BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery
« Previous | Main | Next »

State Championships past sell-by date

Post categories:

Tim Vickery | 08:29 UK time, Monday, 13 April 2009

In football administration, democracy is an awkward concept. One Rochdale, for example, clearly does not have the same weight as one Manchester United - even 30 Rochdales together would struggle.

It was the realisation of this basic truth that helped launch the Premier League, on the basis that if the major clubs were creating most attention and spending the most money, the structure of the game should reflect their importance. A decade and a half after its formation, once provincial English football now attracts top stars from all over the world.

Back in 1992 it would have seemed unthinkable - but when the Brazil squad is called up, these days it contains more players with English clubs than with Brazilian.

It is inevitably hard for domestic Brazilian football to compete with the major European leagues. For all its size, with its colossal internal market, Brazil is still limited by the low salaries paid to the majority of its population, which in turn place a ceiling on footballer's wages.

Ronaldo playing for Corinthians against Sao Paulo

Even so, domestic football in the land which has produced five World Cup-winning teams has considerable room for improvement - and one of the reasons is that the lesson of the Premier League has not been absorbed. The tail is wagging the dog.

The current structure means the big clubs are subservient to the small - or to something more sinister, to those who control the small. The biggest proof is the continued existence of the State Championships, one for each of the 27 states that make up this giant country.

This year's state tournaments are coming to a close, which means big games in front of giant crowds. I'm writing this after returning from a Flamengo-Fluminense semi-final in Rio that drew a near 70,000 crowd, like the Botafogo-Vasco match the day before. In Sao Paulo, meanwhile, there is great interest in their semi-finals between the local big four, Corinthians and Sao Paulo, and Santos and Palmeiras.

Some will take this as evidence that people love the State Championships - and they would be wrong. People love big derbies. When the fixtures come out, the first thing a Manchester City fan checks is the dates of the matches against United, and he doesn't mean he has to endure three months of watching City against the likes of Bolton Sunday Market reserves.

But that's what happens in Brazil. Before the State Championships come to a finale, they throw up week after week of complete guff. The figures from Rio show the point clearly.

Nowadays the Rio State Championship is clearly second in quality to Sao Paulo but historically it is at least as important. This year it has been made up of 16 teams - the big four in the semi-finals, and 12 small ones. In all, those 12 teams have met each other 67 times during the course of the competition - with a combined attendance of 29,261. An average of 436 fans per game.

This is obviously absurd. Professional football without supporters is a glaring contradiction. The small teams bring nothing to the table and yet the big ones, who count their own fans in the millions, carry them along for months.

It is basic. If the likes of Flamengo, Vasco, Fluminense and Botafogo are spending mid-January until early May playing teams with no supporters, they are obviously operating massively below their potential.

Why is this allowed to continue? In part it is tradition. Brazil is so vast that a genuine National Championship only came into existence in 1971, so much of the history of the game is bound up in local rivalries.

But more to the point, it is power. The balance of power in the election of the president of the CBF, Brazil's FA, is with the 27 state presidents. Taking away their championship would end their prestige, since typically, their own support base is with the small clubs.
So they don't vote for a reform candidate, and in return they get to keep their championship.

The outcome is two layers of mutually perpetuating bureaucracy. Ricardo Teixeira has been CBF President since 1989 and now has a mandate until 2015, while more than half the state presidents have been in office more than 10 years and some date back to the mid-70s. The big clubs attempted a feeble breakaway in 1987, but continue to participate in a structure that sells them short.

CBF president Ricardo Teixeira

The players know the truth. I first became aware of this in early 1996, when interviewing Branco, who was on the point of joining Middlesbrough. One of the reasons he was keen to get away was to avoid the State Championships, which at the time were even longer.

Recently Flamengo keeper Bruno let the cat out of the bag; winner of the Rio State title in 2007 and 2008, he said that this year he wanted to win something important.

Bad enough in themselves, the State tournaments also have a highly detrimental effect on the National Championship, which kicks off on 10 May and goes all the way through to early December. As any European fan knows, a long league campaign needs a pause before the action gets under way, to whet appetites for the big kick-off.

But retaining the State tournaments means there is no such pause in Brazil - and to make matters worse, it throws the calendar out of sync with the rest of the world, so that the global transfer window rips teams apart in the middle of the campaign.

State Championships may have a purpose for lower division teams, youth and women's football but they have long since outlived their usefulness at the elite level. Scrapping them would be the single biggest step the Brazilian game could take.

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) After watching Porto's 2-2 draw with Man United, I noticed there were many South American footballers on the Porto team, González, López and
Rodríguez all had good games but for me, the two players who really
stood out were a young defensive midfielder called Fernando, who had
great energy and was superb at spotting potential danger and snuffing
it out. The other was a striker called 'Hulk,' who had an
unconventional but effective style of bulldozing through the defence
with the ball. Do you know much about these two players and do you
think Dunga is aware of them? Could Fernando could be a long-term
replacement for an aging Gilberto Silva, who Dunga seems reluctant to
Lee Walsh

A) It's a tribute to the strength in depth of the Brazilian game that players like this are produced who are hardy known back at home. Problem is, it's hard to get in the national team that way, without a constituency at home calling for your inclusion. Hard, but not impossible - Elber did it, more recently Alfonso Alves was in the squad for a while.

Dunga should certainly be aware of them; I'm sure he sees it as part of his job to follow any Brazilians in the last eight of the Champions League, and anyway, he will have been watching Porto to keep tabs on keeper Helton, who he has called up in the past.
All they can do is keep performing to maintain the pressure - as far as Hulk is concerned, with Adriano out of contention for a while there's a squad place going for a striker.

Q) I was just wondering if you could enlighten me as to whether you believe there is a wider reaching, and perhaps cultural, reason behind the difference in performance level of Robinho, in part Jo, and Ronaldinho (in his last season at Barca) when it comes to games away from home? Or am I wide of the mark and simply highlighting 3 recent examples who all happen to be Brazilian?
Andrew Bester

A) An interesting point. It's generally true that away wins are much rarer in Europe than South America. In the Libertadores so far we've had 36 home wins to 16 away. In World Cup qualifying it's 31 to 10 - and this ratio of 3 to 1 is not uncommon. I tend to put this down to travelling time, climatic changes, altitude etc, but there may be some psychological factors at work.

In the case of the players you mentioned, I don't think it's true of Ronaldinho in his pomp; one of his finest Barca performances came at the Bernabeu. With Robinho there may be some mental factors. I did a round table debate on Brazilian TV a while back, and the local journos were stressing that he's worked better in support of someone rather than when he is given the responsibility of carrying the side. Perhaps he feels that responsibility more away from home, when the difficulties are greater. I'd like to know what City fans think about it.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Tim an excellent blod as always i have a few questions for you if thats ok

    Q1.Theres a few new brazillian talents ive heard a bit about one been Oscar at Sao Paolo and the other been Silva Neymar at Santos what type of futures do they have in the game?

    Q2.I think Hernanes is a beautiful player and hopefully will make the move across the ocean to europe do you know what clubs are looking at him and whether he might get in the brazillan team instead of gilberto silva?

    Thanks and keep the good work going

  • Comment number 2.

    Good blog. Questions:

    1) Ronaldo has shown he can still score, do you think there's any chance of him being included in the squad for the Confederations Cup?

    2) How much do you rate Carlos Vela? And have you watched him play for Arsenal? I feel he has great potential to be one of the best in the world.

    3) The U-17 South American Championships are starting this week and it should be very good. Who should we look out for? Lets hope we find the new Messi or Pato.

  • Comment number 3.

    Love your blog Tim, gets me out of bed even on a bank holiday!

    Interesting point about the State Championship; bureaucracy runs amok once again. You've highlighted how the players seem to feel about it all and while the low attendances speak for themselves what place does the competition have for the average man on the street?

    I also agree with the question from this week Fernando was mightily impressive on Tuesday night, don't know if you've come across him but check out the highlights.

    Thanks for one of the best blogs going, keep it up.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Tim
    Yet another fascinating blog. I have a couple of questions. The first is regarding the sad decline of Adriano. As it looks that his career is in limbo, do you reckon he could flourish alongside Ronaldo at Corinthians, or perhaps a move to Fiorentina where Prandelli has helped his career before? There's even talk of a move to Fenerbache. Which do you think would be best for him?

    Also, whatever happened to Johnnier Montano. I know he didn't settle in Italy after disappointing spells at Parma and Piacenza. Has he managed to rebuild his career? Would you say it was too much too young for him? With Kerlon having a similar fate at Chievo, should younger gems be kept in South America?

    Many thanks,

    Oliver Jones

  • Comment number 5.

    Good morning!good blog as usual.You dont usually do questions but I gotta ask.Why do you think Dunga keeps ignoring Alexandre Pato apart from a few minutes here and there?He seems to be the most inform Brazilian striker in Europe at the moment.Also which one of Milan's striker would complement him most?My money's on Borriello.The old lil and large combo!Thanks!

  • Comment number 6.

    Great blog as usual. I was just wondering how Ronaldo is performing so far since moving back to Brazil? He's the best striker I've ever seen.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Tim,

    Another excellent blog and very informative on the State Championships.
    From what you write and the players say, maybe the authorities should listen to the top teams.
    However, if the top teams are losing interest and nothing is done about it, could they field a team of up-coming youths or a weakened side?
    Scrapping the SC's may even result in longevity with some players. Most Brazilians most seem to fizzle away around the 30y.o. mark.

    Keep up the good work,

  • Comment number 8.

    Another great read Tim,

    It is surely worth pointing out that that both Keirrison and Neymar have furthered their reputations in the State Championships this season.

    Both were on target on Saturday night - goals here:

  • Comment number 9.

    Hello Tim, great point!

    Few people on Brazilian press have the courage to approach that topic.
    Don't you think that, if the Brazilian Championship was organized by the club league (and there is one, the "Clube dos Treze", even though they only took the lead in 2000), things would be different? I remember we once had the regional cups, like Rio-São Paulo, much more attractive (big clubs only), but this cups were demolished by CBF.

    I'm not sure if you're aware of what happened in Rio Grande do Sul sate, where Grêmio (playing simultaneosly the Copa Libertadores) placed a reserved team on most games of the State Championship and was early elimanated. They were very criticised by the press. When having a Derby scheduled by state federation only 48hrs before a key Libertadores game, Grêmio asked the federation to change dates but the the responde they got was "Why don't you place a reserve side for Copa Libertadores?"

    If you heard so, what do you think about that.

    Thanks so much and congratulations for your articles.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tim

    Interesting article again, the Brazil state championships do just seem pointless to me.

    Are there not a lot of people in Brazil with a similar view though? Are there any high profile people that want this changed or is everyone happy to let it continue? Is it a case of as you mention that no one will elect anyone who wants it changed no matter how strong public opinion is against it?

  • Comment number 11.

    Great article Tim

    I'd be interested to know whether these small clubs have much of a loyal fan base or whether people from these small towns simply support the giants of the state rather than their hometown team? Judging by some of the crowds you mentioned I'd guess its the latter.

  • Comment number 12.

    Also, do these championships ever throw up any major suprises? Do the giants ever lose to one of the tiny teams or have one of the minnows ever won a state championship?

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Tim,

    Really interesting blog this week. I had no idea their state championships were basically like a second season!

    From what you say however, it seems like with the combination of steep tradition and politics, it would take something major to affect change. I can't think of any large group with significant power who have ever given up that power for the greater good?!

  • Comment number 14.

    I remember when Zico returned from Italy to rejoin Flamengo, as he wished to end his playing career in Brazil. he got his wish but not in the manner he anticipated. Flamengo were playing away in the Rio state championship, and one of the opposing team's defenders literally took him out - studs to the knee as I recall.

    Zico in Italy had had at least one operation on his knee in Italy, so any impact on that area would have serious repercussions. I was aware that as the footballing ability of the lesser teams was very low, tactics such as nobbling star players become the norm. But you do not need to travel away from the UK to see this, Theo Walcott has suffered tackles more often seen in American football.

    So yes I can understand why so many Brazilian stars want to ply their trade abroad. That some players are prepared to play in very cold climes such as Moscow, or even such as Eduardo prepared to naturalise as a Croatian makes the point succinctly. As long as Brazil continues to produce talented players the politics of the CBF are unlikely to change.

    Incidentally when I was at school in Brazil, the only schools that played 11 a side football matches on a grass pitch were the British, European and American schools as the Brazilian schools in Sao Paulo did not have football pitches of their own. Is this still the case? Its a conundrum in that in Britain we have the infrastructure for school kids to play football on pitches, and Brazilian schools make do with futebol se salao played on a basketball court! The only time I have seen young people playing on "pitch" is on the beach!

    Perhaps you could next do a blog on how Brazil develops young talent in such quality and quantity?

  • Comment number 15.

    There are some shock results - especially at the start of the campaign - when the small clubs are better prepared physically than the big ones - the small ones have been prpearing while the big one were on holiday after the end of the natioa champonship in early december.

    Sao Paulo's State championship is a much better than the others - the state is so rich than the small teams from outiside the capital are strong. But this leads to an imbalance in Brazilian football - come the end of the year the Sao Paulo sides pick up players who have done well from all over the rest of Brazil - they can offer them something worthwhile to do in the first few months of the year.

    There is growing press perception that the State Championships have outlived their usefulness - but there is a factor making change unlikely in the short term - the 2014 World Cup. The clubs are waiting for the golden rain of investement from the CBF, so at the moment there is little possibility of a break with the power structure.

  • Comment number 16.

    The one other important factor to mention (perhaps the most important) is television coverage here in Brazil. There’s just no way that TV Globo would allow the state championships to get the chop!
    Yes, a lot of the matches have been dire. But the two first leg semi-finals in the Paulista were excellent. And anyway, what would the TV channels fill the gap with? More Faustão? More Big Brother Brazil? Believe me when I say these options are far worse than watching the group stage of the state tournaments! Haha
    While it’s true that no one turns up apart from the big games when the ‘fans’ get a chance to bask in some reflected glory, the clubs at least do get some money from TV coverage.
    But I agree with Tim when he says that the championships need looking at. I’d favour a radical reduction in the number of games involving the big clubs or even allowing the teams in the Libertadores not to compete. But of course there’d be complaints by some of the sides that they need the state games to get fit for the Libertadores.

  • Comment number 17.

    Your arguments to

  • Comment number 18.

    Tim, your arguments for scrapping the Brazilian States championship are far from convicing, and you are overlooking many aspects.

    First, you mistake match attendance with support. As you are aware, the bulk of brazilian worforce live on a limited budget. Turning up to a game can be quite costly (spending on transport plus match ticket). Since there is Radio and TV coverage, struggling to get supporters through the door at the Stadium by no means imply lack of support. You ae also disrergading that these apparently "meaningless" games can serve to important purposes: (1) laboratory for experimenting new tactics and players, (2) training for B team and youth academy, (3) "shop window" for new talents, and, more importantly, (4) extra source of revenue from TV coverage rights for all clubs involved.

    Second, it is obvious that winning these State tournaments have relatively less prestige than winning the National championship. But this is not a sound reason to bring these tournaments to an end. That is just the way things are to be anywhere with more than one tournament - e.g., the FA Cup has not the same prestige of the Premiersihp, has it? The same applies to El Copa del Rey v Spanish Primera Division.

    Third, it is far from clear - and still to be proved - whether and how the National Championship would benefit from terminating the State tournaments. You are attaching too much weight to the politics involved in this. While Brazilian Football is not as well organised as European Football, they are "rational" enough (and probably have more information than us) to chop off the States Championship if the benefit of continuing does not offset the cost.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hey Tim,

    How likely is it that we will see Ronaldo back in a Brasil shirt and playing for them once again?

    Do you think he should play for them again and do the brasilian people want him back in the team?


  • Comment number 20.

    18 - you have missed the point.
    The FA Cup does not have the prestige of the league, nor does the Copa Del Rey have the same prestige as La Liga.
    But - and here's the point - in neither case does the existence of the former harm the latter. They are complimentary, and take place during the same time period.
    This is not true in Brazil. The State Championships are not complentary to the National, and do not take place over the same time period.
    I can't think of any league in the world that embarks on a 7 month campaign wihtout a pause first - a pause for the teams to prepare, and crucially, for the marketing to take place, for the fan to miss going to the stadium, develop anxiety for the new campaign. In any league the first weekend - the big kick off - is one of the most exciting moments of the year.
    Apart from Brazil. Because in Brazil the State tournaments come to an end on May 3rd, and the National starts on the 9th. There's no time for the build up. As a result the Brazilian Champíonship gets off to a very 'cold' start - negating one of the big advantages of the league system - that 3 points in the first round are worth the same as 3 points in the last.
    You say that my arguments are not convincing and then conclude with the vague belief that the powers that be know best.

  • Comment number 21.


    First of all, Brazil state championships? Really? Isn't there any football going on outside of Brazil in this rich sub-continent? Didn't we just have libertadores fixtures with LDUQ almost eliminated by a Colo-Colo team that can't do anything in Chile? How about Estudiantes trouncing undefeated Cruzeiro 4-0? Palmeiras "resurrection"? River almost out? U de Chile returning Boyaca Chico's 3-0? What about Chile's Union Espanola leading the local championship?

    I have quite a few friends from all over South America and none of them, expect of course for the Brazilians, care or even know about these state championships. Again, no hidden agenda. It's just a little frustrating because, Tim, you do know a fair share about South American football and you can write pretty well. Yet, you chose to write about a tournament that, as you say, even Brazilians don't care about. South America, and its football, is a lot more than Brazil and Argentina.

    As for small team vs big team, I thought you had said small teams were part of the appeal of our football. Liga and Once Caldas winning la libertadores being proof of it. I didn't finish reading your article -for the first time- but you did seem to be implying that the rules should be made to accommodate bigger teams first and then look at the rest: "on the basis that if the major clubs were creating most attention and spending the most money, the structure of the game should reflect their importance." Riches for the rich? Should there be two FA cups, one for the Premier clubs and one for the rest? I don't really see how that can help the game of football itself.

    This post is neither badly written nor poorly researched; it is its relevance that's disappointing.

  • Comment number 22.

    My team Internacional play in the Gaucho championship. Although it is not as reputable as the Rio or Sao Paulo championships, the Gaucho championship is still considered amongst the top five state competitions in Brazil. Inter (who haven't lost a single game in this year’s Gauchao) along with Gremio have a long history of dominating the competition. Despite the one sided nature of the Gaucho championship, I tend to lean more in favour of the state competitions.

    If we're going to scrap the state championships on the principle of the larger clubs competing against lower level clubs then shouldn't we also be looking at the FA Cup as well - of course not!

    I think the sheer geographical size of Brazil has also been overlooked in this discussion and historically plays a huge role in the tradition of the state leagues. I think the traditional side of the game should be valued, particularly in a country such as Brazil where its footballing culture is so rich. I also think the state leagues can be a healthy environment for clubs to blood younger players and to allow them gain experience rather than the harsh and impatient climate of the Brazilian Championship.


  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Tim,

    Another brilliant blog.

    Could a league system were the teams remain in state championship and the top 4 qualify for an All State League where the winner is crown champions of Brazil, work?

  • Comment number 24.

    21 had you made it all the way to the bottom you would have seen my view that scrapping the state champ is th biggest single step the Brazilian game could take. It's mch more 'relevant' than a one-off result in a match last week. I'm starting to think you have an anti-Brazil bias!

    No way that LDU are a small club - they have a stadium for 50,000 or so and they can fill it. Once Caldas are a bit smaller, but still a reputable club. In Brazil we're talking about clubs that have 100 fans who go to the games - and probably support one of the big teams as well. There's a huge difference.

    Matt -22 - come on now, you're trying to be more Brazluan than the Brazilians! There's a massive difference between the FA Cup and the State Champ - one is mentioned in my post above (the timing), the other is more basic. The FA Cup is a cup. The state champs end in play offs, biut first have long league stages. I have no objection to big clubs playing tiny ones on a one-off cup basis. In a long term league structure it makes no footballing or financial sense.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Tim,

    I am an avid reader of your blog and delighted that you do not have an insular view about Brazilian football being only about Rio-Sao Paulo (despite the obvious strengths of the teams in SP).

    I am a 'consul' (representative) for Gremio in Scotland and a fanatical supporter of the club. I would be glad to see the back of the current structure for the State Championships - I accept that they play an important role for the smaller clubs which cannot afford to participate in national competitions, but for clubs like Gremio, Sao Paulo, Inter, etc I think they should be joining in at the final stages only. Either that, or not taking part at all and extending the time of the Brazilian league to cover most of the year.

    Gremio had to make a choice between the State Championship and the Libertadores Cup this year and in my opinion they made the mistake of playing certain games with the full team. The priority should always be the Libertadores and the State league should have been used for those youngster coming through - in order to bring even more talent throught the ranks to follow on the footsteps of Ronaldinho Gaucho, Lucas, Anderson, Rafael Carioca, Douglas Costa, etc

    On a final note, I don't know what you think of Celso Roth's dismissal at Gremio, but surely Paulo Autuori would be a much better option?

    Keep up the great work!

  • Comment number 26.



    it's not surprising that Inter haven't lost a game in the Gaúcho when you consider the opposition (minus Grêmio of course) – and is a tournament really worth putting on when the same two teams have won it for the last fifty years accept on two occasions? The Copa Sul-Minas was a little better and at least Inter and Grêmio had a bit of competition

  • Comment number 27.

    The FA Cup "Brazilian version" is the Copa do Brasil, which is very well prestiged in the country. In fact, due to lack of the date in the calendar because the State Championships take so long, the clubs playing Copa Libertadores are forbidden to play the Copa do Brasil by CBF, but still have to play for the SC. So, the Copa do Brasil always misses the Top 5 clubs of the year before and yet the champions can't defend their title. This is ridiculous!

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim, even though you say people in brazil don't care about state championships, you can clearly see, by the comments made by brazilians here, that things aren't exactly how you say.
    It's true people outside brazil often can't understand why there are state championships here, but it's totally related to the way football developed here.
    First, Brazil has state championships simply because IT CAN. England, that you mention as model, has only four true big teams. They coudn't - even if they wanted - have something like state championships. In Brazil, são paulo and rio de janeiro alone have 4 big teams each. if you consider gremio, internacional, cruzeiro e atlético, we have 12 teams that are big, can win the national championship and nobody would consider it a surprise. While england has 5 or 6 divisions (or leagues) são paulo state alone has 6 leagues (a1, a2, a3, b1, b2, b3).
    Second, due to enormous amount of teams and size of brazilian territory, it makes sense to have state championships. some of these teams (and many of them are traditional and have supporters) have only this opportunity to play.
    Third, as i commented in another article you wrote, the current SCs situation isn't the cause of brazilian teams' difficult financial situation, but the effect of it. when the great players still played here nobody complained about the SCs. We could watch, for example, palmeiras, in 1996, with cafu, rivaldo, djalminha, muller e luizão. however, through the 90s, when the european teams started to organise themselves as companies and when the players became independent - no longer bound to the teams - we saw the start of a gigantic exodus. the result is that we have not only weak SCs - as you say - but, in fact, a weak national championship (and weak attendances). this is why we had such memorable SCs during the 90s, but not after that.
    Fourth, the SCs are a crucial part of why so many new players appear in brazil each year. They have the opportunity to show themselves...
    Fifth, the end of SCs is FAR from unanimous. The opinions are very divided. Many still defend it and like it, whether people abroad understand it or not (as many don't understand why so many people don't want the 'geral' sector in the stadiums to be abolished...)

  • Comment number 29.



    No anti-Brazil sentiment here. I will definitely be cheering for Argentina and Brazil (alphabetical order) in 2010 as I did during the Olympics. In fact, my French fiancée has a really hard time understanding why I cheer for any South American team in any competition.

    Just think about my comment this way. Let's say you were a South American football reporter based out of the UK and needed to write an article based on the last couple of weeks. Would you have written about Luton's Johnstone's Paint Trophy or Barca-Bayern and ManU-Porto or Lyon's threatened French crown? Sure Luton is a big part of British football history and it is remarkable that they won even though they are by now relegated. But is it really that much more important than the champions league? Would it really deserve a mention over a seven-time champion finally being threatened? I think that with today's article, you chose to talk about the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.


  • Comment number 30.

    Best blog on the BBC site, Tim. Well done! However, I think I have a small disagreement with you about the State Championships being a total waste of time.

    Brazil is massive country and not a rich one. Traveling across the country to follow your team must surely be seen as the preserve of the well off. Heck, I can’t afford to get up to Coventry (form Eastbourne) very often! I can’t imagine what it would be like for a fan of Recife team Sport having to travel down the coast to Porto Alegre to play Grêmio. That’s a journey of over 2,300; or two solid days driving.

    It’s always struck me that the football in Brazil is very much still of and for the proletariat; unlike our Premiership, it’s still more of a working man’s game. Being able to see the top local teams playing in your town just seems like a good thing to me; kind of like the league system of college football in America. Who can afford to travel — week in and week out — across such huge distances for games that are anything less than a final or a semi final? Not people with regular jobs and probably not a lot of regular football fans in Brazil.

    More thoughts, etc:

  • Comment number 31.


    I watched the Corinthians-Sao Paulo game and must say the quality of football was very poor. Corinhthians were the better side but Brazilian football has lost so much its unbelievable. Its exactly like watching a european game like Newcastle vs Bolton.
    I didn't see any flair. Washington looked like Sao Paulo's version of Kevin Davies.
    Whats happening to the Ronaldinho's of that world Tim??

  • Comment number 32.

    22 - I think the FA Cup is not good to compare with the State Championships. It's very rare when really small clubs make into with the big clubs - and based on merit or luck.

    I also, as a Brazilian, believe that the state championships shouldn't be abolished, but the big clubs should not play it to favour a better national championship, making the State Championships regional divisions to the national one(the winner of each championship going to Serie C and D, for example with no team from A or B playing it).

    I'm from Minas Gerais, and the state championship here is ridiculous. It is made so that the two big clubs meet in the final, which is the only big game in the whole championship. Seems a little bit of a waste.

  • Comment number 33.

    27 - This is also due to Conmebol's wanting to have the Libertadores in the first 6 months of the year. So many games in so many few time.

    Also the SC championships can be the reason of why we Brazilians have been dominating the Libertadores, playing against lesser teams on the week and facing true opposition on the weekend, when the rest of the continent is playing always playing true opposition. Which explains the dominance of Brazil in Libertadores and why our teams never do as good in Mercosur.

  • Comment number 34.

    Tim, I am a Gremio supporter and could not agree more with what you wrote. Actually, I wish Gremio would always play youth and reserves in the state championship even if that meant internacional winning most if not all championships. BTW, to emphasize the point that Tim is right, they are called "State Championships" not state cups, which is absurd.

    #31, just remember all brazilian teams are beginning their preparation and are not yet playing at their top (far from it). SPFC actually played a very tough game for Libertadores Cup so players were very tired for the Derby. Teams in Brazil only really get it going by the 5th-6th round of the Brazilian league.

  • Comment number 35.

    It would make sense if instead of State Championships (an idea which makes some sense in the context of Brazilian football, but are no longer fit for purpose in the way they might have been before) the Copa do Brazil started with several rounds of regionalised rounds which could act as 'state championships' for the smaller clubs (and perhaps with trophies accordingly, as well as the potential to play the biggest clubs).

    There are good reasons to have a distinctively Brazilian league structure that does not mirror that of the European leagues, which work for geographically smaller countries with wealthier populations. The State Championship, however, is now a dysfunctional relic that is causing a mass exodus of Brazilian talent to Europe.

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh, this would be better: only just realised Brazil *does* have a European-style structure, with four national leagues. How can that work in a country like Brazil? I would suggest having only one or at most two national leagues and a regional pyramid below that...

  • Comment number 37.

    33- The Mercosur hasn't been played since 2001.

  • Comment number 38.

    28 - 'England only has 4 big clubs'???
    You are deluding yourself about the relative sizes of clubs. i remember doing an interview with Rodrigo when he was with Everton - he hadn't heard of the club, and couldn't get over how big and important it was. You have no idea. There are clubs in England outside the big four with a huge waiting list for season tickets! Imagine that in Brazil!.

    England could easily hold an equiavlent of state championships - a London one would gave much more strength in depth than Rio's, where only 4 clubs have supporters (I accept that teams like America and Bangu were once far bigger than today).
    A greater Manchester one - teams falling over themselves - a North East one would have more strength in depth than anything outside Sao Paulo or Rio. Merseyside, the South Coast - it's entirely possible. Just not desirable.

    Take Atletico Mineiro from Belo Horizonte, for example - big club, lots of supporters. Won the first Brazilian Championship back in 1971. Haven't won it since. Have never really done anything in the Libertadores. Have never won the domestic cup. Won a now defunct and low prestige South American cup called the Conmebol in 92 and 97. Fair enough, they've won plenty of state titles in Minas Gerais, but they only have Cruzeiro to beat! By the criteria you use to argue that England only has a big four, Atletico are out as well - along with Botafogo,Fluminense and a few others.

    The immense size of the country is obviously a question to be considered, but I tend to see this as an advantage - a properly organised first division with a proper pre-season for preparation and marketing. The potential is there. But it won't be achieved by ignoring the advantage of size and dividing the country into 27 Paraguays.

    A key concept in this out of date structure of brazilian football is hyper-inflation - which was rampant until brought under control in 1994. Under hyper-inflation any structure was viable - all the clubs had to do was pay late and they could meet their commitments. It was this fantasy world that allowed Brazilian football to get away with this structure for so long.
    Take hyper-inflation away, and suddenly you're struggling. The global market has opened up, and there's no way you can compete. So what happens? Instead of the necessary step - scrapping the state champs and investing everything in a national league - instead of this, a compromise solution - keep the state champs but shorten them, which creates new problems by throwing the calendar out of sync not jut with Europe but with the rest of South America as well.

  • Comment number 39.

    37 - I meant Sulamericana, sorry!

  • Comment number 40.


    I forgot to ask you what they're saying in Brazil about Adriano and what you think of the whole situation.

  • Comment number 41.

    Tim, when i say that england has only 4 big teams i'm not talking about number of supporters, but about real chances of winning the championship. if you take 1991 on, only manchester, arsenal and chelsea won the championships (with the exceptions of leeds and blackburn). That's 16 out 18!! and you look at the english premier league today, who are the teams that are leading it? manchester, liverpool, chelsea and arsenal. Surprise!! i'm sorry, but, no, england couldn't organise SCs. Only one, maybe.
    And if you take the same period you'll see that manchester was first or second in 15 out 18. but if you take the 'weak' campeonato mineiro you'll see that cruzeiro and atletico don't do as well... that doesn't mean that SCs are very difficult, but brazil can have them (while england can't). that also doesn't mean they are weak teams. cruzeiro was vice in 1998. atletico in 1999. they both lost to my corinthians :). in 2003, cruzeiro was the champion. cruzeiro also won libertadores in 1997. and about atletico never winning libertadores, corinthians never made anything relevant in it either, and nobody considers corinthians a small team. botafogo won in 1995, fluminense was vice in libertadores last year. they aren't teams of 'yesterday'.

    About the calendar thing, adjusting brazilian with european won't stop the exodus. Actually, to do it makes things easier, and it suits very well the interests of those who take part in these negotiations. SCs aren't the cause of the national Champ situation. They are both falling together. If you avoid the reasons that stop one of them doing well (amateur presidents - some thieves - violence in stadiums, matches at 10 pm etc.) the other type of championship will benefit the same way. if you don't, both will fall the same way...
    I'm not saying SCs are marvellous, but to think that ending them will solve the problem is, as we say here, to throw the baby away with the water (or something like that...)

  • Comment number 42.

    I agree with you Tim about there being more than 4 big english clubs.

    man utd
    man city

    are the biggest clubs in England. big teams, big fan bases, big stadiums, big history.

  • Comment number 43.


    Brazil's state championships are now like the individual country championships in Europe, certainly they are very similar to Portugal, Scotland and Belgium. Bosman has ruined football world wide, not just in Brazil. Before Bosman the crowds were much higher. I think moving away from the state championships will only further worsen the quality of the Brazilian league by not re-distributing the wealth and not giving players a chance to compete with the big teams. Look at the Champions league and how it has destroyed European football. Yes, there's 10 really great teams with great players, but the rest, they don't have a chance. Back in the 1970's and 80's Nottigham Forest, Aberdeen, Ipswich won cups, now, no chance, football is too predictable.

    English clubs may get 20 or 30 thousand but this is because football is not shown on TV like it is in Brazil, people have more money and there is little else to do in England because of the weather. Also, there is a lot of false money being pumped into the English league which keeps some teams like Villa and Tottenham competitive and it's only a matter of time before the English league is just as predictable as the Brazilian one (some would argue it is already that) - when would a team like Portugesa end 2nd in the Premiership like Portuguesa did for example.

    To any Euro politicians out there, please reverse the Bosman ruling, just for football's sake, before it is too late. Sometimes Law needs to be intervened with by the Politicians, and football is one of those times.

    Tim - what do you think would happen if we reversed Bosman, is football still saveable? Or are we doomed to watching Milan vs Barcelona 4 times a year?


    A Corinthians fan from the 1980's

  • Comment number 44.

    oh i add aston villa to that list as they have won a european cup

  • Comment number 45.

    42 and 44 - Tottenham and Newcastle haven't been doing great this year. And there's a gap between the really big four(nowadays big four, let's not count the past) and Aston Villa and Everton.

    43 - Brazilian football is, I agree, unpredictable. Gremio last year showed strenght(even being a favourite for mediocrity) and Fluminense(one of the favourites for the title) went for mediocrity. But lately Sao Paulo has been the dominating the championship because apparently they're the only team who does things professionally. They will be doing good this year again, I suppose.

    But I don't agree that taking away the State Championships wouldn't give the opportunity of players play against the Big Clubs, impress and get a better contract. That's what youth competitions(and we have some) are for. Besides of that, I can't remember any superstar who started in a small club since Roberto Carlos or Rivaldo.

  • Comment number 46.

    About saying that england has only 4 teams, i explained the sense of the affirmation above and gave the stats.

    as i said, brazil has enough big teams to disguise the fact that the national championship is now as weak as the SCs. If you take all the great players in Brasileirão 2008 you won't achieve what palmeiras had in Paulista 1996. however, i agree with galoucura that são paulo is making it a little predictable (and it undoes the disguise...).

    About the bosman ruling, i totally agree with dungabosta (a nick that makes sense, btw). Perfect analysis. Tired of seeing only english teams -boosted by money of dubious origin - reaching the semifinal of champions league. law sometimes needs to be changed. in brazil, we could certainly change "Lei Pelé"...

    Galoucura, i concede that Copa São Paulo has this purpose. but it only lasts some days... About your question, sadly, i can't even remeber any superstar since Roberto Carlos/Rivaldo/Ronaldo, be it from a small or big club... We have Kaka and, maybe, Robinho (i've not yet made my mind about him...). Ronaldinho Gaucho, apparently, gave up playing soccer. Adriano said it (formally) these days...

  • Comment number 47.

    45 depends if you consider these guys as 'superstars' and their clubs are small but off the top of my head ... Luís Fabiano started at Ponte, Juninho Paulista at Ituano (no probs there) ... rógerio ceni at SINOP, ...

  • Comment number 48.



  • Comment number 49.

    46 - I don't think the National Championship is as weak as the SCs. I agree that the standards has fallen for both competitions, and that's why I'd hope for a better structured big National Championship. I'm tired of seeing my team beat not-even fourth-division opposition, whose squad is fully made of reserves of their parent clubs. I'd rather be playing top-teams from other states, having the top 4 clubs back to Brazil Cup, etc..

    When I said superstar I meant any player who is capable of being a first-choice of a big-club of a big-league. Ronaldinho was, Kaka is, Pato will be. And the three of them started on big clubs.

    47 - I'd say that Juninho Paulista and Rogerio Ceni started in other period of Brazilian football(The start of the 90's, when it was easier to hold youngsters from european clubs), and I'd still say that Luis Fabiano(even though Ponte Preta is not a small club, they are in Serie B this year, aren't they? Were on Serie A few years ago...) is one of the reminiscents of this time, I'd have Robinho and Diego as the line.

  • Comment number 50.

    Whos favourites to win Serie A 2009 in your opinion Tim?
    If I was a betting man, I would put my money on Corinthians or Sao Paulo. Could you tell me what you think Fluminense' chances are at winnng the title with us now having Parreira, Fred, Conca and possibly Thiago Neves if its possible for him to be re-signed.

  • Comment number 51.

    46 - I thnk you've moved the goalposts. You started talking about 'big clubs' and now you've switched to 'clubs that can win the championship.' They are different things.
    Fair enough, England has 4 clubs in contention for the title.
    But these 4 can meet plenty of other big rivals - even teams not in the first division such as leeds, the sheffield clubs - who will bring something to the spectacle - will bring fans and interest - and consequently also bring that key requirement for professional football - money.

    But when Flamengo face Cabofriense? What do Cabofriense bring? This is the difference

  • Comment number 52.

    One of the things that is really fascinating me about this debate is the contrasting attitudes to modern trends in Brazil and England.

    for the brazilians, freedom of contract and globalisation are a disaster, football needs saving, the golden age was 20 years ago, the stars have all gone and so on.

    from an english perspective, things look very different - made more poignant by the 20th anniversary of Hillsbrough. 20 years ago things touched rock bottom. Nowadays, well if your team is not one of the big 4 you've got very little chance of winning the title, but whoever you support, the standard of play has risen, the stadium experience is much safer and so on.

    No right or wrong - just different perspectives on the same events.

  • Comment number 53.

    Is this article recycled from previous years. At least once a year (although it seems more often) you have a dig at the State Championships. Maybe it's when you have nothing else of note to write about.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Tim,

    Great article, even better responses.

    Just to clarify with everyone, England has enough big clubs to have a state championships: anyone who disagree's should think carefully!

  • Comment number 55.

    53 - as long as the state championships are around, and as long as i think they're a neagtivething, i'll have a go at them. i thnk it's a subject of great importance.

    So yes, i've done it before - but this week's piece has new facts, a new line of analysis and a new nose - the idea of football democracy and how it realtes to the launching of the Premier league.

    If you think I've wasted your time, i'm sure there are plenty of articles on Fergie's/Rafa's/ Hiddink's/ Arsene's 'mind games' to keep you informed.

  • Comment number 56.

    Mr.Vickey, I couldn't agree more with yout text, but I must say that the existance of this state championships are not just a tradition issue but a way the teams that are becoming of intermediate quality since the no-playoff system that was put to work in 03'to feel big and gloryful again,even knowing deep down it's a big ilusion to themselves and to their fans.
    The existance of the state championships makes impossible to fit days to play both international competition and our F.A cup,whitch is a real shame beacuse the cups are really amusing
    CONMENBOL should also be held responsible for our schedule problems by not using the whole year to display the two continental competitions- the Libertadores and the Sulamericana.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am brazilian and I think that there are somethings that is not easy to a foreign person to undestand. Saying about area, Brazil is as big as Europe. Each brazilian state is comparate as a country in Europe. The championships has equal structure: 3 or 4 big teams and a lot of teams who tries to get a "good season" and for ten in ten years get a championship. Brazilian championship is coparable to UCL. Don´t you agree? So say me another championship in the world that there are eleven or twelve teams who has good chances to be champion? The states championship is teh main reason of the great sucess of brazilian football and the our selection in world cups. Mostly of our gratest players began to play in teams that would not keep playing if there was a single "first division" in Brasil. I am saying about teams who survives of playing againt the gratests ones. Pelé estarted playing in BAC a team of São Paulo´s state third division but used to play the first division. The same happend with Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo.
    There is another important reason. My favorite team is Palmeiras and there is no way to compare how is to win Corinthians or São Paulo to win Grêmio or Cruzeiro; big teams of others states.

  • Comment number 58.

    Celso - there are lots of things in there that are out of date or don't make a lot of sense.

    Talking about the Brazilian Championship - you say it's unique because there are 11 or 12 teams who can win it.
    So how do we explain the fact tha Sao Paulo have won it three years in a row? Also, teams from Sao Paulo state have won it 5 years in a row? - unprecedented dominance.

    Part of this imbalance is caused by the State Championships - since Sao Paulo is the only state with enough strength in depth to hold a worthwhile championship, that's where players go at the end of the year.
    Look at this year - plaers who had done well in Rio, Parana, Bahia - all converging on Sao Paulo.

    There's an argument the old guard loves to trot out - the little clubs are the ones who produce the stars of the future. i don't know how they can keep saying it with a straight face. Who was the last one?. The small clubs who are now producing players are the ones set up by investors for this purpose - clubs that aren't even interested in having fans and winning senior titles.

    Your final point - fine, as a Palmeiras fan betaing Corinthians means more than beating Gremio. That's the way that rivalry works everywhere. For a Man City fan beating United means more than beating Tottenham. But you can beat Corinthains in a national championship. Perhaps Sao Paulo isn't the best example, so I'll put it to you in Rio terms. in order for Flamengo to play Fluminense, why shoud they have to spend three months playing the likes of Cabofriense?

    This is the point that has to be addressed. While the big clubs are doing this they are falling well short of their potential, making it more likely that they'll have to sell their players.

  • Comment number 59.

    Tim, you said about my post: "46 - I thnk you've moved the goalposts. You started talking about 'big clubs' and now you've switched to 'clubs that can win the championship.' They are different things."

    Well, let's see what i really said in my first post: "we have 12 teams that are big, can win the national championship and nobody would consider it a surprise." i guess i was pretty clear...

    About the different perspectives among brazilians and english on the current football situation, it's not a surprise. I'm sure english fans are happy with the their teams as corinthians was 3 years ago, when some investors came in - great people who negotiate guns and others that misteriously die falling from windows. these kind of investments, evidently, don't happen in england.

    "But these 4 can meet plenty of other big rivals - even teams not in the first division such as leeds, the sheffield clubs - who will bring something to the spectacle - will bring fans and interest - and consequently also bring that key requirement for professional football - money."
    So sheffield is a great spectacle, but atletico-mg isn't. ok.

    "There's an argument the old guard loves to trot out - the little clubs are the ones who produce the stars of the future. i don't know how they can keep saying it with a straight face. Who was the last one?"

    well, since 'stars' is not an objective concept, let's take the starting XI in brazil x peru:
    Lucio started with planaltina (!), gilberto silva with america-mg, daniel alves with juazeiro (!) and later bahia, luisão with juventus, elano with guarani and inter de limeira, luis fabiano with ponte preta.

  • Comment number 60.

    Well, I'm Brazilian, and agree with Celso, there is no league in the world that 11 ou 12 teams have real chance to be the champion. I'm Sao Paulo's supporter, and the three national titles in a row is something that had never happened before. In a recent past a lot of teams alternate the title before Sao Paulo.

    It is true that the teams os Sao Paulo's state are stronger than the others, but there is a lot os teams of others states that always have real chance to bacame champion, like Gremio and Inter from Rio Grande do Sul, Cruzeiro from Minas, and the four bigs from Rio.

    Some part of brazilian's press agree that the states championships have too many games, and so do I, but in my opinion the states championships has to continue, but with less games. For example, this week Sao Paulo had to play the semi-final against the rival Corinthians, and on wednesday have to travel to Colombia, and back and play again with Corinthians, so it's a serious problem that confederation's presidents should solve, but... here in Brazil it's too hard to happen..

  • Comment number 61.

    and galoucura, about the "better structured big National Championship"...

    people used to say that the problem with the NC was that it lacked stability. but since 2003 the formula hasn't changed. and now we even know the dates of the matches in advance.
    people also said the problem were the playoffs. so again we changed.
    people said we should reduce the number of teams. and it was were reduced.

    All this we have tried. do you really think that two more months of championship would transform it - as magic - in a better structured one?

  • Comment number 62.

    When he first came into view I thought Adriano was loads of potential talent that would shine on the world stage. He could have been talked of in the same breath as a Messi or a Nisterlooy. What is gone wrong? Is there a built in personality problem, lack of devotion or plain mishandling. What I do know is he does not like sitting on the bench and just wait.

    And now he just does not want to play football for quite some time to come. Sabbatical from a game that makes his juices flow! And he finds life in Italy stifling!

  • Comment number 63.

    I've been pondering on the structure of Brazilian football for a while now and it seems to me that to negate the need for a State Championship more teams need to be included in the national pyramid at Serie C and D levels (without crippling teams with travel costs) and use the State Championships as feeders into this.

    This is what I've come up with.

    Level 1: Serie A - 4 relegated
    Level 2: Serie B - 4 promoted, 4 relegated
    Level 3: Serie C - divided into four regions - 20 teams in each. Play offs between regions to decide 4 promoted teams. 4 teams relegated from each region.
    Level 4: Serie D - eight regions (Serie C regions divided in two)- 20 teams in each. Play offs between regions to decide promoted teams. 4 relegated.
    State Leagues for the remaining teams. Play offs to decide promotion to Serie D.

    Instead of there being 100 teams involved down to Serie D (with all other teams who have competed in the State Championships lying dormant for most of the year) there would be 280!!

    And with the chance to reach Serie D and beyond those teams remaining at State Level will also have more to play for throughout the year. Whether these clubs would attract any interest and whether the financial state of most clubs below Serie B would make this structure viable, I don't know...but it looks good on my computer screen!

  • Comment number 64.

    I am surprised Tim comes in for any criticism for any article. This is a great post, Tim has an opinion and isn't frightened of saying it. If you want a moan about a blogger on here read Mihir Bose's drivel. Tim is an engaging writer and broadcaster and I thoroughly look forward to his blogs.

    For a few people who keep asking about Carlos Vela, he is Mexican which comes into the Central America zone, not Tims specialised area, although I have no doubt he knows much about him.

    Tim, what do you know about a young Argentine striker, Federico Raúl Laurito, who is on loan at Venezia from Udinese? Is he another young Argentinian moving to Europe early or does he have family ties in Italy?

  • Comment number 65.


    Got to say excellent comment #55 - you can read about the mind games between Fergie and Rafa on any website, I'm a Man Utd fan and I'm sick of reading articles about it.

    I'd much rather expand my knowledge of culture and history in other countries - keep it up Tim!

    Coincidentally we're trying to do something over at World Football Columns by adding a little bit of off topic debate and analysis and even incites into lesser covered countries - anyone can feel free to take a look at it and post a comment.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi Tim, Man City fan here. It's the general feeling among us City fans that Robinho is like a child, in that he can be very moody if he doesn't get his own way or if other players don't pass to him, especially at a club like City where he is a big fish in a small pond.
    Because of this child-like mentality, Robinho likes to impress the City fans and loves to be loved and cheered and sung about. If he's playing away from home, there is only a minority of the crowd cheering him on, and due to his high status, a large majority jeering him when he loses the ball.
    Earlier this week I went to the Emirates to see City play Arsenal. In big games like this, against big teams, Robinho often tries harder in order to impress the world stage as there is more chance of him being seen. However, after about 30 minutes, it soon wears off and the home fans start to jeer every time he is on the ball and thus he loses confidence. Without confidence, Robinho is just another winger. It is his audacity and daring skill which astounds defenders. When a player does the unexpected or the unprecedented, supporters like this. But a confidence player like Robinho will be afraid to try such things in front of such an unforgiving crowd and more likely to in front of a stadium full of people chanting his name and backing him the whole way.
    When Robinho is on top of his game, taking defenders on, playing imaginative balls through and cutting defences to shreds, very little can stop him, this is why players like him are worth the hassle, as long as you have other players like Ireland and SWP who will put in a driven performance week in, week out.
    Please write more about Man City and South America!

  • Comment number 67.

    Alot of posters here seem to be comparing the state league to the FA cup - whist ignoring the main crux of the argument, which is that a cup might require 4-6 games for the big team whilst the league needs considerably more. I cant see any virtue in making the fixture list for the year so demanding that the best players become desperate to leave. The only way it could sustain itself would be if the bigger clubs could create two squads, one reserve or youth team to enter the state championship and then the senior squad to play in the Nationals etc.But this is difficult to finance for the top rich clubs in europe so i am not sure how economically viable it would be in brazil.

  • Comment number 68.

    having said that, its actually quite admirable that Brazilian football does take steps to preserve its traditions in the face of simply chasing money. I think the premiership is ludicrously over inflated. I also rememeber when i was in brazil 7 years ago that they had a tournament - which may have been the national championship, which was held in one state and travelled round the country each year. All the top teams had to camp in one region and play all the matches there and the explanation at the time was that it allowed people in outlying regions to see the top stars and teams. At that time everyon i spoke to seemed to support either flamengo or palmerias. I think that was a great idea for spreading the love of the game - not sure if it still happens or not but its hard to imagine many european clubs being so altruistic

  • Comment number 69.

    Nice blog Tim. I'm surprised that you respond to as many comments as you do. I'm impressed you do, especially considering some of the numpty posts that you put up with!

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 70.

    59 i'd be interested to read which 12 teams you think can win the championship at THIS moment in time. for me, the only sides that have a realistic chance are São Paulo, Palmeiras, Inter or Corinthians.

  • Comment number 71.

    @55 - spot on Tim, there are plenty of poor articles (BBC ones included) about this sort of stuff. Ignore the haters, that just shows that you're talking about a subject which people feel strongly about, surely the sign of a good blogger. Keep it up.

    Interesting that you talk about the European break which 'whets the appetite' before the start of the season. Much of this has to do with the transfer rumours that take over the entire summer for EVERY club.

    Does most of the transfer activity in Brazil happen between June-August (presumably when the European clubs come in for Brazil-based players), and if so do you think that this makes the transfer period feel less positive - as it is primarily about trying to hold on to your best players, rather than improve your squad?

  • Comment number 72.

    Sorry Tim, but a misinformed, Paulista-centric argument this one (as I've said many times before). Your argument is extremely similar to those who propose big club breakaways and European super leagues - who cares what the fans want, who cares about tradition, all I want is to watch global superstars prancing about in shiny mega-domes (and for the same handful of clubs every year). Those who pay money to watch football in Brazil live and breathe the state championships. Every time the big teams go to the interior the stadiums are packed with kids from the country wanting to see Rogerio and Nilmar and the rest. And in the areas of the country which due to severe economic hardship stand little chance of competing on a national level (the North and North East, for example - Sport's Brazilian Cup win was the first national trophy lifted by a team outside of the South and South East in 20 years), the state championships are everything. Of course the national championship is bigger, of course the Libetadores is bigger. But I have and everyone else in Recife have just spent three months enthralled by the Pernambucano, and the same is probably true in Pará, Bahia, and Ceara. Why on earth would you want to wipe out decades of history and tradition, and something that remains a huge part of Brazilian culture? For simple "streamlining"?

    All for restructuring though - the Carioca and others on a similar basis are a shambles, and the Paulistao is too big.

    By the way - who´s the fake Galocoura on here? I´ve been posting with this name for months! Only joking of course - and good to see you support the best team in BH. I´ll change my name to Inferno Coral if you like.....

  • Comment number 73.

    I am misinformed and people live and breathe the state championships - and no one wants to deal with the fact that the 67 games between the small clubs in Rio had an average attendeance of under 500. Who is living and breathing these games?

    And 59 - you really are a specialist at goalpost moving - as I made very celar, atletico-mg bring lots to the spectacle - for tht reason the other major clubs should be spending more time playing them, and less time playing the likes of Cabofriense.

    And clubs like Bahia, Guarani, Ponte Preta - these are big clubs - it's not just a case of what division you're playing in or whether you have achance of winning the championship.

  • Comment number 74.

    72 - a better orgnised national championship - ie wthout the calendar being ruined by the State tournaments (no one wants to deal with this issue, either) would have a much better chance of retaining the likes of Nilmar for Brazilian football.

    An opinion in favour of the state championships is an opinion in favour of the exodus to Europe and elsewhere. If the big clubs are operating below their potential (and by spending months playing teams with no fans they surely are) then it makes selling players a necessity. It's not the only factor - as the original article says, the difference in mass salaries implies a ceiling - but it's an unaviodable truth.

  • Comment number 75.

    in response to the question about brazilians away from home.
    it's more about flair players needing the ball to do damage and them getting the ball less away from home. and people seem to like picking on certain players. robinho has been absol slaughtered for his away performances, but how many goals has modric scored away from home ? 1 is the answer. 2 for robinho. how about c ronaldo- 2 i think for him..both vs w brom . henry & defoe always score/ scored a very low % of their goals away from home, and often against bottom 5 sides. it's only a season or so ago when gerrard only scored 1 open play lge goal away from home,and that was away to les reid's charlton ( i.e when they were very poor ). the biased uk media ensure these facts never see the light of day. Gab Marcotti was explaining y/day on bbc's 606 about the media scape-goating robinho.
    berbatov's record can also be broken down if you're hyper- critical...rarely scoring away from, and even the home goals are mainly against weaker ,bottom 10 sides.

  • Comment number 76.

    I was wondering if you could inform us about the next best talents coming off boca's illustrious youth academy, or any other argentinian team for that matter. I have heard about a youngster at boca called nicolas gaitan, but is he the real deal in your opinion?

    Great article!!!

  • Comment number 77.

    Another fascinating thing about this debate (see my previous post 52) is that it really brings to light one of the central areas of tension in professional football - that it's a balancing act between business and culture.

    Perhaps the English game has gone too far in the direction of business - though as long as promotion and releagtion are reatined there is hope. I don't get back very often, but as someone old enough to recall the 70s and 80s I'd take today in England any time.

    The arguments from Brazil in favour of the State Championships are stressing the culture side of things. It's a point - but I have my doubts. One of the main ones is the motives of the big clubs for participating so passively in a structure that does not serve their best interests. Could it be that some of the club directors are happy about this? That the continues existence of the state tournaments increases the necessity to sell plaers, with the opportunities tis entails for money to be siphoned off into private bank accounts? Just a thought.

  • Comment number 78.

    Hi Tim, you really seemed to hit a nerve and bring out some contradictory and absurd comments this week! A quick mention of the terms “corruption” and “socialism” would have, perhaps, have drawn more venom.

    You mention the "... balancing act between business and culture ", but surely we can all (OK, most of us) accept that football is supposed to be entertaining. As you say, 436 fans per game is hardly evidence of crowd-drawing entertainment. Several clubs in the English third-tier have had single league game attendances greater than the combined total (29,261). In fact, only a few of the annual 500+ fifth-tier league games would get as low as 400 people turning up (several fifth-tier teams can pull in 6,000+).

  • Comment number 79.

    59, 61 - Two months is not necessarily what will make it becomes well-structured, I agree. But I disagree when you say that is well-structured enough, it starts before the transfer window so lot's of teams have to change their squad(Flamengo last year looked completely different without Marcinho), it starts in the last games of Libertadores(Fluminense opted for Libertadores and battled against relegation almost the whole season) and fixture congestion means that who is in Libertadores can't play Copa do Brasil.

    About the players mentioned, there's not a case of a player of a non-traditional club(Ponte Preta, America-MG, Bahia are traditional clubs and were on the First Division FEW years ago, when Luis Fabiano, Gilberto Silva and Dani Alves played for them) showing his merit on a state championship and winning a move. Roberto Carlos did with Uniao Sao Joao and Rivaldo did with Mogi Mirim. Times ago. Lucio didn't, he never played professionally for the team you mention, he got snapped up by Internacional as a youth-player, which is also the case of Dani Alves.

    Luisao is a case of a good player who was in a small team(Juventus) but then moved to Cruzeiro, a out-of-the-state move. If you're only getting out the big clubs of the state championships(which is what I first said), it doesn't make it impossible for them to scout and find players, like Cruzeiro did.

    The SCs are not useless, there's just no point of having the big clubs in it.

  • Comment number 80.

    also worth mentioning that the SCs are an easy way for the 'bigger' clubs to add silverware to the cabinet and placate their fans.
    But clearly some supporters will take any scrap they can get. i was in Rio a few years ago and saw loads of Botafogo fans celebrating winning the Taça Guanabara and trying to make out that it was something important - when in fact it's a complete irrelevance – even the Brian Clough Trophy has more kudos haha

  • Comment number 81.

    Tim the Copersuderamericano U17 starts this week inChile who are the young stars to watch out for? Later on this yearU20 and U17 World Cups are in Egypt and Nigera S.American teams dominate the U20 but the current holders Argentina have not Qualified the African teams have home advantage,even England have qualified should be some excellent matches.This tournament had provided such stars as Maradona,Messi Augero and Saviola

  • Comment number 82.

    Some notes:
    1. I read more than once here that the low attendances of the State Championships (SCs) are due to the overall low attendance in Brazilian football today. False. Please, see the numbers, stop guessing. The attendances of the last 2 Brazilian Championships (close to 17,000) were the best since 1987.

    2. The best Brazilians players of the recent years have all started in big clubs: Kaka (Sao Paulo), Ronaldinho (Gremio), Robinho (Santos), Adriano (Flamengo), Ronaldo (Cruzeiro), Juninho (Sport Recife), Rivaldo (Santa Cruz), Cafu (Sao Paulo), Bebeto (Flamengo), Romário (Vasco da Gama)... The only one who did not come from a small club was Roberto Carlos (Uniao Sao Joao). Some will argue that Sport Recife and Santa Cruz are not big, they're not big in terms of competence and likelihood of winning national titles, but they have a large fan base and of course would not disappear without the SCs.

    3. It's simply bullshit this story that the small clubs will disappear without the SCs. If so, how come so many SCs have more than one division? How does the clubs from Rio Grando do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, etc, second divisions survive? What about the clubs that play in Sao Paulo's second to sixth division? How do they survive without playing the big ones? Finally, how about the clubs from the smaller states which do not play a big one in the whole year with or without SCs? How they survive?

  • Comment number 83.

    Tim - I think your last comment pretty much sums it up - about the balancing act between business and culture. I'm a tragic died in the wool traditionalist who still misses the British Championships (killed off because England thought them a waste of time that was holding back the development of the national team) and will take a local derby / classico over a champions league or world cup final any day. As such I would take a worse overall product if it meant tradition and tugged at the heart strings. As a Santa Cruz fan in Recife I´d be looking at the world's most miserable season without the state championship - a year in Serie D playing christ only knows who. At least with the Pernambucano I got to see Arruda filled with 45,000 against Sport and Nautico twice this year. The same goes for the supporters of every little club or big club down on their luck - at least they´ll get a couple of tilts at the windmill and remind themselves of the good old days. So for me its all about local culture and history, and in some ways the SCs are a rare example of egalitarianism in modern football (not that I imagine the directors involved think of it in that way) - how quickly would post 1990s Manchester United have killed off a Greater Manchester or Lancastrian equivalent, and is it a good or a bad thing that the big Brazilian teams haven´t yet?

    Though I don't think the attendances of the small clubs playing each other is a particularly relevant yardstick as to the merits of the big clubs being involved or not - surely you need to see the crowds that watch the big teams to guage that.

  • Comment number 84.

    Tim, even though I agree with your main point (that state championships are hurting Brazilian football) I don't agree that the SP state championship is helping, in any shape or form, the SP teams. In fact I believe they are stronger despite their state championships. They are stronger simply because Sao Paulo state is the richest state in Brazil (the state economy rivals Argentina). However, and I am not 100% sure this data is up-to-date, all clubs in Sao Paulo ALSO lose a lot of money playing the state championship.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

    38 - Tim, what about the Yorkshire State Championships, lots of lower level teams heavily supported - reckon we could out do Rio or SP from what I've seen live at the stadia in Brasil in terms of atmosphere, we would struggle against the Buenos Aires classicos though.

    1. Sheff Utd
    2. Sheff Wed
    3. Hull City
    4. with pain....Leeds
    5. Doncaster Rovers
    6. Bradford City
    7. Barnsley (oh god)
    8. Middlesborough (at a push)
    9. Huddersfield Town
    10. York City
    expand about 40 miles
    11. Derby County
    12. Notts Forest
    13. Notts County
    14. Leicester City
    15. Lincoln City (maybe not!)
    expand the other way - Man U, Man C, Bolton, Stockport, Blackburn, Wigan, Rochdale, Bury etc etc

    Ok I'm been daft but the message is that in this puny island of a home we have masses of passionate football support at all levels and we don't migrate (much) when we are unsuccessful - it was one of the disappointments of a long journey in South America to witness the lethargy of support in Brasil for anything other than a big match (don't have masses of experience so can't qualify this completely but I definitely witnessed this)....Sao P - 16 million inhabitants = 4 reasonably supported teams, Yorkshire (God knows but about 2-3 million tops) = masses of crazy football fans supporting their teams for at least 4 generations (in my family about to become 5). OK there's money and I know poverty in Yorkshire isn't akin to SA but football has always been a difficult thing to prioritise for tons of Yorkshire people in terms of money.

    Not sure what my point is but I'm a bit sick of hearing from Brasilian football fans talking about the big 4, robbing their players, we know nothing etc when they clearly have absolutely no grasp of the depth and passion involved in English football at all levels in this country (where we are never likely to see a Brasilian import going through the motions for a fortune), Just like I am fairly ignorant of small club football in Brasil. It seems these comments are just as ignorant and just as based on main stream media in Brasil as the English people being criticized (not so bad this week but last week it was beginning to get a bit offensive).

    I had quite a few experiences in Brasil where people loved it when I enthused about what I liked about Brasilian football but were really reluctant to discuss any constructive criticism I offered (despite my faltering portugues I am a psychologist so am quite practised in not causing offence whilst offering a tough idea!). I must say having interacted with people from a lot of nations (it is a matter of course living in London) this is the most pronounced experience of footballing defensiveness I have ever experienced - even in Sheffield we are able to acknowledge that - yes on the whole we are shit!

    I do know that my wife's Dad's first team is Palpala from Jujuy in North Argentina which he followed all over the place with a passion and no-one has ever heard of them, that's footy for me - as far as I am aware they formed from the local Steel Works where he worked - not far off my mighty underachieving Blades' glorious history.

    Muchos saludos de todos los hinchas comun y de la verdad!

    Thanks again Tim for keeping the debate good and clean!

  • Comment number 87.

    Thans ArgentinaBlade for a top post and indeed thanks to everyone for a really ggod debate o an awkward but important topic.

    I was on a Brazilian TV round table debate a few hours ago and I raised this subject - got good responses there, too, with mostof the panellists agreeing with me but one journo, who wasn't on the show, hanging around til the end to tell me that Brazilian football wouldn't be what it is today without the state championships - a point that I don't really disagree with, but I do find irrelevant to future development.

    So I think this one will be debated for years to come

  • Comment number 88.

    Would it not be possible to scale the state competitions down so that there is in element of comprimise? The bigger clubs could use them as a pre season or a reserve competition, while the smaller clubs still get some prestige games. Surely tradition can be hung onto with such a massive commitment.

  • Comment number 89.

    Live in Brazil (Rio) from 98-2000 and never liked the State Championship, not just because my team Vasco never won it while I was out there. I'd go watch Vasco V Flamengo at the Maracana on the Sunday infront of 80 thousand and the next week 2 thousand at San Januario against Bangu.

    I always expected and heard a few years ago of talk of the League being made to the format played in most leagues in the world. The one thing regards to the league format I did enjoy, was the play-offs for the Championship. I admit whoever ended up 1st in the league deserves the Championship, but the excitement and enjoyment the neutral got is like the Championships play-off to the Premier League and some added on. Now being a Sunderland fan the last game I watched before moving to Brazil was sitting at Wembley gutted after being beat by Charlton. Looking back it was the greatest game I've ever watched, nearly rivalled by the Vasco 3-1 against United in the World Club Cup Championship, but I can’t see anything like that happening in England never mind the BIG FOUR allowing it to take place.

    All in all great news and hopefully it’ll mean more young stars of Brazil applying their trade there for a little longer before being snapped up.

  • Comment number 90.

    Mr. Vickery, the main problem is that the supporters can't understand, at least most of us, that playing state championships olny makes their own brand less worthy and making less money,having to cover that budget problem by selling the last good players we have currently on our teams.Not to mention the killer journey the lack of proper pre-season is.

  • Comment number 91.


    Really interesting article (as ever).

    I know O Fenômeno has scored a couple of goals now - but hows he been playing? Is he perceived to be making a decent impact?

  • Comment number 92.

    Tim, I would like to know whether or not you feel Pablo Aimar has a chance of regaining his starting position within the Argentinian side.

    Having witnessed Argentina's games against Venezuela and Bolivia - both of which, despite an emphatic victory in terms of margin in the first, I felt fell rather short in terms of performance. From what I have seen, the fundamental issue lies within the final third of Argentina's system: they currently employ either a trident of Messi, Aguero and Tevez with Jonas and Maxi supporting within a mold of a 3-2-2-3 setup, or Tevez and Messi will provide the spearhead with Maxi and Lucho supporting.

    Any side which employs a gradual, fluid passing game requires an 'enganche' - the Riquelme style figure to sow the seeds between the central midfield machinery and attacking flair. Someone in order to maintain the fluidity and dictate the tempo of the side's passing in the final third. Unfortunately, Diego Maradona seems rather oblivious to this fact. Falling out with Riquelme could proove a costly decision; even in the victory over Venezuela, Argentina's passing game lacked fluidity within the final third, was often snuffed out by organisation of the Venezuelan defence - it took a defensive lapse on the counter, counter attacks and individual brilliance to unlock the defence - the passing game saw the advance nowhere. Against a more well organised, world class opponent, such as Italy or Germany, the current Argentinian side's style would b very easy to overcome - there is no fluidity within the side's passing. It seems to be a split of two holding players in Mascherano and Gago, while four, five, or even six players crowd around the oppositions backline, with a significant area of vacancy in between - Riquelme used to occupy the hole between these separate sections of the Argentinian side - now that he is absent, Maradona's men prospects of clinching wold cup glory appear bleak.

    My question is, if of course you agree that the playmaker is the key missing component of the Argentinian first eleven, do you feel Pablo Aimar could be recalled to occupy this position? I am unaware of his performances for Benfica, yet his early years under Rafa Benitez at Valencia were filled with performances of a player who appeared set to become a world class playmaker. Does Maradona like him, and could you see Aimar being recalled back to the Argentina starting eleven?

  • Comment number 93.

    Hi Tim, great blog

    Liverpool recently signed a player called Victor Flores, a striker from Botafogo. Having searched the internet for information about him I find that such information is unsurprisingly scarce.

    I suspect that since he is 18 he will not have made much of a splash yet but have you seen him play much what do you think of him as a player?

  • Comment number 94.

    Hi Tim,

    I always your read your blog and i find it very interesting reading your interpretaion on South American football. I have been travelling through South America for the past three months and i think you will agree that the passion of the fans in this continent is something to behold. With regards to your post about the state championships i have one or two points to add a different perspective your point. I completely agree that it is a farce that in all the other games not including the big 4 only produces less than 500 fans at a time. Currently i am living in a Babilonia favela in Rio and have just witnessed Flamengo win the state championship. The second they won the entire favela completely erupted and fireworks were set off and people were just pouring out into the streets. It was amazing to see.

    If all these teams could only compete in the national championships then these humble fans would never be given the opportunity to celebrate success in this way as often as they do. I think that they should have less games and consider having two separate tournaments with the lesser teams having to qualify to play against the elite teams. To disband it completely would be devastating to the local fans. I support West Ham and the last time we won anything was the FA cup which was before i was born... Sure we would struggle against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal but imagine what a fantastic pre season warm up that would be???

    I hope you see my point.



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.