom. It is like getting a sneak preview of the future.

But my area of action gives me another great, almost opposite pleasure - the opportunity to breathe the air of the game's history, to watch matches in settings that have, in the past, played host to the highest level of football the world had seen.

No true fan can fail to be awestruck by a visit to Montevideo, capital of Uruguay. After strolling along the main avenue, and cutting through a scenic park, you come to the concrete colossus of the Centenario stadium, hurriedly constructed for the first World Cup in 1930, and still going strong.

While I am not a great fan of River Plate's ground in Buenos Aires - the stands are too far from the pitch, you often seem to be watching the game from a strange angle and it is one of those places that seems permanently cold and blustery - I still love going there. It is a chance to pay homage to the venue where Alfredo Di Stefano honed the skills that would have such an influence on the game's global development.

I felt the hand of history this weekend, when making a rare trip to Sao Paulo. Fifteen years ago, when researching a TV programme, I came across a wonderful story about one of the all time greats of Brazilian football.

The top goalscorer of the 1938 World Cup, Leonidas de Silva was the country's first international superstar. He was also the original bad boy. A snappy dresser who loved his whiskey, he was a difficult team-mate, and a much more tricky opponent. Intelligent, quick, lithe and skilful, he was dubbed "the rubber man" and proved his athleticism by being one of the pioneers (though not the inventor, as is often claimed in Brazil) of the bicycle kick.

Vasco right back Fagner helped his side to beat Portuguesa 1-0. Photo: Getty

Exactly 70 years ago, he left his native Rio and went to Sao Paulo. He was only 28, but the general consensus was that he was all washed up. He had undergone surgery on his knee, and had even just spent a few months in jail, convicted of forging documents. When he was signed by Sao Paulo FC, a relatively new club at the time, the more established local rivals were highly sceptical. An expression was coined to sum up Leonidas - the best translation I can come up with is "expensive piece of junk".

It was not a term that was to have a long life. One of his first games was the big local derby against Palestra Italia - a club which soon afterwards adopted its current name, Palmeiras. Just before half time Leonidas met a cross with his trademark move. Radio commentator Geraldo Jose de Almeida could hardly control himself. "The expensive piece of junk has scored with a bicycle kick," he cried over and over again, each time with more wonder and excitement.

I was given a tape of his commentary back in 1997, and found it fascinating. As well as the emotion of the moment, there is the also the importance of the occasion. That goal ended any doubts that still surrounded Leonidas, and his presence over the next few years helped establish Sao Paulo FC as a top team. This in turn gave a push to the development of football in the city and in the region - which at the time was playing second fiddle to Rio de Janeiro, then Brazil's capital. Before long football in Sao Paulo could claim equal status, and Santos, the club from the port an hour down the road, could be considered the best team in the world.

The spirit of Leonidas was back in town on Saturday, when I went to see Portuguesa at home to Vasco da Gama of Rio. At best the city's fourth team, Portuguesa's stadium is pleasantly rickety, constructed in the mid-50s but seeming older. It was nowhere near full, with an attendance of less than 5,000. After winning promotion last year, this was Portuguesa's first home game of the Brazilian Championship, but their tiny support was comfortably outnumbered by the travelling contingent from Rio. And it was the away fans who had most to shout about - not just because their team won 1-0, but because the goal was one of those to be remembered for years to come.

The progress down the flank of Vasco right back Fagner appeared to have been stopped when he was tackled, but he was quickly on his feet, making space and sending in a cross. Its trajectory took it behind centre forward Alecsandro, who took off with his back to goal, Leonidas-style, swung a boot and connected with a bicycle kick that flew into the far top corner.

In all my years in the press box I cannot recall a goal getting me out of my seat quicker and with more urgency. It was not just the beauty of the strike. It was also the nudge being given to history. Alecsandro was jumping, spinning, stretching and scoring in footsteps left by giants.

I'm always happy to receive your questions on South American football - email me at vickerycolumn@hotmail.com and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag:

Do you think Universidad de Chile will be able to hang onto their star players or will Marcelo Diaz Charles Aranguiz and Angelo Henriquez be playing their club football in Europe this coming season? Claudio Murgas

I think financial realities will dictate that players will be sold. But remember that they have continued to do well after losing three key players in the January transfer window. I don't think anyone expected them to replace star striker Eduardo Vargas with such ease, especially as centre forward Gustavo Canales went as well. Junior Fernandes has done well, 17-year-old Henriquez has been a sensation and even if he goes, the Peruvian Raul Riudiaz looks full of goals.

Perhaps the loss of centre back Marcos Gonzalez has been felt more. But if he moves on (and I fear he will) then the one I think they might find hardest to replace is central midfielder Marcelo Diaz, who organises their play so well.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    VERY excited for the world-cup already. Euros haven't even started yet...

    I guess with the racism warnings for Ukraine and Poland the magic of the tournament went out the window. I'm hoping the atmosphere in Brazil will do more than make up for it!

  • Comment number 2.

    International football has been dross for years, i'd love to say I was excited about it but i'd be lying.

    Being English the players terrible attitude and performances have nailed the lid to that particular coffin, and the media have worsened this by constantly hounding my on a daily basis with we will win it / slaughtering manager and players when we don't automatically win 6-0!

    International footbal has become third tier now, after league and champions league... Sorry to say that though, because in times past I too couldn't wait for our first trip to foreign shores to watch our boys battle it out with the best of the rest.

    Perhaps Hodgson can instil some much needed discipline and pride, and remove this arrogance England football has inherited. And for God sake DROP Terry he should never wear the shirt again!

  • Comment number 3.

    #2

    Are you are on the correct blog?

  • Comment number 4.

    San Paulo City (is it actually a city?) was recently included in a game Max Payne 3, a bit off topic, but it shows just how football orientated the city is. basically your best chance for a successful life is through sport and most choose football. i also remember reading an article about Leo Messi, he's looked at as a messiah in Argentina, i cant remember it word for word but the argentines seem to look at him as almost some kind of religious figure. if im right they have been waiting on a small kid to come up through the streets learning to play soccer, eventually he will pull the country from poverty etc..... living in the uk we dont see our footballers in any where near the same light.... maybe thats why the argies are so much better!

  • Comment number 5.

    Good read Tim. Reading about such beautiful goals has got me a little excited about the upcoming Euros, not because of England's participation, but because we might get to see one of Europe's finest doing similarly. If only there are games of the quality of Germany v Italy in the world cup of 2006, then I will be happy just to enjoy the beautiful game. If by some kind of miracle England perform well, then that will be a bonus.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Tim,

    I'd like to ask do you possibly see South America as a place for European players to play either at the end of their careers - like Anelka and possibly Drogba for Chelsea in China, Lineker in Japan, Henry in USA, Fowler in Australia, all mostly going for monetary reasons.

    Also is it likely to see a wealthy owner of a SA club like we've seen in Europe with Chelsea, Manchester City, and now Malaga and PSG?

    I'm sure if players like Drogba, and others coming to the end of their career were pursuaded to play in Brazil, it would raise the profile of the league and TV rights would go up in value.

    IMO the Brazilian league would likely to be the league most likely (outside of Europe) to attract the big superstars if the money was there.

  • Comment number 7.

    @6 Nice idea, I don't know enough about the money levels in SA but surely if money wasn't an option then the bright young stars wouldn't be sold to European clubs in the first place (especially at such a young age). I think the money in football is going to other destinations before SA, sad to say.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great read Tim, i only really watch the EPL and LaLiga so getting an insight into the south american teams is always a pleasure, my overall impression (only from what ive read on your blogs) is that that area of the world is inundated with talent but with no financial rewards to keep the talent there, such a shame really, maybe shows another way in which money is ruining the game, also the whole set up seems very very complicated, id love to travel there one day and watch some live games

    in answer to #6 you wont ever see former stars of european football go to SA to see out there careers when they can get 200k plus a week in russia or china, just aint gona happen

  • Comment number 9.

    It's nice of you to point out artists of football, Tim. The chilena and bicicleta were 'developed' in South America. Leonidas was a person I could not have watched since that was long before my time.

    I note from a historical point of view, that Arangüiz plays for Universidad de Chile. Is this player the son of one of the formidable Universidad de Chile forwards of the 1960s? This team had a front line of Pedro Araya, Arangüiz and Arratia, who were the foundation of Chile´s national team in those years.

    The 3 As as they were known, had exceptional ball skills and Araya was the fastest forward in the world at that time. Had Chile had anything close to a decent defence they would have been in contention for a World Cup. La U has always been ´el ataque´ sadly not too much is focused on ´defensa´. Comments if you wish :-)

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks Tim for the timely reminder that football can indeed be a "beautiful game" where conjurers and magicians capture one's imagination and enthrall the senses long after a game is over. Yours must be a job made in heaven ... trawling through evocative locations, bars, and much else, in exotic locations where instinctive artistry is so joyfully on display. As we say in my language "you were born after a good handwash".

    I recall my first ever visit to Stockholm's Rasunda Stadium where a 17 year old Pele mesmerized the world in 1958. I never saw him play, but sitting there for half an hour I could just imagine Didi, Vava, Garrincha, Zagallo, and Pele spreading passes, side-stepping defenders and delighting the structured Swedes with their joyful inter-play. If only coaches/managers would give players more freedom, then perhaps Ashley Young's gloriously precocious goal against Norway may be the start of a renaissance for England and other dour teams.

  • Comment number 11.

    #4
    With a population of some 10 million (20M metro.) it is safe to say Sao Paulo is indeed a city.

  • Comment number 12.

    I really like these articles, they are fascinating and give a great insight into a severely undervalued league.

    However, I was a little disappointed that you didn't address the recent, appalling, revelations about Vasco's youth training centre - as well as the complete lack of response it generated in the media.

  • Comment number 13.

    RE: *6

    Interesting idea, but personally I'm not sure that the Brazilian league would want to become a last big pay day for players from Europe (or rather Europe-based players like Drogba). I reckon their priority, once they become economically strong enough, will be to keep their own players from going to Europe in the first place. What makes a league appealing to television is skilled players at the top of their game or a high level of competition, not players at the twilight of their careers.

    Assuming their economy continues to grow, Brazilian scouts are more likely to try to find a future Drogba in Africa and develop him themselves.

  • Comment number 14.

    In all my years in the press box I cannot recall a goal getting me out of my seat quicker and with more urgency.
    -----------
    good blog as usual, but i sense a little bit of an exaggeration. Although i did not see the goal, history aside, i doubt if it is a kick that we have never seen before.

  • Comment number 15.

    Re: 6,
    The Brazilian league already consist of two groups: New and upcoming talent and Players at the end of their career with or without the likes of Drogba. They do not have players that are at their peak due mainly to Uefa Champions League. Even if income of the league continues to rise as will be the case, the best of South American players will always end up in Europe due to the prestige of the Champions League. Fortunately or unfortunately,money alone cannot keep them home.

  • Comment number 16.

    I just feel that with the Brazilian economy growing, the ability to hold onto players like Neymar is showing a shift and that it will take more money to buy these SA players.

    Football is governed by money, pretty much in most cases. Hence why there are many Brazilians in Russia - not just for the climate!! Japan, China, Qatar, have all had wealthy owners of a team or 2 but it took a number of Brazilians joining teams like CSKA, Zenit, and Shakter (winners of the Europa League).

    With Brazil being an upcoming and indeed now global economic leader (ahead of the UK), surely that will lead to big opportunities. TV rights have already increased dramatically. If a Billionaire decided to buy a Brazilian club, say Palmeiras, you'd think that they would be able to buy many Latin American players - who would cope better with the language/climate etc.
    My question would be if Brazilian football keeps advancing as the Premier League did from 92/93, how long would it be before we'd see firstly a Frank Lampard (european successful player) join in his 30's, and then someone like Welbeck, an up and coming player that the Brazilians wanted to mould - would there be an appetite for those type of players in Brazil?

  • Comment number 17.

    I've read a blog of Tim's before talking about the structure of the league and how it needs to change to compete with the likes of the spain, italy, england etc. I'd always wondered how the MLS with its constant changes in conferences and new teams - 2 clubs are already defunted since it started in 96' has managed to attract so many europe-based players in such a short space of time?I suppose money talks and a transition to an english speaking country is easier for players who may already speak english. I dont know much about the structure of the american leagues, are the USA and brazillian leagues structured in a similar way in terms of dates etc? The USA national team seems to be getting better all the time, their league appears to be working well for their national side. It may benefit all south american and north american teams to have their leagues syncronised with start/finish dates and have a similar league/tournament/transfer structure across all of them

  • Comment number 18.

    I thought Pele invented the bicycle kick some time towards the end of World War 2. :-)

    The only question I can ask of Tim is probably one he's been asked many times before. As someone who has sometimes toyed with the idea of going, what is the level of anti-British (English?) sentiment in Buenos Aires and on the terraces in particular?

    And does any cross-continental solidarity extend as far as Montevideo - though I know the two countries are less than friendly on the football pitch?

  • Comment number 19.

    Great stuff, Tim. It's such a thrill and privilege to be in a stadium when a great moment happens, isn't it? Chance had me at Valley Parade when Stan Colleymore scored his overhead kick against Leeds that gave the home fans their moment in the sun.

    Of course, I hesitate to call it a bicycle kick because Stan wasn't strictly airborne and it did not involve the non kicking leg rotation before the strike itself. Stan did strike it true and hard straight into the far corner, though, and it was a stunning piece of skill to forge his name into the football culture in that part of Yorkshire.

    Talking of skill, a question - what is more important:
    The FA's new initiatives for youth football (announced today) or growing Futsal as the best platform for technical development in GB (& what influences guide your choice)?

  • Comment number 20.

    16.At 13:27 28th May 2012, mblooman wrote:
    I just feel that with the Brazilian economy growing, the ability to hold onto players like Neymar is showing a shift and that it will take more money to buy these SA players.

    Football is governed by money, pretty much in most cases. Hence why there are many Brazilians in Russia - not just for the climate!! Japan, China, Qatar, have all had wealthy owners of a team or 2 but it took a number of Brazilians joining teams like CSKA, Zenit, and Shakter (winners of the Europa League).
    ___________________________

    It'd be rare for European players to move to Brazil unless if it is for a final payday. The problem is that the league structure is quite poor, and unless there were some serious changes and massive increases in salary to compete with Middle East / China etc, it's unlikely to happen.

    As for brazilian players moving abroad. Footballers are probably Brazil's largest export. There are literally thousands that move on. More of it is for the possibility of being scouted by a big european club. The likes of CSKA, Shakhtar etc don't pay astronomical fees, but get the promising youngsters and then eventually sell some of them on for a profit.

  • Comment number 21.

    18. harbourmaster

    My father taught English in Buenos Aires for several years and he never experienced any sort of anti-British abuse, which is not to say it doesn't exist in parts.
    Watch out for the public transport if you do decide to go - when I was there (some ten years ago, mind), the bus drivers prioritised getting to the next destination early above all else, including passenger safety. Otherwise, it's well worth a visit for the food alone.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ 18 - harbourmaster - as an Englishman living in Argentina for 6 years, I can honestly say that I have never had any problems with anti-British sentiment; it seems to me that it is more political than personal. I have also enjoyed many many afternoons / evenings on the terraces, mainly at Argentinos Juniors (my adopted team), but also at Boca, River and Godoy Cruz (Mendoza), without problems, although admittedly I´ve never intentionally advertised my Englishness! My advice to you - go and have a wonderful time!

  • Comment number 23.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 18 The Bicycle Kick (aka La Chilena) was showcased by David Arellano, during Colo Colo's 1926 European tour. Arellano was attributed with exhibited the bicycle kick for the first time in Europe during this tour. Although Arellano was one of the earliest players to have performed the kick, he did not claim invention of it.

    The European tour would have tragic consequences. On May 2, 1927, in a match against Real Valladolid of Spain, Arellano was critically injured after suffering a collision with an opposing player that caused Peritonitis. Shortly after the incident Arellano was brought to a nearby clinic where he would ultimately die. He died from the abdominal trauma in a clinic in Valladolid on May 3rd 1927. He was 24 years, 9 months and 4 days old when he died.

  • Comment number 25.

    18 - I was a bit concerned about anti-English sentiment the first time I went to Buenos Aires, in January 1996 - this was less than 14 years after the war.

    Needn't have worried - enjoyed a splendid reception. Only down side - kids wanting to talk about Iron Maiden - not really my specialist subject!

  • Comment number 26.

    One should always take into account the historical context when discussing a player’s quality, but it’s interesting to speculate on how a guy like Leônidas would fare in today’s game. Would he, a striker from the 30s, do well against the likes of Vidić, Terry, Lúcio, Puyol? I like to think so.

    Tim: Have you seen complete games or at least extended highlights of games featuring “Homem-Borracha”?

  • Comment number 27.

    @14

    A pretty pointless comment. Too lazy to check out the goal on Youtube?

    It had me jumping out of my seat, mainly, I have to confess, because it came from such an unexpected source. Alecsandro is a decent workmanlike striker but I never thought he was capable of that!

  • Comment number 28.

    As far as overhead kicks go, i don't think you can beat Rivaldo's for Barcelona against Seville. He controls on the chest before firing it in the top left hand corner. Barring that you have a whole host of bicycle kicks by Hugo Sanchez for Madrid or Ally McCoist's for Rangers against Hibs in the League Cup final (sevedr bias hear but right now Rangers fans having nothing but memories).

    TIM....I'd be interested to know what you think about Fidel Martinez's move to Tijuana,Mexico.

    I thought he was capable of getting a move to a bigger team or league especially in view of his recent form in the Copa Libertadores.



    I know Tijuana (Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente...check out their club crest, it has to be the best out there ) are an up and coming team but they are hardly a Mexican powerhouse. I thought he might have moved to Holland, Portugal or France before maybe moving on to a "premier" Euro league.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/fidel-martinez-goes-to-the-dogs-8/

    In regards to the Copa Libertadores I think the big Brazilian teams were fairly fortunate with aggregate and penalty wins.

    I'd like to see Chile in the final but at the same time I love to watch Riquelme and he has inspired Boca in this years competition.

    In the other semi i'd like to see Corinithians progress.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/south-american-giants-sneak-into-copa-libertadores-semi-finals/

    Looking forward to Argentina vs Ecuador on Saturday but i doubt Ecuador will get much from the game.

    Ecuador vs Columbia should be better and it will be my first chance to attend a game in a full Atahaulpa.

    @12.. I also listened to the World Football report about Vasco De Gama's youth training set. Pretty disgraceful considering that Vasco are a Brazilian powerhouse and regularly sell players to Europe for multi-millions.

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 29.

    Arab or Russian billionaires can't buy a Brazilian club as the clubs are run by the fans, or at least a commitee, usually several hundred people, who elect a president every 3 or 4 years, so no-one really owns a club. It's more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea.
    Similar systems work in other countries such as Germany.
    By the way, #4, if your question was serious, Sao Paulo is indeed a city, 20 million population at the last count, but certainly more than that now.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think the great thing about your blog - and something fellow bloggers on the BBC website could learn from (Phil McNulty!) - is that you tell a story in your posts. Yours have a lovely narrative, which entices people like me who frankly have little interest in South American football.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 32.

    kngjrdn @14
    good blog as usual, but i sense a little bit of an exaggeration. Although i did not see the goal, history aside, i doubt if it is a kick that we have never seen before.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    feel the sheer pleasure that football can give you.

    I am, let's just say in the twilight years of my life but I still get that rush that makes me think 'did I really just see him do that' when a goal or a defence splitting pass occurs on the pitch.

    When going to a game and it stops happening that will be the time for me to say goodbye.

  • Comment number 33.

    4. At 11:06 28th May 2012, King Red wrote:
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    You sure about the messi angle? I've read that the argies are not particularly fond of him. Consider him more catalan than argentine since he's been there since he was 13.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good article..... Good to learn about a bit of History and the Greats of the game.... :)

  • Comment number 35.

    I find it astonishing that number two talks of the EPL and Champions League having overtaken international football.

    Most English football is overpaced dross, and the problem with the Champions League is that the format allows second or third rate teams to park the bus and go all the way. We all know that Barcelona has been Europe's best team for the last three years, yet they have won only 1 of the last 3 Champions Leagues. In fact, I much preferred the old European Cup because the players were playing 12 fewer matches per season and the best team generally won, whereas now by Easter Messi, Xavi, Iniesta et al are out on their feet.

    The comments about the 1930s made this week's blog special. I've just signed up for World Cup tickets in Brazil - there are well-priced hospitality packages on sale - and I'm going to South America in the New Year to check the place out, and the three places I wanted to pay football homage at were the Centenario in Montevideo (1930 World Cup), the Maracana (1950, obviously) and Santos (because of Pele). Tim omitted to mention the most famous fact about Leonidas: in the pre-substitute world he was rested for the 1938 World Cup semi-final to keep him fresh for the Final , only for Italy to knock Brazil out.

    That, in turn is part of why the "home" World Cup in 1950 was so important for Brazil, and why their loss in the Final match to Uruguay remains such an open wound. The 1950 goalie Barbosa stated just before his death in 2000 that the maximum imprisonment in Brazil was 30 years, yet he had been vilified constantly for 50 years about that defeat.

    I grew up in England, and because England had not taken early World Cups seriously public awareness of the two most momentous World Cup Finals of all time (Uruguay's Maracanazo win in 1950, and West Germany's Miracle of Berne against Hungary in 1954) was non-existent, just as it is now.

    But the magic of international football is its history, and its reflections in modern day football, just as Alecsandro's goal evoked memories of Leonidas.

    And the completely unforseen re-emergence of Uruguay as a footballing superpower is making Brazil 2014 into a fascinating World Cup. Uruguay is now ranked number 3 in the world, and if/when it secures World Cup qualification will therefore have to be seeded, and is likely to avoid early meetings with Spain / Brazil / Italy / Argentina / Holland / Germany.

    That raises a serious possibility that Maracanazo Part 2 might be on the cards, 64 years after the most famous match (and national footballing trauma) in history. It might even happen in the same Maracana.

    In fact, the thought of that inspired my purchase of Olympic football tickets this year. Again, British football fans seem ignorant of the status of Olympic football outside Europe. The Euros and Copa America are often the end-of-the-line for ageing has-beens - look at England's squad for confirmation of that - but the formula of 3 over-age players + Under'23s is recognised outside the UK as being a dress rehearsal for a World Cup two years later.

    John Terry is a perfect illustration of that. He's 31 and a half, and has already been made to look foolish by Luis Suarez and even Andy Carroll. If he somehow gets to the 2014 World Cup as an almost-34 year old with 600 senior matches in his legs he is going to be a gift to the likes of Falcao or Neymar or Cavani.

    I'm quite looking forward to the Euros, but I'm looking forward more to this weekend, and the World Cup qualifiers between Argentina and Ecuador and Uruguay and Venezuela.

    But most of all I'm looking forward to the unbelievable privilege of watching Thiago Silva, Neymar, Ganso, Lucas Moura et al playing for Brazil across England and Wales.

    It's great that the EPL now has so many foreign players, but really Aguero and Suarez are the only two South American superstars who ply their trade in England. The chance to watch Neymar and Ganso and the rest of the Brazilians rehearsing for the 2014 World Cup in England this summer in six competitive matches is just too good to be true!

  • Comment number 36.

    I am Brazilian and I can honestly say that I'm kind of moved by this sort of blog... it's really nice to read a European guy talking about our football with wisdom.

    On the other hand, I'm shocked with the comments here. Why would someone doubt the fact that São Paulo is a city? Guys, Brazilians are living, in some cities, better than Americans and Europeans. Our poverty - on its extreme scale - is almost finished and we have cities (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, etc..) breathing like they are centers of a developed world. We have, yes, some problems about violence, habitation, public health and public institutions (mainly this part), but we need to enforce the fact that our biggest cities are overcrowded and we have the largest public health system of the world, for example. Respect us, we are serious.
    Of course I'm not talking just about Brazil. Even though they don't have the same economic qualities that us, Argentina and Chile also have a great depth of welfare. I mean, Santiago, Buenos Aires and Montevideo really shouldn't be located at South America... they are European cities by nature.

    Talking about football now: the Brazilian League (Brasileirão, in portuguese) of course doesn't have the level of the biggest leagues in Europe. But, yes, it has the level of some important leagues. For example, is better than the Portuguese and the Calcio. We have great players playing here, bearing in mind that we got the newcomers too: Luis Fabiano, Ronaldinho, Gilberto Silva, Neymar, Leandro Damião, Oscar, Lucas, Ganso... And, and I'm sure about this, Brasileirão is the league with most equilibrium in the world. We have about 7 clubs with good quality that can challenge the title: Internacional, São Paulo, Fluminense, Corinthians, Santos, Vasco, Grêmio. The league is just starting, I really recommend you to watch it.
    The Argentinian League (Primera División) has a similar equilibruim, but not the same quality.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'd like to comment on some comments, with a Brazilian point of view.

    #4: What? Jesus, you’ve got it all wrong. First, we have lack of labour force, actually: unemployment in Brazil is nearing zero, and we have huge opportunities for public study in a superior level… people dream about being a football player, but it happens because we live, breath and eat football, not because we don’t have options.
    Second, Argentinians REALLY don’t have Messi as a messiah. They don’t dislike him, but they are indifferent because of the fact that he left Rosario so early on his life.

    #5 #6 Neymar, for example, make more than 500k Euros per month. Money isn’t really a problem in Brazil for the big clubs. Brazilian world stars are returning earlier to the country mainly because of the fact that we’ve got the money now. Seedorf, Drogba and Malouda, for example, are names that the press suggest are coming in the near future to play here.

    #13 The majority of supporters, like me, also see things your way.

    #16 Great point of view. I would just addone of the most important things: the Brazilian League only allows a club to put 3 foreign players on the pitch. Not extra-communitarian, but foreigners. For example, Internacional has a huge problem in the midfield, because it has a starting line with Sandro Silva (former Málaga player), Guiñazú (Argentina National Team this week), Dátolo (ex-Napoli, ex-Español…) and D’Alessandro (the maestro). It just finishes the possibility of signing other foreign player! And the immediate substitute of them is Mario Bolatti (ex-Fiorentina), that cannot sit on the bench because of the three-foreign rule. It stops the clubs from signing people from abroad.

    #20 East European countries pay the largest fees, actually. Some absurd fees that don’t make any sense, to be sincere.

  • Comment number 38.

    I have just finished writing this.. Have a look and feel free to criticize.

    Probably one of the most under-rated South American footballers of all time altough one of the most recognisable. CARLOS VALDERRAMA

    http://footballintheclouds.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/more-than-a-fro-carlos-el-pibe-valderrama-3-2/

    don't mean to hijack Tim's blog but here is one of the few places i get to reach like minded fools, sorry South American football experts.

    your opinion makes a difference

    cheers

  • Comment number 39.

    @Our poverty - on its extreme scale - is almost finished and we have cities (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, etc..) breathing like they are centers of a developed world????

    you either live in a different Brazil than me or walk around with yourr eyes closed... poverty especiall where I live in the North East is still rife... behind the facade of shopping centres and high rise prsion like apartments it is everywhere!!

    back to football... the Brazilian league suffers from losing its best players when there are international games... on Sunday, against Sport Recife, Santos looked woeful without Ganso & Neymar!

  • Comment number 40.

    I am not sure if this video is avaiable abroad Brazil, but if you would like to try to see the bicycle kick gol: http://globotv.globo.com/sportv/e-gol/v/gol-de-bicicleta-de-alecsandro-da-vitoria-ao-vasco-contra-portuguesa-pelo-brasileiro/1966837/

  • Comment number 41.

    what? Tim Vickery, you are NOT an Iron Maiden fan?

    Ha, I see... maybe you are more into Black Sabbath or Judas Priest? Saxon? Deep Purple? Led Zeppelin? Nah? No english heavy metal?

    Errr... Elton John and Pet Shop Boys?

  • Comment number 42.

    @Stan007: well, you live in the northeast. Yes, all brazilian capitals have poverty, but there is much more of it in the northeast.

    Porto Alegre´s per capita is R$25k.
    Curitiba´s per capita is R$26k
    Florianopolis is R$20k

    now, lets see some northeast cities
    Natal: R$ 10,8k
    Recife: R$16k
    Fortaleza: R$12k
    Salvador: R$11k

    See the difference? And you know whats worse? The northeast capitals already have low GDP per capita, but OUTSIDE the capitals, it gets even poorer.

    In Rio Grande do Sul, you get out of Porto Alegre and there are tons of good developed cities, small ones, medium ones and big ones. Same in Paraná. In Santa Catarina, Blumenau and Joinville are even more developed than Florianopolis.

    In the northeast, you get out of the capitals, and except a few rare exceptions, most cities and towns are VERY poor and undeveloped.

  • Comment number 43.

    @4 King Red: São Paulo is both the name of a state with a population of 40 million people and the capital of the same state, which has a population of 10 million people (20 million if counting metro area).

    the biggest cities in São Paulo state, excluding the metro area, are:
    Campinas (1 million), São José dos Campos (630k), Ribeirão Preto (600k), Sorocaba (586k), Santos (420k), São José do Rio Preto (408k).

  • Comment number 44.

    ps: I disagree that you ONLY can get rich with football in Brazil. Yes, class mobility is not that great in Brazil, but there are some brazilian billionaires who were pretty simple or even poor, like Lirio Albino Parisotto, director of Eternit and with a fortune of 2,4 billion dollars., who was born in an agricultural region near the small town of Nova Bassano, in a house without electricity with parents who made subsitence farming to feed their 11 children...

  • Comment number 45.

    @41..."what? Tim Vickery, you are NOT an Iron Maiden fan?"

    Wasted opportunity...South Americans love their 80's heavy metal. Perhaps Tim prefers something more related to football, such as Mrs Beckham's former quintet ;)

    Seriously though, business end in the Copa Libertadores, great chance for Universidad de Chile to add the Libertadores to their current Copa Sudamericana title and be the first team to hold them both simultaneously. It will be a tremendous semifinal against Boca.

    I don't actually watch the Brazilian league but if Corinthians v Vasco was anything to go by, I'm not missing out on much. Spiteful match, full of diving and simulation. Santos wasn't much better but good to see that a non-Brazilian referee didn't fall for many of their tricks, which I assume would work in a local league match. Hopefully Santos v Corinthians will show a bit more of football.

  • Comment number 46.

    I cannot understand how players complain as regards their national team appearenesses when, together with their club teams, go around the world to play stupid friendly matches. These matches usually are played either preseason or else after the end of the respective leagues. Players should be proud to represent their nations like World Cups.

  • Comment number 47.

    Big opportunity for Uruguay to consolidate their lead in the standings in the next 2 matches at home to Venezuela and Peru. Chile can also benefit if they play their cards right, away to Bolivia and Venezuela.

    Argentina only play one match in this round against Ecuador and they should struggle as usual trying to get Messi to perform.

 

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