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TV rules the roost in Brazil

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Tim Vickery | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 2 March 2009

High summer in Rio, the kind of weather where you work up a sweat sitting in the shade sipping a fruit juice. And at 4.00 in the afternoon, in blazing sunshine, a local final was kicking off, traditional Botafogo against little Resende.

Outside the stadium the temperature was 36 degrees. It must have been higher out on the pitch, in the middle of the Maracana's giant concrete bowl and with no protection from the scorching sun. And it all seems unnecessary; kick off an hour later and most of the pitch is already in shadow. But it's accepted.

A year ago Brazil's Football Association and leading clubs caused a commotion in South America by trying to have matches at altitude banned on health grounds, a measure that would effect Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as Colombia and Peru. The Brazilian media, including some staunch opponents of the FA and club directors, were right behind the campaign.


There is no doubt whatsoever that altitude gives the home side an advantage. Unacclimatised opponents suffer discomfort in such conditions. But does altitude represent a health risk?

This is more problematic. Many would argue that extreme heat is more dangerous. Colombia has both heat and altitude - its physical preparation specialists seem to think that the real threat comes from heat.

And yet Brazilian football, so keen to kick up a fuss about altitude, raises hardly a voice in protest at playing matches in extreme temperatures - because it would lead to conflict with television.

The 4.00 kick-off for Sunday's match was made to measure for the schedules of TV Globo, the giant corporation that screens the games. So too are the start times for the big evening matches - 9.50pm.

Here, of course, there is no risk of overexposure to sunlight - the matches finish near midnight. But it is a problem for the supporter - getting back home at this time can be a real trial, and this is a country where, contrary to the carnivalesque perception, millions have to wake up extraordinarily early to get to work on time.

But 9.50 fits the TV schedules - Globo can transmit the match after the last and most important of its nightly soap operas.

One positive point in Brazil is that the kick-off times, with the alterations that TV makes to the schedules, are defined well in advance. That is not always the case elsewhere in South America. In Argentina there is less than two weeks notice.

When I was in Colombia a few months back the schedule for the weekend's round of matches was announced on the Monday - only then did fans know if their team would be in action on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, because it depended on which matches the TV companies found most attractive.

This is very short notice for the fan, especially one who needs to plan time off work, or who wishes to follow his side to an away game.

Clearly, modern football could not exist without television and its miraculous ability to bring matches into homes and bars all over the world. But the risk that South American football runs is as follows; excessive dependence on TV leads to excessive concessions being made to TV.

Just over a year ago a Brazilian media executive gave a lecture announcing that for his country's first division clubs 29% of their income was from TV. In Argentina it was 22%. In both cases there was one bigger source of income - player sales.

Revenue from ticket sales and other match day streams was lagging way behind. Clearly South American clubs cannot charge Premier League-style ticket prices - mass salaries are much too low - but there is room for improvement. It is difficult, though, when the fixture list is drawn up to suit the TV companies rather than the fans.

This is another factor (fear of violence, lack of comfort and poor transport are probably even more harmful) in keeping supporters away from the stadiums, increasing the dependence on TV and giving more momentum to the vicious circle.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter last week criticised what he sees as an excess of football on television. It is true that in South America, mostly on cable, there is access to all the major European leagues.

Over the last decade many local supporters have developed strong sympathies for certain European clubs. But I don't feel that this is something that keeps many people away from South American stadiums - the local culture of the game is too well entrenched.

But I would be interested to know about the situation elsewhere, in Africa and Asia, for example. Does coverage of European football inspire people to take up the game? Or does it hinder attempts to develop the game locally? Or does it even do both at the same time?

Comments on today's piece in the space provided. Any other questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Nearly every week you write about another young South American footballer who moves to Europe 'too early', and returns, in many cases a lesser player, a couple of years later. Surely the European teams can see this as well? Why don't they secure something akin to a 'first option' clause on these players and let them have another year or two in south America, or even loan them back as soon as they have been 'bought', thereby reducing the risk of having a pointless purchase on whom they lose money very quickly?

Tom Hughes

I think I was falling into the trap of seeing 'the European clubs' as a monolithic block, and forgetting that, obviously, they're all competing against each other. I wrote a piece recently about a player who falls into the category you mention, the Peruvian Manco who was bought by PSV of Holland. I got a fascinating e-mail from a PSV fan who pointed out, very intelligently, that the only option open to PSV was to buy him too early. Because if they wait, and he keeps playing well at home, he will inevitably attract the interest of a club with more financial clout than PSV - so its 'too early' or 'not at all' as far as a club like that are concerned.

Looking at it from the clubs' point of view, once you've bought him, you'll want to try and get him adapted as soon as possible - so if you're going to loan him out, I can see the logic in doing it to a club in a fellow European country or a smaller one in your own. And if it doesn't come off, the chances are that you haven't lost that much. Transfer fees for a player from South America tend to be considerably smaller than for a deal between two European clubs - exactly to reflect the risk of non-adaptation - so I presume the clubs see it as a gamble worth taking. Because if it comes off - like, say Ronaldo with PSV, you can sell him on at a healthy profit.

What do you make of the young Argentinian striker Eduardo Salvio? I understand some of Europe's bigger clubs such as Juventus are interested in him. Does he have the ability/physique to succeed in the Italian league like Pato?

Dan Prevett

I don't think he's quite Alexandre Pato - there aren't too many like him around - but no doubt that Salvio is an excellent prospect. Another one of those stocky little Argentine strikers, can operate wide right or through the middle. He's quick, technically very good, good at running at defenders and playing quick one-twos. A lot of European clubs were having a look at him during the recent South American Under-20s, where he made a bright start but then faded badly - it's a gruelling competition but perhaps it shows that he's some way short in physical terms. He plays for Lanus, who are in this year's Copa Libertadores, which should give him terrific experience.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great as usual Tim.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fantastic stuff.....and you have to say that SAF has done a great job with the Da silva twins! Excellent prospects. Likewise Anderson was bought for his future potential and sell on value.

  • Comment number 3.

    love your blogs Tim, As the psv fan mentioned the risk, reward of taking on a youngster from south America is always worth the gamble if he is deemed good enough, teams like psv can't afford to buy top proven (in Europe) talent.

    On a completely different note Tim, who out of the current players in England would you regard as having the best technique? and comparable in the way they pass the ball to a top south American?

    For me the only one that springs to mind is Scholes but possibly one other who's career has slipped under the radar, David Dunn?
    Your thoughts would be very interesting...

  • Comment number 4.

    This feeds nicely into the '39th Game' controversy currently doing the rounds in the UK Tim.

    What's you opinion on the idea of an internationally renowned league like the Premiership exporting a few games a season to foreign venues such as the Far east, the Middle East or your neck of the woods? Would Flamengo and Fluminense fans turn out en masse at the Maracana to see Chelsea play Liverpool in a Premiership game?

    When it comes to football and it's relationship with TV money I think in the modern game it's all a fine balancing act between utilitarianism and sticking to the principls of sport and fair play, whether you're a fan on the terrace, a club director or in charge of FIFA. Football as it exists today is too entrenched to do without TV money and TV can't really do without football.

    The fans who complain about overpaid footballers, clubs losing their soul and how things "used to be better" rarely go as far as saying they'd be willing to do without players like C.Ronaldo, Fabregas or Gerrard in their league in return for a 'footballing moras highground'. And that would surely be the price for football to put fans and the game first.

    As to whether the dominance on TV of European football encourages or stifles domestic talent in smaller footballing nations such as Japan my preference is for the former. Back in the 70's everyone looked up to Brasil as the pinnacle of the sport. Countless children on the school yard wanted to be Zico taking a free kick or hit a volley like Jarzinho. Those exotic players in their golden shirts playing on the other side of the world are about as detached from a school yard in Barnsley or a back street in Warsaw as you can get but children there still managed to imagine they were those players on the TV screen as they proceed to hoof their half inflated ball on to the school roof or through a window.

    Ronaldo, Beckham and Kaka can inspire anyone to want to become a footballer whether they be Chinese, Colombian or Canadian. The only real victims are the domestic leagues who will always struggle to stop people running to Europe to play in the same stadiums and in the same competitions as their heroes. But that's always been the way really, peopel follow the money and the world isn't quite democratic or fair enough to divide it up evenly. I'm sure a lot of African would rather Drogba and Essien were playing in their country and Brazilians wished Kaka and Pato were still on their own side of the Atlantic, but I think getting to watch them all on three world class leagues is a pretty reasonable compromise.

  • Comment number 5.


    In South America, there's an obvious bond with fan and football club. But how, coupled with the fact that top players are leaving for European clubs and the game schedules are awful for fans, does this bond manage to stay strong?

    Do fans in South America have more access to their clubs and players or are the players as heavily protected as the ones in Europe's top leagues?


  • Comment number 6.

    In Argentina games in the Primera are usually announced on the Wednesday in the week before, giving 9 days notice, though they are subject to change.

    All games are televised, usually 2 on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday.
    It does affect attendances but, as you mention Tim, that is very much in combination with the fear of violence and the rise in ticket prices.
    In the last year, the price of a "general" has gone up from 18pesos to 30pesos (£1 = 5pesos), justified by the AFA as extra police costs.
    Violence does exist and the police presence is large but even a foreigner would have to be very unlucky, or very stupid, to get caught up in it.

    In the Nacional B, where my team Chacarita plays, games take place from Thursday through Monday with 3 or 4 televised. These are announced on the Tuesday night, giving only 2 days notice.

    The price has gone up to 24pesos and this year is the 2nd season that away fans are not allowed in stadiums outside of the Primera Liga. A scandalous decision by the men in charge.

  • Comment number 7.

    Fascinating stuff as usual Tim. A couple of questions:

    You mentioned some of the reasons why fans are put off going to matches in Brazil - specifically, I'm referring to fear of violence and a lack of comfort. Is it very common for fans to feel threatened at football matches over there - are they dangerous places to be? Does this mean that people don't take their children? Is this a factor in European football becoming so popular - because people, including the new generation, are not going to live football matches and instead are watching English, Spanish and Italian teams? Finally, what would you say the major differences are between a fan's experience at a South American match and, say, in England? (Apart from the weather, awful tea and dodgy pies)

    P.S. Last week I asked you about Universitario vs San Lorenzo. Firstly, thanks for your help - and yes, it seems I could have been more accurate with my prediction, as you pointed out, after the event!! So you recruit the help of a top journalist and make a tit of yourself, brilliant!! I'd even planned to try and watch it online as well, thinking it was 0030 after Friday night! Oh well, it was an anticlimax as neither of us would have got any points! Instead we hastily did Concepcion vs San Lorenzo and both managed to predict Mr Vargas to score. All's well that ends well!

  • Comment number 8.

    Another thing - the weekend just passed, we predicted Le Mans vs Le Havre in France. Seems there's a young Brazillian striker called Gervinho who's getting a few goals over there - is he any good? Cheers again.

  • Comment number 9.

    I quite agree Tim - funny how the Supporter´s Statute here in Brazil allows the fan various rights of complaint but is powerless regarding Globo´s abuses - I remember watching Atletico v Flamengo at the Minerao a few years ago on a Wednesday - the game was due to kick off at 9.50, actually started at around 10.00, and finished at around midnight (is it me or do half-times in Brazil always last an epic amount of time?). 50,000 people were then left to find their way home from a fairly remote northern suburb of Belo Horizonte. I think I got to bed at around 3am! Hilariously I now remember Galvao Bueno (or Luciano Valle I can´t remember) a few weeks later lambasting Botafogo for coming out a few minutes late for a game ("a lack of respect for the supporter").

    A personal bugbear re TV is PPV - any bar in the country can show any game they want at any time, with no local blackouts (any private home too of course). So what do the monied classes do? As you say - sit in at home or in the bars and restaraunts and watch the games. I don't buy poor public transport as an excuse for not going to games in Brazil - certainly I´ve found getting to any Brazilian stadium by bus a lot easier than say getting to White Hart Lane!


  • Comment number 10.

    Tim: I'm assuming that in the 2014 World Cup the kick-off times will be early in order to suit European TV, as was the case at USA '94. As Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, will heat be an issue in June 2014 as it will be winter in Brazil?

  • Comment number 11.


    Just a couple of weeks ago in a bbc website article about how boring the old firm game in Scotland was you mentioned the crowd violence in south american derbys as an exciting contrast that adds to the passion of a south american derby.

    I'm sure you were not glamourising fan violence but that is the feeling that came across in the article and it is interesting to read that this is keeping fans away.

    I hope you use this blog to clarify your position on violence, Scottish football shouldn't be branded as boring because we are more civilized than the south american nations.

  • Comment number 12.

    I've lived in South Korea since the 2002 world cup. Here there is no doubt that while televised European football (esp. the premier league) increases the overall popularity of football it hurts the local clubs.

    The interest in Man Utd for example in far greater than the interest in any K-League club.

    Interestingly though when the news shows the highlights of the games they just show what Park Ji Sung has done with maybe a quick look at the winning goal at the end! So most of the reports are Park winning a corner or what have you!! When Lee yong Pyo was at Spurs they would advertise the games as Park Ji Sung vs Lee Yong Pyo!

  • Comment number 13.

    10 - no, heat is not really going to be a problem in the 2014 World Cup.
    It will take place in mid-winter over here - Brazil is so huge that there are considerable climate differences at this time of year - up in the north east it will still be warm, down in the south it will be downright freezing!

  • Comment number 14.

    11 - I don't think Iìve ever written anything in praise of violence, and I've certainly never branded the old firm game as boring. Personally I'm not a fan of big derbies because to my mind they generate more heat than light.

    8 - Gervinho is African, Ivory Coast I believe - don't know a lot about him, but do recall that the Argentina team were very impressed with him after playing him last year in the Olympics.

  • Comment number 15.

    Tim out of curiosity could you tell me what has become of Raphael Scheidt??

    I'm a Celtic fan and can remember the the fanfare that was happening when John Barnes/Dalglish bought this Brazilian international defender.. Who turned out to be completely hopeless..

    I also remember this was the time when Brazil were playing so many corporate friendlies that a lot of people were getting caps that didnt deserve them..

  • Comment number 16.

    I hate the rapid fixture switches and kick-off time changes to satisfy the TV - the dreaded 'Monday Night Football' was another innovation Sky didn't need to inflict on us.

    In the UK i'm happy to watch South American football at any time of the night or day - although apart from internet feeds it's getting increasingly difficult to track it down on the TV. Luckily Setanta have renewed their coverage of the Copa Libertadores but Sports XChange who showed the Brazilian Championship seem to be no more.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Scottish football shouldn't be branded as boring because we are more civilized than the south american nations."

    I've lived in Edinburgh or Glasgow for the last 6 years and I would try to keep away from generalising both nations. Anyone with knowledge of the old firm derbys will know that much of the violence now goes on away from the ground due to tight security in the stadiums. I certainly wouldn't say either one was more civilised than the other, just that there are alot more police/stewards at the old firm games.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Tim,

    You really shouldn't have risen to number 11's bait there.
    He is clearly slightly deranged as you can see from when he starts comparing levels of civilization between Brazil and Scotland.

    Great blog as always, sometimes I even keep myself awake, unaided may I add, to hear you on up all night on 5 live. Informative and funny - a lovely combination.

  • Comment number 19.

    I remember PSV bringing over a raw 17-year-old in the mid-1990s, think his name was Ronaldo...

    Great blog as usual, Tim, football subservient to telly is simply one thing we'll have to put up with - though I'm sure I wouldn't mind staying in Belo Horizonte till midnight if it only cost a few reals, instead of the £30 they charge at Goodison Park.

  • Comment number 20.

    14: Gervinho is Ivorian, 20 yrs old

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Tim,
    I think that, at least in my experience in my native Colombia, it is the "fear of violence" that has had the greater effect on supporter turn-out in South America (and hence increase in TV viewers). This past December, after much debate and thought, I unfortunately decided against attending the second-leg final between my adored America de Cali and Independiente Medellin. I could live with (or get around) the inconveniences of "lack of comfort and poor transport" since this is football we’re talking about and not tennis, but the high risk to my physical integrity made it a bit of gamble. I grew up going to the “estadio” on a weekly basis and watching America in the Copa Libertadores. Of course there still was a certain level of violence during football back then, but mostly between crazy boozed-up “ultras” and it happened somewhat sparingly. Today, however, battles between such followers versus the other teams’, or versus the police have become way too common. It might have added an odd sense of excitement back when I was a teenager, but now that I have bills to pay it is simply an intolerable risk and I rather watch it at the bar or at home. The turning point might have been getting tear-gassed twice while trying to make my way out of the stadium. Had to take my contacts out and catch a taxi home half-blind. Several friends in Argentina and Brazil share the same feelings as I do and attend the matches once in a while where the atmosphere is not too hot. Hopefully we can learn a few things from the English on how to turn the situation around and make it safe and enjoyable again.

    Thanks for your great articles! They make my Monday mornings at work bearable. More insight into the Colombian game would be greatly appreciated. My regards to the other passionate followers of the game.


  • Comment number 22.

    Tim and dbstpt2006 - Gervinho is clearly a tricky player because he sent me totally the wrong way with his name. So, you don't need to be Brazilian (or Portuguese) to give yourself a cool name? In this case I shall now be called Marcos Hughesinho. You may also believe that I thought Jan Venegoor was from Hesselink, but I'm not fooled quite that easily.

    Great post from dannygb81, I would be interested to hear more about your experiences of Columbian football. Also, if there's any Mexican fans reading - I was shocked to watch the news last week and see the level of (reported) chaos which seems to be tearing Mexican society apart. What kind of effect has this had on football?

    One of the reasons why I think this blog stands out is the links that Tim makes between football and wider society, culture and politics. I hope people from nations with, for want of a better phrase, less stable conditions than England can elaborate on this. Thanks.

  • Comment number 23.

    one other thing that Globo does ( i assume it's them in conjunction with the CBF - Brazilian football confederation) - is 'tamper' with the fixture list. ever season, the Campeonato Brasileiro has 'derby weekends/days' when we get three or four big derbies all on the same day. i could never see the logic of this as surely it's better to spread out these games so everyone gets a chance to see them? but as i work for Globo, i can't praise them enough - great company! haha
    for Brazilian footy fans in the UK, i've heard there's a chance that one of the major channels may pick up the Brasileiro again this year. pity about Sportsxchange going down the tube, though. maybe Channel 4 will take us back again? but they never showed much interest and as far as i'm aware in two years of coverage, we never even got a mention on their footy web site

  • Comment number 24.

    Brilliant as usual Tim. Makes me love mondays

  • Comment number 25.

    Trying to ascertain info about Setanta's coverage of the Copa Libertadores this year was hard work......their Customer Service Reps (or whatever) didn't even know what it was! So I hesitate to use the word 'commitment' when describing their continued coverage. Still we should all be thankful for small mercies I suppose.

  • Comment number 26.

    Do you think that the decline of AC Milan is the down turn of buying old players on the cheap and now not not enough young legs. Or keeping experienced players for far too long??

  • Comment number 27.

    Do you know anything about Arsenals Pedro Botelho? Have you watched him play?

  • Comment number 28.

    Gervinho is Ivorian, but he is 21 not 20.

  • Comment number 29.

    Vickery thought this set the tone for a match where there was more action in the stands than anywhere else.

    "On the pitch it wasn't great, as Sao Paolo rested many of their players," he explained.

    "Corinthians' fans were insulted by this. There were clashes after the game between them and the police. About 20 people were injured and we were lucky that nobody was trampled to death."

    Thanks for your reply Tim I do always enjoy your blog but I was a bit offended by that whole article and I think the way it had been edited made it sound as if violence was a good part of a derby and that you had said violence would "set the tone" for a good derby match. I think I probably misinterpreted the article.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for the clarification and I apologise for my mild racism about Scotland being a more civilised country

  • Comment number 30.

    And I certainly wasn't "baiting" or trying to be deranged but I was a bit offended by the "old firm still a draw" article and just wanted some sense talked about the blight of football violence that ruins any game in all countries.

    Football is just tribalism when you think about it. That is why it envokes a lot of passion.

  • Comment number 31.

    I have always been bewidered as to why the kick off times have been so late , internationally as well as domestically, and could not believe that the "Novelas" had that much clout.....but after watching my entire family in law sit around the television on a Sunday evening soaking up their favourtie soap...actually living every minute...cheering and crying whilst i was thinking it was something my local village Am-dram could have bettered i got the point!

    The other thing that amazes me and once again shows the huge influence of the television stations is that of interviewing players on the pitch before the game, at half time and straight afterwards.....can you imagine Richard Keys jogging onto the pitch to ask Berbatov why he didnt celebrate his goal in the 32nd minute!?

    I still feel the passion, the love and the enthusiasm for the game is second to none here and i wouldnt change a thing!

  • Comment number 32.

    I think it does a bit of both - while it encourages and inspires children to embrace and play the game, it goes in decline of assistance to league matches, as the game level is drastically lower in terms of tecnique and pace.

    But one possible factor for low attendances (I don't know if Tim will agree with me) is the format of Latin American championships (league + knockout stages). People aren't usually too interested in going to first matchdays of the tournament, and prefer saving their money to attend the later (and more decisive) stages that will decide the league champions.

  • Comment number 33.

    great blog tim, interesting point from the PSV fan.
    since im a new zealander im going to ask if there is an opinion here on the a-league?
    there are a lot of brasilians in the a-league and a few play for my club Wellington Phoenix
    Diego and Daniel.
    also the famous (in the a-league) Fred played several games on loan from the MLS at my club. If brasilian players want to experience overseas football, learn english and live in a fantastic country like NZ then they should travel there and trial. Its a shame that the club doesnt have scouts here and relies on players presenting themselves. I know many younger players that would love to move to NZ and play professional football.
    Also what are you thinking of the Libertadores so far??
    Was São Paulo´s draw against Independente of Columbia a lucky draw for the Columbian team? I know that SP had a lot of shots but they havnt been scoring a lot lately even in the Paulistao against some very weak opponents. Also LDU lok like they might progress a bit this year judging from their performance against a strong palmeiras side

  • Comment number 34.

    Good article Tim.
    I would like to ask you what the overall impression of England/English players is in South America? Every international tournament that comes round the press big us up as potential winners, are we viewed the same elsewhere? And our players, we're told on a daily basis that Rio, Terry, Cole, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Owen, and Rooney are world class players. I agree for most of them, but what do S.Americans think, are there any English players thought of highly over there in the way that the likes of Ronaldo, Romario, Rivaldo, are over here?

  • Comment number 35.

    Dani - 21 - thanks for an excellent post.
    We're going to disagree about transport though - football needs good transport much more tan tennis, since so many more people go.

    The last time I was in your fair city (I'm very fond of Cali) was for the big derby last March that made headlines all around the world for the wrong reasons.

    Footage of the America fans fighting the police inside the stadium was shown all around the world - but I think the scenes outside the ground were worse, because there were Cali fans as well, and it went on for longer - part of the reason for this is that the city's transport links are so bad that people couldn't get away from the stadium.

    I saw that Cali was constructing one of those BRT systems, like the one in Bogota - special bus lanes. Is this operational and has this improved the situation?

    I'm also intrigued by the new stadium that Cali have just built - the first privately owned ground in the country, amazingly enough. All very good, but it's miles outside the city. How on earth can people get there?

  • Comment number 36.


    You asked about how European football affects the game's development in other parts of the world. I live in China so I can give you my twopenneth from here. Despite horrendous performances from the national team here (they are something of a national joke but also a source of great shame for many Chinese) football retains massive popularity, perhaps only just behind basketball, badminton and table tennis.

    Access to live European matches is easy as many local broadcasters carry live Italian or Spanish games and the state broadcaster (CCTV) shows the Bundesliga live twice a week, as well as carrying thorough round ups of all the leagues. The English league used to dominate but 2 years ago they signed a deal with WinTV which is one of China's very few subscription channels and is not ever so cheap (it costs about 60 RMB per month, the average salary is around 1500) - it also shows pretty much only English football with the occasional Italian match thrown in at some ungodly hour. I'm not sure of the exact figures but I read somewhere that they only have 50,000 subscribers, which in a country of 1.3 billion is not a lot. If the deal stays in place longterm, English football might lose its dominance in the biggest (potential) market in the world.

    Despite this, football remains very popular at the grassroots level - five or six-a-side is the most common form of the game but almost everybody has a shirt from a European team (mostly fake - most popular around this part of China seem to be Chelsea and Real Madrid - although I recently saw someone with Gerrard's name and number tattooed to his back). So the viewing of European football could be said to inspire the playing of the game to some extent but the development of the Chinese league is another matter. It has been dogged by all sorts of controversies (match fixing, bribing referees, as well as fights between players and managers and even chairmen) and is not helped by the geographical size of the country (an away match can entail a round trip of over 3000 miles). It is currently not even shown on Chinese TV and the province in which I live (which is the size of the UK) does not even have a team (we used to but they weren't very good and nobody went to watch them so they moved).

    Overall, I would say that European football is a positive influence on the development of football here as it seems to encourage people to take up the game and that has to be a good thing. However, if Chinese football is to survive then it needs to work on its own serious problems and regain some lost self-esteem (they should have bid for the 2018 World Cup - I'm pretty sure the only reason they didn't was to avoid the shame of the national team's performance being centre of attention around the world).

    Anyway, keep up the good work, yours is always the most informative blog on here.
    Guo Aihua

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Tim, I would love to know what impression Denilson of Arsenal has had on both you and the Brazilian public?

  • Comment number 38.

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for answering my question last week, a nice insight into another bright prospect.

    With regards to your closing question this week, I think comment #4 summed it up very well.

    It will be interesting to see how long this importing of foreign talent will continue as there is sure to be a finite amount of room at European clubs to fill their squads with foreigners. If the quota system gets pushed in will that mean that South American clubs will lose a lot of revenue in player sales, as clubs will look to nurture more home grown talent? Will these clubs suffer in their development as a result? We'll have to see....

  • Comment number 39.

    hi Tim,

    i just sensed that you are very biased towards Brazilian players when you are asked about young players potentials. the perfect example is have over hipped his potential yet we are witnessing that he is an average player but you are now belittling the talents of Eduardo Salvio. this are just examples. please try to be fair. just because you live in Brazil, you don't have to hail anything Brazilian and belittle others.

  • Comment number 40.

    Interesting it's not just the TV companies that are too blame for last minute scheduling, it is the football federations too.

    In Brazil, Sunday's Rio Grande do Sul (Gaucho) state final between Internacional and Gremio was not confirmed until Friday night, just two days before!

    The semi-finals were played over Thursday and Friday night.

    This also happened in Rio with the final between Botafogo and Resende which Tim mentioned.


  • Comment number 41.


    Calling someone an 'excellent prospect' but maybe lacking a bit of stamina is hardly belittling them. To be honest I thought it was a fair analysis.

  • Comment number 42.

    39 - the mental sickness of nationalism strikes again.
    I think I have a claim to be the first English language writer to go crazy over Lionel Messi - I was in Colombia for the South American Under-20s just over 4 years ago - the starting point for his rise.
    I have also repeatedly championed the abilities of the likes of Aguero, Gago and Banega, was raving about Mascherano 6 years ago before he'd even played for River Plate.
    Bias? I´m going to plead not guilty on this one.

  • Comment number 43.

    On the subject of altitude, it's ridiculous to suggest that it doesn't affect the outcome of matches, and is a massive advantage for the home team.

    The period needed to adapt to altitude so that your respiratory system can adapt to provide a sufficient oxygen supply to your muscles is far longer than the amount of time before a game a national team player can be called up and travel to a country at altitude.

    You don't need any more evidence than the respective home, away and major tournament records of countries at altitude.

    I for one find it an absolute joke when a Latin American country qualifies for the world cup with a poor away record, then goes to the tournament at sea level, and all of a sudden, surprise, surprise their players prove to be absolutey useless, having deprived a half decent country in their qalifing group the chance to compete!

  • Comment number 44.

    This article inspired me to come up with a theory. Northern European football always had the characteristic of having a lot of speed. Players run a lot, all the time. Meanwhile, South American and Southern European football emphasis more on passing, the rythm of the game is slower. Maybe those differences in styles were created by the differences in climate. Or is it just coincidence?

  • Comment number 45.

    Roberto_Mexicano (#43), I agree that altitude gives the home side an advantage. But on my opinion only above 3,000m it is decisive. On regard to home-away differences, we could be talking about Brazil of the 2002 Qualifyins which at home had a fantastic 7w 2d 0l record but away had a disappointing 2w 1d 6l. So it's not the altitude teams which have great differences between home and away performance. Everybody say Ecuador do well in the qualifyings in Quito because of the altitude, but Colombia plays at exactly the same altitude in Bogotá and it seems useless (though, it should be noted that few Colombian international players are professionaly based in Bogotá). Anyway, many people said "Ecuador only qualified because of the altitude", but they did very well (for a country that was doing its second apperance ever).

  • Comment number 46.

    43 - of course altitude makes a difference - the article states this clearly.
    But who are these teams who qualify and then prove to be 'completely useless' at seal level?
    Bolivia in 94 - fair enough, wouldn't have qualified without altitude - but they gave reigning champions Germany a decent game.
    Ecuador in 2002 and 2006 - first time out, their World Cup debut, they beat Croatia, who had finished the previous World Cup in 3rd.
    And 2006, their European debut, they beat Poland in what was almost a home game for the Poles.
    So who is useless?

  • Comment number 47.

    Tim, what happened to Lulinha? And why wasn't he included in the u-20 squad for the championships? Too much hype, like Kerlon or can he still make it?

  • Comment number 48.

    Regarding Comment #40.

    It's a bit unfair to blame the FGF - Federation Gaucha de Futebol - completely for this state of affairs.

    The semi finals were originally scheduled for the Tuesday and Wednesday before the final, so that TV could show both games - it was assumed that one would involve Inter and the other Gremio and that the final would be the expected Gre-Nal, all of which came to pass.

    This plan became complicated when Gremio had a Libertadores game scheduled for that Wednesday, at whose behest I don't know!

    TV obviously wanted to screen this game and so the semi finals were pushed back two days.

    As for the other points, TV scheduling does play havoc with kick off times, there is no doubt. Olimpico and Beira Rio are relatively close to Porto Alegre city centre, but it's still very difficult to get home after a match that kicks off at 2150, especially as they rarely start on time and half-times can last, as another poster observed, for up to 25 minutes! A fan might make the bus from the stadium into town but will probably miss any onward connection.

    If Gremio go ahead with their new stadium right on the edge of town then this problem will become even worse!

    Which leads me to the point about comfort at the stadium. Personally I think that anyone who is concerned about watching a game in comfort should really be going to the theatre instead. Olimpico is decrepit, no doubt about it, but I'm not uncomfortable when I'm watching a game there. I'm more uncomfortable in an all-seater Premier League stadium in England, sitting in a designated seat from which there is no escape should a bunch of drunken fans happen to be seated nearby. In addition, when Brazilian stadia go all seater in time for the World Cup, the atmosphere is going to change irrevocably for the worst and I am NOT looking forward to that at all!!

    In thirty odd visits to Olimpico I have seen only one instance of violence and that was caused by the Police!! I have been to a Gre-Nal at both Olimpico and Beira Rio, and both passed off as peacefully as you could hope, although I am aware that they can be a little bit tasty, to put it mildly. The CBF have already banned alcohol from the stadiums which may help (but the innocents suffer, as usual!!) as will the dreaded all-seaters. Price rises may also eradicate a large proportion of the hooligan element, although again it's the innocent who suffers. Thirty reais (about £8) for the terraces might not sound a lot, but for some people, who might only earn 50/60 a day, it is a very substantial amount!

    Anyway, just a few opinions based on my experiences!!

    Congrats to coloradomatt for the win on Sunday as well. If you didn't see the game (are you based in the UK?) Gremio were garbage and if they play like that in the Brasileiro and the Libertadores they are going to win jack!! Inter looked a cut above and could have a decent season. I was particularly impressed by a young lad called Taison!

  • Comment number 49.

    48- Gremiocoruja

    I'm not saying the FBF are to completely blame but they did allow the situation happen.

    I don't particularly follow Gremio too much in the media but I wonder whether much was said about them only having two day's to prepare for the classico, a day less than Inter.

    I am based in the UK, I am not Brazilian. I completely agree with what you say about Taison. He's really improved this year and I don't think it'll be too long before he's mentioned by the likes of Tim and others.

    Thanks Gaucho!

  • Comment number 50.

    This is the most informative and unopinionated blog on the bbc. The likes of Mr Vickery take note and heart, please!

  • Comment number 51.

    I've always been rather fond of the querkier elements to football like South American teams having a home advantage due to altitude.

    I can imagine Bolivians were fiercely proud that their home stadium was a fortress that teams struggled at. Equally I understand FIFA's thinking behind wanting to 'level the playing field' and moving these games but sport and logical reasoning are not always good bed fellows and I like it when occassionally the heart rules over the head so it's a pity games have been 'brought back down to earth', or at least sea level.

    Perhaps I'm being naive though and if I were Brazilian I'd be fed up of watching my team get beaten each year by an inferior team (on paper) because of a slight lack of oxygen.

    Having said that though I think football is full of things like this, Geography dictates that Australian players must spend a vastly longer amount of time on planes for their qualifying than teams like England. Australia as a nation is about the size of England's entire qualifying zone!

    Then you have teams like Russia and Finland who's domestic seasons are completely out of sync with most of UEFA so they frequently have competative games where the players haven't played a league game for weeks whilst thier opposition are match fit and in form.

    Stopping Bolivia or Ecuador playing at altitude may make some sense but so many of FIFA's other decisions make so little sense perhaps these South American countries should feel a little victimized, I don't know.

  • Comment number 52.


    Studies show that 1,500m and upwards is the point where the altitude affects people competing in sport. That is not to say at 1,500m you're fine and at 1,550m you'll struggle as it's obviously gradual, but at 2000m or higher athletes would have noticeble difficulty unless they have acclimatized.

    Extensive medical studies have shown it takes approximately two weeks to adapt to the changes associated with the hypobaric conditions at 2268m. If you're wondering why such a specific height, the testing is most commonly done in Mexico City which is at, you guessed it, 2268m.

    Every further 600m beyond this point requires an additional week of acclimatization. So in theory for an athlete to absorb the air as efficiantly as they do at sea level (i.e for them not to be adversely affected by the altitiude) it would take between three and four weeks for a sea level team to play in La Paz. That is not to say teams can't be roughly ready before that, but clearly 4 or 5 days would not be enough to acclimatize.

  • Comment number 53.

    the mental sickness of nationalism strikes again-what a conclusion!!!!

    for your information i am from Ethiopia....far far away from south America. my point is not based on nationality or just this article. i have observed over a long period of time you are biased towards anything Brazilian. where are the great Brazilian talents like kerelon, lulinia Etc,you were craving about, now???? try to balance your posts.

  • Comment number 54.

    #53, your original comment (39) was errant nonsense if you'll forgive me.

    I'm a great fan of this blog and it has week in, week out espoused the emerging, existing and former talents of countless stars from Uruguay, Colombia, Paraguay... everywhere in South America.

    A blog on the subject of South American football is always going to focus on Brazil and it's game/players more than certain other coutries simply because of the demographics of the continent and the history and staus Brazil enjoys. Just as a football blog on Africa is likely to mention the Ivory Coast or Ghana much more than Namibia or Madagascar.

    The point about nationalism is that you were implying some sort of nonsensical bias towards players solely because of their nationality which if you look back at previous articles simply doesn't exist.

    Naturally I can't speak for the author and won't attempt to do so but purely for me, I have always seen this excellent weekly blog as a diary and analyasis of football life in South America as a whole. It is about the style of play that has spread througout the world, the rich history all the countries in the region share and the players who are so much more than simply part of a national squad, for me these are the binding elements.

    Players like Messi aren't just Argentinian, he's a Catalan hero, a feared opponent everywhere throughout Europe but most important of all he's just a bloody great player like Kaka, Recoba and Di Stefano.

  • Comment number 55.

    53 - you seem to have confused my opinions with those of people who ask me questions. the players you mention - Lulinha, Kerlon - I have made a point of trying to play down the hype around them.

    Lulinha - terrific at Under-17 level, but it's a big jump up to senior, and all the stuff linking him to Chelsea was clearly premature. Has yet to fully establish himself as a senior player.

    Kerlon - similar story - a revelation at U-17 level, hampered by a series of injuries has still yet to establish himself as a senior player - Ive pointed this out, and been criticized for so doing.

    Obviously there are players you see something in who for whatever reason don't make the progress you expect - Saviola is an obvious example. But no one has ever accused me of having a pro'Argentine bias for thinkign that he would be a big success in Europe.

    In terms of sheer number of talent, Brazil produces more - but that's only natural given the size of the population - more than four times bigger than Argentina's and around the same as all the rest of South America put together.

  • Comment number 56.

    Lots of leagues suffer when their best players are continually plucked from abroad. See the drastic decline in the dutch league. And fewer people will bother to go watch if there aren't people worth watching... it's self perpetuating.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hi Tim,
    A few comments on your post (#35):
    Coincidentally the new BRT system was inaugurated in Cali just a few days ago and there will actually be a stop very close to the stadium. Hopefully that might help improve transportation and get people moving away from the grounds quickly after the game. I believe that the greater issue, at least in this particular situation, is that when the Pascual Guerrero was built back in the 30’s the ground that it currently stands on was primarily unoccupied. A few houses and open fields surrounding it. Today, this area is densely populated and congested; hence fans all come out through the same side of the stadium onto the same section of street. It only takes a handful of unruly idiots to get things going. Matters are made worse by the confrontational way the local police try to herd and control the fans post-match. Again, I think that if the local authorities are truly interested in solving violence at football, they should speak to the police departments that have successfully dealt with this issue in the past. Again, England comes to mind with their specialized football-police unit.

    In regards to the new stadium built by Deportivo Cali, I think three-quarters of the city agrees with you in that it is way too far from downtown Cali. I can’t say that I’ve been in it yet, but have driven by it several times. It’s a good 40 minutes by car from the city’s center and at least an hour from other sections. But to be honest, I don’t think there were many choices in location. The only room for a stadium that size was in the city’s outskirts. We’ll see how it all evolves.

    Since you've been discussing the socio-political aspects of football I’ll bring up the democratization process that America (of Cali) is currently going through. Are you familiar with it at all? Have you ever heard of a similar scenario like it where a relatively successful sports team that was used to launder drug-money for its mafioso owners, is now being reorganized by the government and sold to its fans by the share? Currently, America is in the famous Clinton-list along with any other business that used to be owned by an individual or group associated with organized crime and drug trafficking. Because of this, America doesn’t even have a proper kit sponsor or a real bank account! The primary goal of the democratization process is to take the team out of the Clinton list and help to somewhat clean its name.

    I look forward to your next column!

    Best regards

  • Comment number 58.

    Joe Green (#52),

    My comments weren't made based on science, but on my experience as long-time observer of South American football, from inside. Not that an outsider can not know more than me, I'm just making an emphasis.

    From my experience I noted that bizarre unexpected results only start to happen above 3,000m.

    Below this, of course there is an advantage, but the better team tends to win anyway. The same way a team from an hot area will have advantage playing home against teams from a colder area, and vice versa. The same way a team that has a field full of holes will have an advantage against a team which is used to play in a perfect field.

    To weeks to acclimatize to Mexico City looks like a joke to me. There was an Olympic Games in Mexico City, my God! A marathon! Teams based in Mexico City are far from unbeatable there.

  • Comment number 59.

    Tim, please,

    Ecuador beat Croatia who had finished 3rd in the previous World Cup.............yeah, and who'd also lost most of their stars or their stars were coming to the end of their powers. Oh, and Poland...........who are absolutely shocking themselves at every major tournament. They hardly pulled up any trees did they?!

    Correct me if i'm wrong, but didn't the team that won the last Libertadores (also from Ecuador?) play at altitude? In at least 2 rounds, including the final as I remember they were hammered in the away leg, only to come through at home........what a joke!

    I also remember Colombia being tipped as dark horses for '94 after a strong qualifying (just like Ecuador's recent qualifying campaigns) only to show up as a group of very average players, with the odd exception when the tournament sweltering heat that should have been to their advantage too!

    I've noticed you are very protective and defensive over your statements whenever anyone dares to challenge them Tim, constantly twisting the facts to suit you................Croatia and Poland, lol, yeah your right, Ecuador must've been good!

  • Comment number 60.

    Everybody is commenting that teams from Bolivia,Mexico etc., who play at altitude, have an unfair advantage when playing home games in competitions such as the Libertadores. They seem to be missing the obvious point that these teams have to play away games as well! How long does it take for their players to acclimatise to conditions at sea level?

    Anyway, enough of that!


    There was very little said in the local press about the fact that Gremio had one day less to prepare for the Gre-Nal...we played our second team in the semi final anyway and were lucky to get through against Veranopolis...all our "stars" were rested and should have performed better on the big day. Now I just wish we'd lost that semi final game!!

  • Comment number 61.

    59 - now you introduce Colombia 94 into the debate. What does this have to do with altitude? They qualfied at sea level, Barranquilla.

    I love debate - and I haven't replied to you in prickly defence of my own ideas - but in defence of players who you want to dismiss as ordinary, average and useless.

    Like the Colombia 94 team - nightmare tournament - the pressure was way too much for them, and I think in the circumstances the country was facing at the time might have been too much for anyone. But please don't forget that this group - with some truly magnificent players - Valderrama, Rincon, Asprilla - inflicted the only home defeat Argentina have suffered in World Cup qualification - by the margin of 5-0. In the run up to that tournament they went 34 games with one defeat, and played some wonderful stuff in the process.
    It's unfair to them to describe them as ordinary.

    And its unfair to Ecuador to brand them as altitude specialists exposed at sea level, and then argue that wins over Croatia and Poland somehow don't count - this is twisting the facts.

    LDU's away record in the knock out rounds on the way to winning the Libertadores;
    Estudiantes (Arg) 2 LDU 1
    San Lorenzo (Arg) 1 LDU 1
    America (Mex) 1 LDU 1
    Fluminense (Brazil) 3 LDU 1

    The facts (remember them) show that they were never hammered in any away leg - beaten a couple of times, yes, but by respectable margins.

    The ironic thing about all this altitude business is that one of the clubs who were most involved in trying to ban the thing was Flamengo of Brazil - who went and undermined their own case by producing their best 2 displays in last year's Libertadores at altitude, winning away to Cienciano of Peru and America of mexico. Their problem came at home, at seal level, when they were hammered by America in the second leg.

    To close, the original article stated explicitly that altitude does indeed make a difference - but that some specialists familiar with both conditions consider extreme heat to be more dangerous. condition.

  • Comment number 62.


    As always you defend yourself very well. Still can't agree with you on the Ecuador thing tho.....and to a lesser extent on the LDU thing away to Fluminese - In the first leg I thought they looked clearly a class below.

    My real point now is to Colarado_Matt:

    Are you really serious?!!!! Teams at altitude have a big advantage for a few days when they come down to sea level too! The player's bodies have generated massive amounts of red blood cells (I believe it is) to take in as much of the available amounts of oxygen at altitude. Consequently, when they come down to sea level where the oxygen is plentiful, their aerobic capacity is massive because all those extra red blood cells are taking much more oxygen into their blood streams than the players aclimatised at sea in fact living at altitude provides an advantage both ways.

  • Comment number 63.


    To be fair I was just commenting on the scientific research rather than saying it's a universal law.

    The acclimitization periods aren't steadfast rules for sportsmen. Most sports people can operate under 100% levels and be reasonably ok and the imbalance in skill between teams like Bolivia and Brazil balance it even more.

    But more it was just a comment saying that there are altitude based effects on the body above 1500m.

    I entirely bow to your personal knowledge here as I'm not a scientist myself, have never been to South America and realise that what happens on the lab doesn't always apply itself outdoors in quite the same way. I in now way want to imply I'm an expert or anything I quote should override any other opinions.

    I wasn't criticising or knocking you point, more adding to it.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hi Tim

    Im a Wigan fan and i was suprised we bought Rodallega because i didn't think he was the best striker in Mexico and hasn't really impressed much to get a move to the premiership.

    I really believe there are 2 players who would come in and do fantastic:

    Cristian Riveros - I like this guy so much. Can sit and dictate and times his runs to the box wonderfully. He is scoring like mad right now and scored the winner yesterday

    Macnelly Torres - I liked him even before the Palmeiras game where he was truly outstanding the other night. Everytime i watch Colombia he stands out. He is technically a good player who is calm on the ball

    What do you think Tim

  • Comment number 65.

    Roberto_Mexicano, I don't understand your point. You said that Ecuador only qualified to the World Cup because of altitude. At the same time you dismiss this country's victories at the World Cup.

    Well, our point here is not to prove that Ecuador is a title contender. Our point is to prove that Ecuador deserved quallifying, what you denied. If you think that victories over Poland and Croatia, as well as tough matches against Mexico (2002) and England (2006), aren't enough to prove that you're suitable for the World Cup... then I'm afraid that you think that most countries in the World Cup shouldn't be there... But then, there must be 32 countries.

  • Comment number 66.

    My point is that victories against Croatia & Poland were not scalps at the time. They were two poor sides in those tournaments, and therefore to use them as examples that Ecuador were quite good is inacurate.

    I would have fancied any number of unqualified teams from the different continents to have had an equally good chance of beating them.

    ....does that clarify it?

  • Comment number 67.

    Tv companies want prime time ratings,Setanta wanted a Man Utd game played on Christmas Eve needless to say the clubs said no,Many of the early k o games in Uk have an eye on Asian viewing figures,but my many US facebook friends face a 6am ko which isnt popular.
    When Goody Cruz v San Martin 1-1 was abandoned on police advice because of crowd violence earlier on this week. Supporters are wary of travelling to later ko what with transport difficulties and frequent power failures.
    The streaming of Premiership matches on PC are main focus of Tv companies losing revenue how much will credit crunch affect Sky and Setanta?

  • Comment number 68.

    66 - you are missing the point and I think you are disrepecting Croatia and Poland, who do have and have had dangerous players - you have to be at a good level to beat them no matter what the situation with heat or altitude.

    The terms 'useless' and 'poor' when talking about World Cup teams has basically ruled you out of any sensible debate - teams may under perform but they're not subject to that kind of criticism.

  • Comment number 69.


    I can't find more than 2 or 3 teams better than Poland and Croatia among the ones which didn't qualify (in all the world). Maybe at the same level, but not better.


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