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European game puts South America in shade

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Tim Vickery | 17:54 UK time, Monday, 22 September 2008

I have the impression I was part of a very small TV audience last Tuesday watching the South American Cup tie between Sport Ancash of Peru and Nublense of Chile.

It was afternoon local time, which meant that it coincided with the opening day of Europe's Champions League. Barcelona were in action, Chelsea were playing - and I suspect that all over South America, and perhaps even in Peru and Chile, more fans were interested in the progress of Messi and Lampard than anything Ancash and Nublense were getting up to.

Since I moved to Rio just over 14 years ago the relationship between South American supporters and European clubs has undergone a big change. In 1994 there were plenty of Deportivo La Coruna shirts around - it was a gesture of support for Bebeto, Brazil's World Cup winning striker, who was playing for the club.

There were lots of Barcelona shirts, paying tribute to his strike partner Romario. And it was common to see the red and black of Milan - because these are also the colours of local heroes Flamengo. Back then, wearing a European shirt was just another way that the fan identified himself with domestic matters, with his own club or national team idol.

That has all changed. Now the streets of Rio are full of Chelsea shirts, Manchester United shirts, Real Madrid shirts, and so on. I was in Armenia, small town Colombia, a few years back when I was astonished to see a huge Arsenal poster for sale in the street.

Over the last few years we have reached the point where many South American fans have built up a bond of affection for certain high profile European clubs - regardless of who plays for them. They once wore Barcelona shirts because of Romario, or Ronaldo, or Rivaldo or Ronaldinho.

They now wear Barcelona shirts because they follow the club's fortunes. This process has gone so far that a bond can develop without any local connection. Even before Scolari took over I have seen many Chelsea shirts wandering around - nothing to do with Beletti or Alex, everything to do with the fan associating himself with a big, successful team.

This, of course, is a consequence of the globalisation of football. And here, as in most areas, globalisation means concentration. With the field opened up for all-comers you get fewer, bigger banks using their economies of scale and expertise to get their hands on the world's capital. In the same way you get a restricted number of rich European clubs snapping up the most talented footballers from the four corners of the globe and competing for the major titles. It's the inevitable dynamic of football globalisation.

For the good of the game, it's probably just as well that football has also produced a counter-dynamic. Because if at club level the process of globalisation opens up the gaps between the giants and the rest, in the international game the reverse is true.

Take Paraguay, for example. Last week I wrote about their remarkable progress. An impoverished country with a small population, they are well on course to make it to their fourth consecutive World Cup. After eight rounds of the current qualification campaign, they are four points clear of Brazil and Argentina.

Paraguay's Nelson Haedo Valdez (r) celebrates a goal against Venezuela

Their squad of 25 for the recent matches contained just four players still based in Paraguay, only one of whom made the starting line up. Of the rest, seven are in major European leagues, nine are in Mexico, and the others are elsewhere in South America, especially Argentina.

The global market in footballers has enabled Paraguayans to go abroad to bigger, more competitive leagues, pick up confidence and experience and then bring all of that back to be used in the service of the national team.

Last week one of the comments left on my blog was a complaint about the subject matter. I was accused of "scraping the barrel" because "who cares about Paraguay?"

We could simply dismiss the thoughts of such a blinkered soul. Or we could decide that it is sadly inevitable that some people will think like this in the era of football globalisation.

Given the attention afforded to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United, it is hardly surprising that the less imaginative might feel that an article on any other subject is a waste of their time.

International football is here to show that it is not so. Because what is true of Paraguay also applies to plenty of other nations - especially in Africa.

The continent prepares to stage its first World Cup with a number of countries entitled to think they can do well on home soil - in part because of the experience their players have acquired in Europe. South Africa 2010 promises to be a truly fascinating World Cup - one that might remind some people that football does not only belong to a handful of giant clubs in Europe's Champions League.

PS If anyone's interested, Sport Ancash beat Nublense 4-0 to qualify for the next round, their veteran playmaker 'Kukin' Flores gave a reminder that he has the talent to have achieved much more in the game, and the Ancash players have had to threaten strike action in protest at not being paid for a couple of months. It's a long way from the Champions League.

I've rambled on this week and left no space for it, but after the campaign on last week's blog we'll bring the questions back. So we'll try it as follows; for reactions to this article and any relating debate, please use the comments space below - that, after all, is the point of a blog. Questions on other topics to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple per week.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Tim please ignore the "who cares" comments. I think your articles are the best thing on here and I hope you keep up the good work continuing to introduce us all to what is going on elsewhere in the World away from the hollywood-like farce that is going on in Europe and the Premier League in particular these days.

  • Comment number 2.

    Messi, Kaka are both from S. America and the top 2 out of 3 players.

  • Comment number 3.

    Alright Tim,

    I'm a Newcastle fan and I was wondering what you can tell me about our new loan signing Nacho Gonzalez? I saw him made his debut as a sub against Hull last week and he looked alright...

    Rumours are rife though that KK told the Newcastle board that he didn't think Nacho was up to the standard of the Premier League. What's your opinion of him? Do you think he'll cut it in England?

    Cheers,
    Chris

  • Comment number 4.

    It seems nowhere is free of the Premier League stranglehold nowadays. It is becoming detrimental to the world game in my eyes.

    I also agree with warncken when he states "keep up the good work". I love reading your insights into the South American game and anyone who loves football loves watching the South American sides. Paraguay are currently one of the best so why not write about them.

  • Comment number 5.

    tim your blog is legendary. Look out for it every week. Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 6.

    Ignore the haters Vickers, you're doing a very fine job indeed - for most Brits, you are THE voice (or rather, pen) of South American football.

    I support Man United, but football is not only to be found in OT or the tournament of the Starball - football is found in the fields of Rio, Shanghai, New York, Buenos Aires, Cairo... I could go on infinitely. The point is that for every star we see in the Champions League, there are many more visions and perspectives of the game yet to be discovered.

    What you do, Vickery, is open the door to some of those perspectives.

  • Comment number 7.

    You do very well to ignore the mainstream idiots, Tim. Keep up the sterling work.

    A look on the Premier League's official Fantasy Football stats page shows that the best-performing fans support Aston Villa, West Ham and Everton. And the fans with the worst-performing teams? Well, they support a certain Chelsea and Man Utd.

    No doubt there are extremely knowledgeable, cultured Chelsea, Man Utd etc... fans out there who are interested in world football and your BBC blog but the stat I mention simply shows that the "Top 4 Clubs" attract their fare share of fans who know nothing and do not want to broaden their horizons. It's a real shame but, as you point out, a result of globalisation.

    As an Everton fan (in both England and Chile) I was wondering what you know about our new Ecuadorian midfield-enforcer "Segundo Castillo?" Early signs of him in action in the Prem and UEFA are fairly promising indeed. What sort of reputation does he enjoy closer to home?

  • Comment number 8.

    One could argue that South America is THE most important continent in world football, not only as it's 6 years away from re-hosting the world cup, has arguably the most passionate national team supporters (did say arguably people) has produced 9 of the 18 world cup winners, and is one the the key areas for every single big European club to scout for young players.
    This blog is on of the highlights of my week, and brings a completely different insight into the "world" of football, which to most people doesn't extend much beyond tv coverage and media press journalists, who jump on the next bandwagon as quick as kick the next one out of bed.
    As a non league fan, i get irate at times at the amount of friends who laugh at me when i say i support Northwich Victoria, but to me it's every bit as vital as any Premiership game, so for people to blatantly cast aside a WHOLE CONTINENT doesn't surprise, but still rankles.
    Keep up the very good work, and let's not forget, Robinho was the big transfer in the last window, your writings help shed light on who may be next.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice article mate.

  • Comment number 10.

    Tim,

    Although I completely agree with your view that European clubs have nowadays a much bigger legion of genuine fans in SA, there are perhaps some more prosaic reasons to explain the larger use of such clubs' shirts down here. I'd like to suggest 2 that come up to my mind (and I know friends fitting in each of them):

    1) Identification with the 'colour' of the shirt and not with the club itself. So, a Cruzeiro fan buys Chelsea shirt because of the colour resemblance, a Botafogo fan buys Newcastle and so on;

    2) People buy shirts not because they support the club but because of any other reason (shirt was on sale, shirt is nice, shirt is popular, etc). So, it is not uncommon to see the same person wearing Barcelona one day and Real Madrid the next day.

    BTW, keep your extraordinary work.

  • Comment number 11.

    I myself am very interested in South American teams be them the national sides or club sides.

    Tim, can you give information on the next big player/s that've shown any to true brilliance in terms of playmaking and dribbling past opposition players?

    Is the anyone who looks like the next Ronaldinho, luiz delima Ronaldo and zidane?

    Do you have a special section in your blog that shows stats and clips of up-coming top talent?

    What is the latest about the young Jean Carlos Chera? I've been trying to do more research on his progress but nothing seems to be available nor any updated???


    Gavin Eyquem.

  • Comment number 12.

    tim, as usual, a greatly informative article.

  • Comment number 13.

    What ever happened to that once raved about young wonderkid Kerlon?
    Great article keep going.

  • Comment number 14.

    Vikipedia eh? In this saturation of over-priced abominably average football, yes I'm a Charlton supporter, it must be absolutely invigorating to watch the ebb and flow of teams in South America.

    As for these shirts I hope the EPL teams are getting their royalties. Not!

  • Comment number 15.

    Great article Tim, good read as always. I think you can tell from the majority of comments being positive that you're appreciated. I thought only Mihir got complaints, silly guy that he is sometimes, but obviously some don't know class when they see it.

    As a question though, do you think that Denilson, one of our (Arsenal) best performers at times so far this season, has what it takes or is he too prone to lapses in concentration too often to make him the ultimate midfielder his talent suggests he can be? Basically, will he win a world cup?

    Marcus

  • Comment number 16.

    I noticed that comment last week. Ignore it. Your articles are by far the best thing on this website. Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim, I'm from São Paulo and I completely agree with you when you mentioned that back in the early 90s people used to wear the jersey of the European club they had some type of identification with. Back then, I used to have a Barça number 11 jersey due to the presence of Romario over there.
    I also agree that right now people no longer looks for some sort of identification before purchasing a jersey of an European team. Although, I don't see people buying a Chelsea, a Liverpool or a Juventus jersey because they support that particular team. People who wear these shirts over here on the overwhelming majority of times do it mainly because they like the style of that jersey, but not because they support that teams as they do with their local team. I own a few jerseys from European clubs and many friends of mine also do and I can assure they really don't give a damn about the success of these teams in Europe.
    Nice blog!

  • Comment number 18.

    Your articles are the most interesting on the entire BBC Blog Network. They're always really detailed, and cover interesting subjects that I generally know little about before (compare and contrast: Mihir Bose).

    Please keep "rambling on" :)

  • Comment number 19.

    Tim and everyone,

    There is a bit more to it than meets the eye...

    A Brazilian born and bred, I have strong links with the Rep. of Ireland and. while there (in 1996 and 1999), I noticed that very few people follow domestic football, preferring to watch the Premier League and support English teams.

    The explanation for this, they said, is two-fold:

    One is the high level of English football and the low of Irish indeed appeals to the mass of youngsters who sometimes never read a single line abut local teams in the papers;

    The other is the force with which English culture reaches neighbouring Ireland - newspapers, tv channels, websites, radio and so on.

    So this Irish interest in English football, in a way, is not surprising. One might say that there are emotional ties - Irish players playing for English sides, teams from towns with strong Irish communities (such as Liverpool and Manchester) attracting more and more fans. But how about us, South Americans?

    Ok, I for one support a Brazilian side - São Paulo FC) but in recent times I feel much more attracted to English football, where I support Arsenal (been a Gunner since my teens).

    And I know that several pubs in São Paulo serve as a base for a growing number of English football fans that regularly gather and watch matches over a pint - most often along with supporters of other English clubs, always an interesting - and rather unlikely - scene!

    To my mind, it has to do with the standard of the competition - better players, richer clubs, better pitches - when compared to what Brazil, for instance, offers now in terms of football.

    But - and this is the punchline - I also believe that people here are paying more attention to English footie because it is undoubtedly more entertaining. More than Brazilian football? Way more.

  • Comment number 20.

    Totally agree with the article, although it does seem inevitable that the trend will continue, the standard of a Brazilian football league devoid of the country's cream of players is lacklustre to say the least. And will, with clubs such as Machester United taking players before one domestic league appearence, only get worse, perhaps a home grown oil magnate will be the saviour of Brazilian football, eh?

  • Comment number 21.

    What ever happened to that once raved about young wonderkid Kerlon?
    Great article keep going.

    Kerlon was signed by Chievo in the close season so if you watch Serie A you may see him there.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hey Tim,

    Love the column. I have been living in Brazil too for nearly 2 years so far, and it's nice to read opinions and the like in English occasionally about South American Football.

    Just in the time since I've been here in Sao Paulo, the influx of Brazilians into the Premier League has increased rapidly, and the interest as well. I get to watch more Premier league games here than I did in the UK at home.

    But I must admit that i am slightly dissapointed with the Brazilian football fans in there glory supporting and the lack of loyalty. I don't know if this is simply my opinion, but every time I answer the question who do i support, I have to first explain who and where the mighty QPR are. And almost always once they are discovered to not be in the Premier League, I get asked who I really support, like I must also be a fan of the big 4. This bugs me.. and now I am seeing more and more Chelsea kits on the street, I get a bit dissapointed.

    I chose to follow Corinthians (TIMAO) here, and they like QPR were relegated in my first year living here, so people now think I like to suffer, like choosing a team is a choice based on who is the best. I even get told to change teams by supporters of other teams..like it would not be an issue... Obviously this is not something I consider possible.. It's something of principle.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think many people select a shirt because it is "fashionable" and it has nothing to do with being a supporter.

    I have often wondered about the number of people I see all over the world that wear caps with NY on them. Do they know (or care) that it represents NY Yankees baseball ?

    Really enjoy your blogs though.

  • Comment number 24.

    Europe has a higher level of football, like it or not.

    The league systems in South America (especially Brazil) are quite frankly, ridiculous!

    Every single promising player who comes out of South America can't ait t get away from there, not only because of money, but also because the way extremist fans behave is simply barbaric and inhumane (look at the way Tevez was treated - death threats etc.)

    There are no big teams who constantly perform season in, season out which puts off interest.

    It might be possible to blame other football leagues for the fall in interest and quality in South American football, but the organisation and structure of the game there has to take a preportion of the blame as well!

  • Comment number 25.

    Tim,

    Your blog is easily the most insightful article on here- I used to religiously play championship/football manager and would pride myself in my South American football knowledge (of players, at least).

    Nowadays I grudgingly don't have time to spend weeks playing fm so it's good to read up about what's going on outside the premiership and la liga. I only found out the other day Kerlon went to Chievo.

    Your blog is honest and concise and never feels contrived- it's a pleasure to read mate.

    Jus bring back the questions section yeah?


  • Comment number 26.

    Great Blog, hit the nail on the head.
    Nice to see that the lean and mean are found nowadays. I think it amazing that with with every club worth the name of club has an "Acadamy" where the youth have all the luxuries that an inspiring footballer could ever need but up till now the finished products are rare. John Terry from Chelsea is the only Chelsea player direct from the youth. West Ham seems to have done a bit better. Why is this so? do they get too pampered into thinking their future is absolutely certain?

  • Comment number 27.

    No doubt that the standard of club football in the major European leagues is higher than in South America - the best players from all over the world congregate in Europe, for motives which are in large part fiancial - this is professional football after all - but there is more to it than that. We've long passed the point where it is no longer possible to do what Pele did - play your entire career in South America (with the USA adventure tacked on the end) and be considered a great player. Nowadays to win that accolade you must shine in the Champions League.
    I've seen the effect this had had on the domestic South American game - which has a long tradition and very deep cultural roots. I wonder what the effect is like in Africa or Asia, how newer leagues can establish themselves when the glamour is so concentrated in Europe.

  • Comment number 28.

    I was in Rio in 2006 and yes, there were street vendors selling a few (mostly knock off) Arsenal or Barcelona shirts among the hundreds of South Amercian club and national jerseys - but I never saw anyone wearing them. Almost every football shirt I saw being worn was either the yellow or green national team shirt. Earlier this year I was traveling around Argentina with friends. One guy wore his Tottenham shirt one evening and I bet him no one would recognize it. No one did, despite him actually going up and asking people if they knew what team he supported and pointing to the badge, until finally he ran into a couple of guys from Denmark who recognized it. On another occasion I ran into a local wearing a Leeds United shirt - my team. So I struck up a conversation and the reason he bought it were: 1. It was on sale (cheap) and 2. It wasn't any local team so he knew he could wear it and be safe. He had no clue who Leeds United were!

  • Comment number 29.

    Perhaps I've confused my own argument by banging on so much about the wearing of shirts - which as some have pointed out, is frequently just a fashion thing.
    Something else has gone on. I did a round table debate a couple of weeks back on one of the Brazilian channels that broadcasts the Premiership. They told me that during the games they are flooded with e-mails from locals who now consider themselves fans of the teams. One of the commentators, for example, said early last season that he didn't rate Adebayor too highly - for the rest of the campaign Arsenal's new-found Brazilian fans never let him forget it - and there you have it - Brazilians getting behind an African playing for a club in London. Back in 1994, when I first moved over here, all this was inconceivable.

  • Comment number 30.

    superb blog

  • Comment number 31.

    I recently had a post on Mihir Bose's blog banned, and I was disappointed because I pride myself on trying to post as politely and as intelligently as possible. However, I can understand why it was banned as I was especially scathing, although I don't believe I said anything personal or offensive.

    I only mention this because, by and large, I am not personally impressed with Bose's blogs, or with the vast majority on this webside (though I can't resist a guilty chuckle at Robbo's!). But Tim Vickery's blog bucks the trend. Every week, even this week when he's rambled a little, is enlightening, coherent, analytical and delivered with panache.

    Because of this, I am disappointed at the attitude shown by the poster who asked who cares about Paraguay. I'll be honest, I care. I'm a football fan and, although I support Manchester United, I am riveted by football wherever it takes place in the world. I am especially keen to expand my knowledge of places I know little about. And I certainly know little about football in Paraguay! If anything, I'd like Tim to say more about the domestic games of more 'minor' South American countries.

    Keep up the good work, Tim. Your blog is a credit to the BBC.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great stuff again tim.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi Tim

    Ignore the comments about the lack of relevancy of your articles by some of the public who wish to remain blinkered to the global diversity of football. I think it is indicative of our times to simply ignore these, making European club football generic and bloated. I'm sad to say that I'm pleased when mid table clubs like Man City inherit large amounts of wealth to break the powerhouses of the European Elite.

    I think it is harming our national team when individuals have such a narrowed minded view of 'lower' national/club teams abroad. It breeds overconfidence and disappointment.

    It was refreshing to hear the likes of John Terry paying respect to teams like Croatia. I just hope we extend this to the likes of Paraguay and Mexico also.

    And I hope it just doesn't take another failure to qualify for us as a nation to appreciate this.

    Keep up the good work!!

    Question: I've read that Minero is joining Chelsea. Is good cover for the injured Deco and Essien? What will he offer the Chelsea midfield?

  • Comment number 34.

    Who do you think will win this year's Copa Sudamericana? Can Liga, Quito win it again? Or will Boca be too powerful?

  • Comment number 35.

    Great article Tim! With regards to Paraguay and its remarkable progress in WC qualifications, let me say that back in 1986, of the 22 players in that WC roster, only 7 footballers played outside of Paraguay, none in Europe! Flash forward to the last WC and you find that 18 plied their trade in foreign leagues, with 8 of them in Europe. The global football market has indeed helped our players establish the Paraguayan National Team as a force to reckon with. Cheers from Asuncion.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great article as always Tim.

    In Africa, the concentration has also moved to the North, but to Egypt-Tunisia and Morocco, who have taken most of the top talent, Brazilian born Tunisian striker Santos playing for Sahel, and he opened the door for many more Brazilians to arrive there, Zamalek have taken Ghana's most consistent scorer in the last 10 years in Junior Agogo from England. So slowly the African version of the Champions League is taking up the continents top talent. Many see playing in the African Champions League as a way into Europe, most notably Zaki of Wigan.

    From another angle, we can see many players also using the Copa Libertadores as a way into Europe, such as Joffre of LDU. However, the positive from this process is we get to catch a glimpse of the future stars, and see them in their prime form, as many move abroad and are not succesful.

    As for those that think that 'smaller' clubs deserve less attention, most of the world stars from S.America played in these smaller teams, i for one watch River Plate even more since they unearthed Aimar-Saviola-Aguero etc, Buananote looks like he could be the next from this 'small' team.

  • Comment number 37.

    helguera - River Plate is most definitely not a 'small' team. I'm no River Plate fan (my Argentinian team is actually Independiente) but last time I looked River Plate were one of the most successful clubs in Argentinian history and that would therefore make them one of the most well-respected teams in Latin America.

  • Comment number 38.

    Guys you should check out the world football phone in, on fivelive every friday night/sat morning.

    Tim is always on there with other great guests (not as good as the Legendinho obviously!) but all experts have a fountain of knowledge on their continents.

    If you thought the guy couldn't get any better, he's also bloody hilarious!








  • Comment number 39.

    Tim, your blog is quality and by far the best on the BBC site, don't let the minority spoil it for the majority, I love reading about South American football. Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 40.

    I've been working in Quito, Ecuador for the past two months and would have to slightly disagree.

    I can't speak for the rest of the continent, but as for Ecuador I don't think such European fever has reached its shores yet. I see far more people wearing the shirts of local clubs than I do those of Manchester United, Madrid, Chelsea etc. and other such merchandise and paraphernalia is seemingly everywhere.

    No doubt much of this has been influenced by Quito club Liga winning the Copa Libertadores earlier this year, the first ever Ecuadorian team to do so. I guess this has instilled some kind of national pride in a country starved of success on the international scene for so long.

    Having not been here before their victory I can't say whether this success prompted the nation's adoring fans to put away the United shirt and dig out the Liga and [Ecuadorian] Barcelona jerseys or if they've always been more passionate about their own clubs, but right now pride in their local teams is really running high, and Liga fans in particular are really relishing the December fixture with United in Japan.

    Saying that, I was rather surprised to see a Nottingham Forest top for sale in a Quito shopping mall. I don't know if this is linked to a long standing affinity for great European teams of old, or if it was somehow linked to Umbro's massive presence in Ecuador, who also of course produce the Forest kits and I believe are based in Nottingham.

  • Comment number 41.

    YorkshirePotter - Umbro are based in Manchester.

    Regarding Nottingham Forest, I too have come across a liking for this club in my travels in Argentina. A relative there in his 50s now recently told me that his English team were Nottingham Forest because of their European Cup success in the 70's which was widely televised at the time in his country. Could it be that it was televised in Ecuador too? Seemed quite surprising to me, to be honest although no doubt they were a great team at the time.

    Finally, seeing as you are in Quito, I was wondering whether you can answer what the locals think of Everton's new signing, "Segundo Castillo"?

  • Comment number 42.

    tim keep up the good work, to many people think that the premiership is the everything and that nothing else matters.

    Sport Ancash of Peru and Nublense of Chile they matter. just as my local teams bristol city and rovers, clubs like these are who football lovers go.

    again good work.

  • Comment number 43.

    Hi

    Apologies if this post is slightly off topic.

    All this just reminds me of the power of TV, and money, to bring European and Premier League football to any part of the world with a television. As entertainment, it has global, human appeal, maybe even more than Holywood movies or any rock and pop music. And in many cases, more appeal than the local football. I have seen Premier League shirts in places as far apart as a war damaged village in East Timor, and US army base in Montana.

    The variety of players and teams in the premier league and the way the game is played make it an amazing spectacle and event. It's not so much of a surprise that South Americans are catching on to the glamour and prestige of the EPL and the Champions League, if they love football. Maybe it's similar to how more and more people in this country support a Premier League team as opposed to their nearest local team. Maybe it's just more exciting?

  • Comment number 44.

    Hello, Mr. Vickery. I've greatly enjoyed your columns, Paraguay and all. I'm just wondering if you find anywhere in South America in which the security situation is as bad as that of South Africa. I remember reading you write that you didn't feel safe after leaving a stadium in Brazil. But would you recommend not traveling anywhere, besides Columbia?

  • Comment number 45.

    Tim,

    Could you please publish something on Marcelo Bielsa's Chile over the course of the qualifying campaign? I just think that he is such a unique character, almost a lonely figure within Argentine football. Although I am a fan of that Argentine school of slow, intricate passing, as personified by deep-lying central midfielders like Redondo and Gago ( my favourite kind of football to watch), I still must admit admiration for Bielsa's high-tempo offensive game which made him a pariah with some sections of the Argentine media. Watching Chile's two recent games against Brazil and then Colombia was riveting, and even if their relentless attacking was suicidal against a team like Brazil they got their rewards in the second game. It was like watching a Mourinho-style Chelsea relentlessly counter-attack but from the outset!

    Do you think that Bielsa just had the misfortune to be born in a country where such a vibrant, yet contrasting style of football to his is revered? And has he found the perfect template for his 'mechanised' (in Mauricio Macri's words) game in a country like Chile? Could they serve as an example for other countries with a small pool of players yet who are technically proficient?

  • Comment number 46.

    Robertopelota (45)
    you might be interested in my piece on Bielsa's Chile written for SBS in Australia - www.theworldgame.com.au - go to blogs and scroll down. Any team Bielsa coaches will always be fascinating.

  • Comment number 47.

    Eyqueminho,

    You were asking about playmaking midfielders.

    Hernanes of Sao Paulo.

    He can play as a number 10 behind the striker(s) but recently he has excelled playing deeper in a midfield three,

    Check him out on youtube. Believe!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EMYfuD3CKE

  • Comment number 48.

    Cheers Tim!

  • Comment number 49.

    The league maybe...but the standard of refereeing ...absolutely not, the English refereeing has to be some of the worst in the world...bar none.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi, Tim, great article.

    Just a thought: I think the contrast portrayed by your depiction of the South American Cup match in comparison to the Champions League one can also be credited to the fact that this South American tournament is still in its early stages; I assume that Pobeda Prilep v Levadia Tallinn and Olimpi Rustavi v Astana, in the preliminary stages of the 2007/2008 Champions League, were not matches that kept millions of viewers glued to their television screens either.

    Also, the South American Cup, local equivalent of the UEFA Cup, hasn't really taken off here (at least in Brazil, where I live); however, Copa Libertadores' matches are followed with extreme interest, where the element of local national rivalries is added to the passions provoked by the games. And, of course, in the national leagues, the level of passion can still be measured in all its intensity during the local derbies - Flamengo v Fluminense, River v Boca, Corinthians v Palmeiras, and so on.

    But in any case, I completely agree, the level of influence European club football has reached, worldwide, is astounding. It is, in my view, one step away from NBA-like domination, in terms of professionalism and showmanship.

  • Comment number 51.

    an interesting article tim, i thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    it is perhaps not surprising that so many foreigners are taking an interest in the english premier league.

    after all the top clubs are foreign owned, they have foreign managers and coaches. in fact they often have more foreign players than english!

    you have to wonder why we still refer to it as the "english" premier league!

    apart from its geographical location there is less and less english about it every season.

  • Comment number 52.

    anderg-point taken on River Plate, their standing in world football is undoubtedly very high along with their rivalry with Boca, however when i meant they were a 'small' team, many in this country would not know them, or that they have produced most of Argentina's stars for a long time now.

    Look at post 24 about no big teams performing every season which doesn't generate interest, that was who i was referring to.

    It's amazing how much of a response Tim manages to get in less than 12 hours on this blog, he's opened up a healthy and wide ranging area to debate, keep it up Tim!

  • Comment number 53.

    @Robertopelota:

    I've been a fan Bielsa for some time as well. I remember going to see the South American qualifiers for WC2002 with friends. I loved the way his team played, always going for a win, not content to sit around and hope for a break. I liked his character as well, sort of a melancholy professor. It was sad to see them flop at the WC. I was happy to see him back with Chile, and hope that he can guide them through the qualifiers. Would have been nice to see what he could have made of Arguero and Messi and the rest of the current Argentine squad.

  • Comment number 54.

    It's obvious. Why would anybody prefer Sport Ancash against Ñublense instead of a UCL game? A small team from Perú against a small team from Chile in the first round of the Copa Sudamericana, a competition Tim Vickery himself explained why it wasn't popular.
    If Europeans had to choose between, for example Austria Wien against Lech Poznan (the Austrians won 2-1 btw) or a match from the group phase of Copa Libertadores (assuming they were played at the same time), most of them would choose the latter.

  • Comment number 55.

    I think your blog is very interesting and gives a keen insight to part of the word that produces some of the worlds greatest footballers
    Quite frankly anyone that says "who cares" can't really call themselves real fans, because they are fickle.

    I am rather priveledged here in some senses, I live in New Jersey and I get to see the Argentine league and also the South American equivalent of the Champions League. It is nice to relate to your blog when I watch some of these games.

    Excellent work Tim and I look forward to your next article.

  • Comment number 56.

    Hey Tim

    I agree with all those who have praised this blog, I read it frequently and enjoy the change of scene from the usual talk about English and European football. I am currently studying in Guadalajara and went to my first Chivas game this past Saturday (I won't lie it wasn't the best) but got excited when I heard they are playing Atletico Paranaense in the Copa Sudamericana tomorrow night. I believe you talked about them in a previous blog when they were doing well in the Copa Libertadores. I was wondering if you, or anyone else reading could give me a couple of names to look out for in that team?

  • Comment number 57.

    I enjoy reading your article.

    I have one question.
    What would you think of the future of FIFA's Club World Cup?

    I think every club all over the world except for those belonging to UEFA is looking forward to joining the competition.

    Wouldn't that movement be increasing the possibility of the football globalization?

  • Comment number 58.

    Tim your column is one of the best on football around. Please ignore who cares as someone who plainly knows little about football. The reason why the EPL is so successful is the massive influx of foreign players and the skills they bring to the game. Does anyone really think world wide viewers watch the EPL for the home grown talent. It is the fusion of styles which makes the EPL so good to watch. Take away the foreign skills and EPL will lose its attraction very quickly. The south americans have made a huge contribution recently and those of us who love football research and read as much as possible about the game there. One major surprise has been how so many of the EPL managers know so little about the south american scene. An exception is Wenger who correct me if Im wrong recommended Palacios and Valencia to Steve Bruce and even Fergie was interested in them for while. There are many many south american players who would be bargains and I for one cant understand why more Peruvians, Paraguayans, and Ecuadoreans werent snapped up. Just look at how many Braziilans are now playing for eastern european teams and the difference it has made to those teams. Keep up the good work - Im amazed you arent a full time scout for the top EPL teams.

  • Comment number 59.

    Hi Tim. Big fan of your column/now blog.
    It's been a forever issue in South America, now it has gone as for north as Mexico, with the most famous cases being Carlos Vela and Giovani Dos Santos, where several teams lost players from their youth system to mayor european clubs. I know that that's "illegal" but that there are ways around it like employing the parents.
    now this has been going on mostly in Brazil and Argentina. Is something being done to prevent this? Thank you!

  • Comment number 60.

    Love the column. Disagree with anyone who says "who cares about Paraguay?". If they weren't important they wouldn't be topping the group now, would they? Personally, I find with football journalism that the more off-the-beaten track an article is the better.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think what makes your blog far more interesting than the others on here is the fact that it is completely different and not something you would find on the back page of the Sun. I get bored of reading the same old garbage about the same old issues that anyone with half an ounce of knowledge of football could write about.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 62.

    Great blog as always Tim.

    On the subject of European games getting bigger audiences globally, isn't this a bit of a double edged sword? On one hand, it means less coverage and exposure for South American teams, and therefore less money.

    But on the other, could it be said that the kids around the continent get to watch, learn from and be inspired by some of the best players in the world? Is it not seeing the progress of the likes of Romario, Ronaldo etc in Europe that at least partly inspired some of the current generation?

    As you can possibly tell from my daft name here, I support a Championship club - do you think the gap between South American and European club football could be compared to the gap between the Premiership and the Championship?

  • Comment number 63.

    As a Middlesbrough fan, Juninhio brought South American football to my attention some years ago, so it is fantastic to be able to continue hearing about teams and players who I previously had no idea about!

    Ignore the idiots and keep up the great articles!

  • Comment number 64.

    Tim, love the blog. The best bit about it is that it isn't about European football and the so called giants.

    One of the best football columns around, it doesn't involve over reaction and general nonsense about so called big 4s, but it is by a fan of the game about the game.

    Anyone who wants to learn or keep informed about South American football should be reading this.

    Thanks for the column based on a league where thankfully there aren't outrageous billionaires trying to tell who has the biggest

  • Comment number 65.

    Great to see someone is championing the latino footballing cause. Press coverage generally of that continent on all levels is usually worse than pathetic, but trust the BBC to rise above the rubbish of the newspapers and most of the agencies.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 66.

    Tim your article is spot on. The same is true in Africa (I reside in Accra, Ghana). All you see are shirts from the big European clubs, especially premier league clubs and last weekend's "Battle at the Bridge" was watched by millions across the continent. People with no access to Pay TV are willing to pay to watch the game in crowded bars and "video clubs". That's the extent to which European football is popular in Africa (especially the premier league). Some have even argued that local league should plan their calendar around the premier league fixtures to avoid having to compete for the audience.

  • Comment number 67.

    brilliant piece as usual tim, you really should'nt have bothered referencing some of the more ridiculous comments left by "fans of the game".
    i myself am an ardent liverpool fan but thankfully i'm aware that the beautiful game is not simply confined to L4.
    i look forward to one day reading the book that i sense you have in you on the globalisation of the game.
    keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 68.

    Your passion and knowledge of the game comes through, and makes this is a blog that I thoroughly enjoy reading. It comes as no surprise the comments left by persons obsessed with the goldfish bowl of the Premier League.

    The game is much larger than this and infinitely more interesting. Sadly, sometimes I don't think the media get this either, as it can be very hard to find anything in depth regarding the game outside our shores. Personally I can't get enough of the game overseas as well as well as domestic.

    Maybe my only complaint about this blog is that sometimes I feel there isn't enough of it.

  • Comment number 69.

    Hi Tim,

    Chelsea are on the verge of singing Miniero, 33yr old that no one i have spoken to has ever heard of him.

    Im not sure what a 33yr old unknown would bring to a team like Chelsea but i was hoping you could shed some light on him, is he any good and what will he bring to Chelsea?

    Thanks
    Paul Smith

  • Comment number 70.

    As a Fan I can see the even the best leagues in the world are having enough of foreign investment and less of home grown players. The actuall panorama its a disgrace and does not benifith any one, England the major exporters already had enough, imagine the Brazilian, Argentinian, Portuguese, Dutch and French league. FIFA should imposed rules to counter the effects of the Bosman Law, or we are going to have a 'Footbal Crush' - Many cames handy but passion and love for your own country are even more important

  • Comment number 71.

    Tim

    This blog is by far and away the best thing on the BBC website: one-of-a-kind and very insightful about a region that does not receive nearly as much coverage as it should in the mainstream press.

    I think part of the reason there weren't many people watching Nublense-Ancash lies in the fact that the South American Cup is very much an afterthought to the more serious business of the Copa Libertadores. I mean, even a Chilean team got to the final a couple of seasons ago if my memory serves me correctly! The later rounds of the Libertadores throw up some memorable games, in a Continent where 'tricky away trip' can mean a trip to Quito or Bogota to play at altitude, or to Buenos Aires to play in the Bombonera.

    Which brings me to my next point. The standard of football in South America may not be so high (although I find the Argentinian League very easy on the eye), but the atmosphere at the grounds and the dedication of the fans far outstrips what you get in Europe. The atmosphere of the Bombonera for a big match is truly electrifying. No prawn sandwich brigades over there! That's what you get when admission charges are reasonable, players don't get paid like Wall Street CEO's used to get paid (except for a 15 hour rather than an 80 hour week!): still a real connection between fans and players. Plus at continental level the playing field is far more open: didn't an Ecuadorian team win the Libertadores this year? The game in South America reminds me a bit of English football before the money men took over, which isn't an altogether bad thing if you ask me!

  • Comment number 72.

    i think the european game puts the game anywhere in the world in the shade. my perception is that football fans love to watch great entertaining football,the best players in the world displaying their talents so that is what draws the crowds from all over the world to watch european big leagues and ultimately the champions league. in my country zimbabwe many people have no clue about our own local league. in africa the caf champions league somehow does niot have the same appeal as the uefa champions league. in my own opinion the tournament is followed by the supporters of the teams involved. anyone outside the teams supporters does not care about what is happening in then league. as long as the best players in the various leagues around the world are exported to europe where the real money is the rest of the leagues will be in the shade for eternity.

  • Comment number 73.

    Another interesting artice Tim, I've previousy been in contact with you previously but I would like to share my story with the other users here about the very point you make.

    I'm British and live in UK and but follow a Brazilian club, Internacional! I began supporting them quite a few years ago now by just checking their scores but began to learn more and more about the club and it's culture and history.

    Earlier this year I began a blog about the club (internacionaluk.blogspot.com) which is the only english language resource about the club with latest news, info and highlights.

    Whilst European football has the financhial and marketing draw, I can strongly feel that there is a beautiful side to South American football which not even the financial muscle of Europe can offer.

  • Comment number 74.

    Tim I want to hear about the likes of Paraguay etc that don't get as much covereage over here in Britain.

    What a blinkered response to say "who cares", after all England struggled to overcome Paraguay in the group stages of the last World Cup. They can't be that insignificant then!

  • Comment number 75.

    Tim,

    Thanks again for an excellent article.

    The best article on any of the sports websites.

    Great, keep up the excellent work.

    Thanks

    Richard

  • Comment number 76.

    Tim, as always another excellent article. Please ignore those who thought you were "scraping the barrel" when talking about Paraguay. Whats great about your article is that you give attention to many areas of South American football showing the great diversity it has.

    Come on BBC more blogs of this quality please - specifivally with regards to Scottish Football.

  • Comment number 77.

    Tim, as with other comments here, your attention to smaller, niche, grassroots elements of football is always a pleasure to read, if only to get away from the hyperbole surrounding the premier league every day, including the frustratingly one-dimensional contributions of some of your less erudite colleagues.

    Here's a question which follows on from this: I am a big fan of Italian football, primarily because I was brought up following it. As far as popularity is concerned, the Serie A is now unquestionably the third or fourth best league in Europe, yet if you see past the corruption, violence, racism and laziness that have blighted it over recent years there is still a level of technical ability, drama and love for the finer aspects of the game that, in my view, make it utterly fascinating. I see parallels with this in South American football - so-called football fans from around the world tend not to see past the infrastructural and corporate inadequacies and the lack of money being pumped into a league when judging it. Would you agree that, on a pure footballing level, these leagues should be seen in a different light?

    Ta,
    Chris

  • Comment number 78.

    What is cool about football is that, after all, is the cheapest sport ever. Kids improvise a ball and two goals, and, voilá, there you have great for fun for some 22 people. You do not need one Roman Abramovich to create a competitive league, all you need is passion for the game.

    European leagues, particular the English one, is evidently superior, from a technical point of view. But what mobilises supporters is way more than just love for the beautiful game - it is just a feeling that cannot be taken away by globalisation.

    Personally, I think European leagues, both the national and the continental ones, have this one aspect that should be imitated around here: they are taken seriously by the media and the federations. They are, generally, so much more professional, and that is what put us, Brazilians, in awe, at first place - particularly when we bear in mind how biased and predisposed policy, administrations and the media coverage of sports around here.





  • Comment number 79.

    There is a class issue here, as there often is in South America (particularly Brazil). My upper middle and upper class Brazilian friends (I use the term loosely) could claim to have a genuine interest in the European teams whose shirts they wear - they generally know the players and watch the games on cable TV. My working class Brazilian friends tend to wear their Chelsea or Man United shirts generally because they're (the shirts, not the wearers) reasonably "street" fashionable these days (think Red Sox or NY Yankee caps in the UK - how many of their wearers could pick David Ortiz or Derek Jeter out of a lineup?) and because they're available for R$10 (£3) from the bloke standing at the traffic lights. Their true footballing loyalties remain with their local Brazilian teams. That said, the growing influence of European football can't be deined - as a Man City fan of god knows how many years it was a bit surreal to be watching the shockingly awful Portuguesa - Botafogo game on Globo on Sunday and to be shown Robinho, Jo, SWP et al's goals during the half-time show. No Barcelona, or Chelsea v Man Utd - just City. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. At the moment the cable TV companies here still use the Brasilerao to advertise their packages - I think we'll be able to tell when true European dominance has arrived when they start marketing with "WATCH ALL YOUR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HEROES HERE LIVE ON BLAH BLAH BLAH SPORT TV!"

  • Comment number 80.

    Not sure if this will be read, I may have missed the boat as have only just discovered this blog.

    Im English but my wife is brazilian so I have fairly strong links over there and follow the football to a certain extent.

    Firstly, the Brazilian league needs to get its act together if it is to compete on a "entertainment" and "credibility" basis.

    Some of the things which go on are circus like.

    For example, at the start of this season Fluminense were highly favoured to win the league. However, Flu were also in the Copa Libertadores and progressing nicely to the final. The terrible timing of fixtures however, meant that Flu were feilding a full strength side in the Copa L and having to field a reserve side in the Brazil league. They subsequently had poor results for the first 4 to 5 games and are now, 20 odd games into the season, battling against relegation; despite having won the Copa L. Would a team from Europe ever win the Champions league whilst struggling to stay in their league? No.

    Furthermore, the final of the Copa L was played and broadcast at exactly the same time as the Brazil Cup. Corinthians, the team top of their 2nd division won the Brazil Cup Final 3-0 against Sau Paulo (I think, from memory). Now, would the FA cup final be played at the same time as the Champions league final? No. And would Birmingham win the FA cup final 3-0 against Liverpool? No, but perhaps not a bad thing!

    Also, the refereeing is woeful, and the culture regarding tackling means that if two players should only run shoulder to shoulder, and one throws himself on the floor, he is likely to win a free kick.

    Address these problems, along with rumours of corruption and dodgy chairmen, and the faith may be put back into a wonderful, technically gifted, passionate league.

    But for now, things are a bit of a joke from an outsider's point of view. And those brazilians I know believe it is a bit of a joke as well, the problem is they seem happy to accept it.

  • Comment number 81.

    Nice article Tim.

    I haven't got a great experience based on South American clubs and there reason.

    However, I lived in Africa (more specifically Tanzania) where you see lots of European football shirts. The normal ones such as Barcelona, Man United and Chelsea are around.

    I was in a pub watching Man United vs Chelsea 2 years ago and it was an extraordinary atmosphere. The room was split into ManU and Chelsea fans and they were calling out there favourite players. I loved the whole occasion, its quite something to see 2 groups of fans in Tanzania who have a very friendly rivalry and are enjoying the football for what it is. Its has its similiarities to a pub game in England, buts it so much more surreal and fun...

    As anyone else had any experience of African football? I hope this post was of any interest to anyone...

    Gav

  • Comment number 82.

    Tim

    About 18 months ago when doing some voluntary work i lived in Ayacucho in the Peruvian Andes for 6 weeks. Working with the kids the universal language of football transcended all language difficulties, my spanish was poor and they spoke no English - Which i was very happy with, i'm glad there are still areas in the world where English isn't the first language - Not like in Lima where English is hugely important.

    Anyway during one of our conversations me and one of the kids where talking about footballers. We took it in turn to name a footballer and then said either bueno or malo - I was amazed at the time that they had never heard of many of the big English and European stars e.g. Henry and Lampard. I found that very endearing and also restored a bit of faith that the EPL and CL weren't completing taking over the world - I hope it's still the case in Ayacucho but i wouldn't be sure.

  • Comment number 83.

    It's no surprise that every week when I read this blog the comments are always full of praise! This is the one column I look forward to every week.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hi Tim, I completely agree that we should not listen to such narrow minded view points such as 'who cares about paraguay?' I spent most of last summer in Rio and went to a number of matches out there and thought it was amazing. Ok, I'll admit that maybe the football isn't quite of the same standard as here, but the passion of the supporters and atmosphere i nthe maracana just made one of the greatest experiences of my life, and if the globalisation of the game means that players from all over the world can now test themselves in the European leagues then this will make the international circuit far more competitive-role on 2010!! By the way, how are botafogo fairing this season?!

  • Comment number 85.

    Tim

    As someone who has been to Brazil several times on Hoilday and a Chelsea season ticket holder, I find your article as always excellent.

    Even 6 years ago on my first visit, my honeymoon, the conversations I had with locals about football, when I was wearing my Chelsea shirt were great.

    It is a great country where football is an unbelievable passion.

    Keep up the good work

  • Comment number 86.

    It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 20 years as the South American economy starts getting its act together, at the moment Brazil is showing good economic growth and hopefully that will reflect on the other nations as well.

    The key to Brazil keeping the players in its own league and so fans associating themselves with their local teams all boils down to the moment in time when a Brazilian or Argentinian TV Broadcaster finally has the clout to finance the leagues.

    Its a shame that huge sums of money are needed for this to happen but this is the reality of the game now and everybody needs to get on board.

    I have no doubt that Brazil will be able to support the finances of a rich and powerful league within the next two decades, Argentina as well, and that is when you will see fans befriend their stars once more because right now, they feel so detatched from them going off to Europe to earn millions.

  • Comment number 87.

    Tim, another voice to add to the flood of positive comments.

    Frankly, it is of the utmost importance that columns like yours continue to broaden the scope of the B.B.C.'s football coverage - otherwise so lamentably fixated with the premiership.

    Without the 'little' leagues across the world, the English leagues would lack some 80% of their top players. Yet it is also something of a fallacy to consider world football merely in terms relative to our own back-yards.

    German teams, for example, will oft play with five across midfield. Spaniards often go in for two-touch, non-contact games in training, and their largest clubs are owned and run by their fans.

    Yet despite the range of different ideas and systems to be seen across even these relatively nearby lands of Europe, B.B.C. Sport remains remarkably heretic, with the notable, and immensely valuable exception of your blog.

    To be frank, we could do with equivalents for Asian, Middle Eastern and African football; not to mention Russia and some of the other 'European' leagues.

    It is truly refreshing to read well informed prose on this site that doesn't focus on John Terry's new boots (or some other such Premiership-centred twaddle repeated ad-nauseum in the tabloid press) and instead seeks to inform us of something outside our normal footballing scope. Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 88.

    hello tim,

    just to say thank you yet again for another interesting and fact based article. i look forward to reading your blog every week as i find it the most interesting and, as a young wannabe writer, the best written. put into contest with the ramblings of our local blogger chick young up here then its a breath of fresh air. thats not to say that chick doesnt know what hes talking about, its just a bit more exciting to hear of excellent prospects arising from the poorer areas of S.A to find fame and fortune in europes premier competition (the champions league, not the premiership).

    being a rangers fan, we seldom see south americans up in glasgow, and any who do dont hang around long (seb rozenthal and gabriel amato are two that spring to mind) largley due to the weather, but it has a lot to do with the pressure of playing for the old firm and performing constantly, which i think a lot of foriegn players (not just those originating from S.A) cant really come to terms with, also the physical nature and little protection the players get from brittish referee's would all contribute to their short stays.

    on the subject of shirts, i think that maybe some of the clubs "donate" older versions of their shirts, to places like S.A so that they become trendy and the friends of the recipients of these shirts then try to aquire one, thus generating interest in their club and further aiding the globalisation.

    the premier league is not the be all and end all, of brittish nor european football, i find it a tad overated, and think that its ok to watch it as a second interest, but home leagues will only grow if supporters put their time and money into their own teams first before watching the glamerous premiership.

    rant over.

    keep up the good work tim.

  • Comment number 89.

    Vamos Tim!! Mucho gusto! Your blog is undoubtedly the most interesting footballing article from the bbc. Completely different from the usual liverpool, man u, chelsea and david beckham drivel. Each time it reminds me of a taxi driver from Rio who said to me: Football may have been born in England, but it will always live in Brasil!! Ignore the naysayers

  • Comment number 90.

    Apparently lots of people care about Paraguay! probably in the same way they care about global warming and 3rd world poverty, ie. they are aware of it! And will be annoyed if people are blase about it, but are likely ever to support its cause meaningfully.
    From the summations of your blog and subsequent posts it seems that fewer and fewer South Americans care about their domestic leagues.
    I find it somewhat ironic that this faceless fan who doesnt care about paraguay is a product of the globalisation of football you talk about and may well speak for a number off Paraguans!

  • Comment number 91.

    I don't think that other world leagues get enough coverage in this country, i would love the chance to watch the boca - river derby, i hope that football doesn't get too global, even though i criticize this i am part of it, Ive never been to and i wasn't born in Liverpool but i support them, i tell glory hunters that there scum even though i could be classed as one... Its a funny old game

  • Comment number 92.

    Hey Tim,

    I "care" about Paraguay. I only ever read the blogs that are about clubs or teams that I don't often hear about, quite often the underdogs. Even though I am a lifelong supporter of a team now playing in the top flight, and I am quite happy to watch Man United or Chelsea in the CL say, I have no interest in reading blogs about the so-called "top four" - I only ever click on the blogs that are about teams I know nothing about. They will always fascinate me much more than the teams that occupy such a high percentage of the media's attention.
    Keep it up!

  • Comment number 93.

    I guess it's to be expected more and more as the leagues get further and further apart in terms of quality. After all, a resident of the UK who follows Basketball, Ice Hockey or Americna Football is far more likely to watch the NBA, NHL or NFL on tv than to check out what the London Towers are up to. People want to watch the best and you can't really blame them for that.

    What the clubs can do about it though I don't know.

  • Comment number 94.

    Have you had a chance to watch the new CONCACAF Champions League? What do you think of it?

  • Comment number 95.

    Hey Tim,

    I've got to agree.
    Even though I'm a supporter for Palmeiras, there are some european teams that have my sympathy.

    About the clubs, you've gotta agree that the Campeonato Brasileiro is fighting hard to resist. In the last years, the crowds are growing, and this year, even without Corinthians, it's still good. And the quality of the football is somewhat recovering too. The league is slowly getting more respect from players and the media, and if the clubs were not that broke, there would be less brazilian players elsewhere.

    I enjoy watching Tottenham, Atlético de Madrid, Fiorentina, anyone-who-plays-against-the-big-four. It's quality, simple. But I still prefer the local league. It's passion, simple.

  • Comment number 96.

    im from egypt, here people dont know much about european football, or rather dont care. you would occasionally see stuff like what tim vickery wrote, but not to that extent. here the 2 most important clubs are ALahly and Zamalek fc (the team that loaned zaki to wigan) these 2 clubs are basically the biggest 2 in egypt and africa, and alahly holds the world record number of games without a loss (i think its 89) and went to the world club cup 3 times in 4 years. my point is people care more about these clubs, because simply the media here dont cover european football as much or even not at all. ever since our national team has dominated africa for the last 5 years, no one really cares about what happens overseas. no one really cares about Mido, Zaki , Shawky(m'boro), or even 'legendery' mohamed zidan(borrussia dortmund)

  • Comment number 97.

    I asked for comments and comparisons from Africa and Asia - from what we've had so far it seems that North African football is holding up strongly. What about Asia? Or the relatively new Australian league? Any more comments from sub-Saharan Africa?

  • Comment number 98.

    In Brazil they'll soon all be wearing City shirts.

  • Comment number 99.

    I quite agree that there is a lot of supporters of European teams about in Brazil. I was in Rio for a few weeks in October last year and was especially surprised by the number of Chelsea shirts around, especially considering the style of their football at the time. All the cab drivers seemed to love englsih football, especially joe cole and 'wayney' rooney. Do you think Robinho and Scolari's arrivals in England will see the premiership become the most popular foreign league?

  • Comment number 100.

    your interest in Paraguayan football is heartening. I keep Bolivian and Paraguay league lines up simply coz no one else does. The league's here remind me more of my youth watching Rainham Town against Leatherhead than the professional leagues in England though.

    Tim Venables, Asuncion

 

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