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One last hurrah from Ronaldinho...?

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Tim Vickery | 11:15 UK time, Monday, 17 January 2011

On a Brazilian TV show on Saturday I was asked to explain the success of the English Premier League.

The answer that instantly came into my mind was the mixture between the old and the new. Modern ideas - the money and the business practices - have been planted in fertile soil because the tradition of the game - its roots in the world's first industrial society - is so strong.

There was another point I might have made which would have been of more relevance to the audience. Outnumbered by the minnows, the big clubs were part of a structure which did not attend their interests. They spent the money, attracted the crowds, but then had to divide the TV revenue with the professional clubs of all four divisions. So they broke away to form their own structure, and the rest is history.

Brazil's big clubs find themselves facing a similar fork in the road - as the events of the last few days have made clear.

The return of Ronaldinho after a decade in Europe is an undoubted coup for the Brazilian game. He ended up joining Flamengo, who pipped Gremio and Palmeiras to his signature. He could have gone elsewhere - to the Premier League, for example. Coming back across the Atlantic was a vote of confidence in the direction that the country is taking, with its financial stability, strong currency, and so on.

It is good to have him back, and more will follow. But there is a downside. With sponsors on board, Ronaldinho will be earning a fortune - his reported salary is above £100,000 a week. This is bound to further inflate wages for top players in Brazilian football, and not all of them can have their wages covered by sponsors. But the clubs already have astronomic debts - Flamengo's are estimated at not far short of £150m.

And here comes the problem of the structure of the Brazilian game. Before the Premier League, Manchester United only had to divide TV money with small clubs. They did not have to spend months playing against them. But that is what happens in Brazil.

From now until early May, Brazil stages its State Championships - one for each of the country's 27 states. On a league basis, big clubs - Flamengo boast over 20 million supporters - are playing teams with next to no fans at all. In the Rio first division the meeting of two small clubs will often attract about 200 fans. Sometimes there are less than 50. Clubs like this have no place in professional football and big clubs are wasting their time playing them on a league basis.

Ronaldinho in full flow at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany

Ronaldinho in full flow against Australia at the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. Photo: Getty

The signing of Ronaldinho has concentrated minds on this issue like never before. I have been railing against the State Championships for 16 years. For years I felt like a lonely voice, but the momentum has been building, and over the last few days I have noticed an unprecedented outpouring of criticism. People have been looking at Flamengo's fixture list and coming to an obvious conclusion - what is the point of buying a Rolls Royce and then driving it on dirt tracks?

Change will not come overnight. The State Championships are vital to the power structure of Brazilian football - and since the power structure controls the 2014 Fifa World Cup, there is fear of rocking the boat at the moment. But it is very likely that the Ronaldinho deal will bring closer the day when Brazil's big clubs stage a Premier League-style breakaway.

This then is the big picture behind the return of the goofy star. But the small picture is no less fascinating. Signing such a big name brings obvious marketing benefits for Flamengo. But strictly in terms of his form on the field, will their investment in him prove to be money down a rat hole?

Ronaldinho's best days are now a full five years in the past. He is clearly a far more complex character than the happy, smiley image he likes to portray. Barcelona tired of him when they realised they could not get him to react either by being nice or by being nasty. No-one becomes as good as Ronaldinho at football without loving it. And no-one can fritter away such talent for so long without falling out of love with it. Coming up 31, that devastating burst of acceleration has probably gone for ever. A logical view might conclude that he is not worth the investment.

But we are dealing with a player of such extraordinary talent that normal considerations are suspended. Ronaldinho might just flick that genius switch. I've seen it happen. When Romario left Barcelona to join Flamengo in 1995 he was 30 and jaded. For two years he was appalling. He still scored goals - the man was a phenomenon - but he was not interested and it showed. I thought the show was all over.

Then something happened. In the tail end of 1996 Ronaldo emerged as a superstar with Barcelona. Romario's ego was bruised. He felt that he had been knocked off his perch. So he flicked that genius switch. In 1997, at the age of 32, he was suddenly unstoppable once more. He had turned back the hands of time.

There is a catch. Romario went on scoring stacks of goals. But there were very few important ones. The 1998 World Cup could have been his masterpiece, but he missed it. He looked razor sharp in the group phase of the 2001 Copa Libertadores, but played no part in the knock out phase. Both times injury kept him out of the party. He had become susceptible to muscle tears, Romario's body paying him back for his lack of application to training.

Will it be a similar story with Ronaldinho? His aim is to shine in the next World Cup. There is only ever one eventual winner in the sportsman's battle against time. But it is going to be fascinating to see if Ronaldinho can hold mind and body together for long enough to enjoy a last hurrah on home soil in 2014.

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

From last week's postbag:

Q) As an Argentina fan, I have been encouraged by the recent emergence of some promising young defenders at home and abroad (defence being an area of the national team that is in desperate need of refreshing). You mentioned Marcos Rojo in a recent blog, and the likes of Ezequiel Munoz (Palermo), Juan Forlin (Espanyol), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Leonel Galeano (Independiente) and Hugo Nervo (Arsenal di Sarandi) have garnered praise for their performances this season. Do you think that Sergio Batista will give any of these players a chance with the national team soon?
Toby Millard

A) Batista knows he has to look at new faces. I wonder, though, if he might be held back by the fact that Argentina is staging the Copa America this year. With home advantage the pressure will be on to win the first senior title since 1993, meaning there is an obvious temptation to tick with the tried and tested. An interesting dilemma.

Q) Have you seen any eye-catching performances from players coming from Africa, Asia in the South American leagues? Or even more basic, are there any players from these continents over there? Do you think that African and Asian national teams will perform much better at competitions like the World Cup, if players played in these leagues rather than aiming for lower rung European leagues? Would it also help in improving the quality of these players who perhaps later can try to get into big European clubs after performing well?
Sourabh Deshpande

A) I've seen very few. There have been a few Japanese, and a handful of Africans - Geremi the most high profile. The big question, though, is why the South Americans would want to buy in from elsewhere when they can produce their own players.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Tim,

    I was wondering if you have any thoughts on Erik Lamela of River Plate. Is he in the Argentine squad for the Youth Championships?

  • Comment number 2.

    I am not sure I totally agree with your argument. I hear that in Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid have carved up over 70% of the TV revenue between them - as each club is free to make its own deals.

    The success of the EPL is not just about big clubs getting a bigger share - it is about creating the right balance. Man Utd stills gets a significantly lower share of TV revenue compared to what would happen if it was free to make its own deals. I don't think this is the defining factor behing why the EPL is a success.

    I believe it is more to do with the cooperation between the top 20 clubs that has allowed a competitive league not dominated by just 2 clubs, that has created a unified brand and marketing concept...

  • Comment number 3.

    the situation in spain has led in the last couple of seasons to a glorified scottish premier league..
    Other big clubs such as atletico, valencia and sevilla are trying to get the share of tv money more evenly divided. obviously barca and r madrid don't want to give up their greedily large share of the pie.
    Eventually (hopefully) the TV revenue money will be shared much more evenly amongst the top flight clubs in spain

  • Comment number 4.


    He isnt saying anything about TV money, his point is that Flamengo and clubs like it are wasting 5 months playing clubs like Volta Redonda.

    In spain barca and real are playing valencia, athletico, bilbao etc, where as in england they manu play chelsea, spurs, aresenal and the like, clubs of something like similar stature.

    I agree that its an absolute waste of time. Imagaine manu and liverpool wasting 4 months playing morcambe, stevenage and gillingham? Reclon that would fill old trafford?

  • Comment number 5.

    is it a waste of time, or just a different way of doing things? sure if you want the premiership all over the world and the smaller clubs going to the wall eventually, and then finally there ever being only 20 clubs with 100s of players.........thats where the premiership will be in 15 years, look at City now. ...Playing Acrington Stanely once in while might actually do some good.

  • Comment number 6.

    no4 has hit the nail on the head.
    I'm not calling for Brazil's big clubs to break away individually, but collectively.

  • Comment number 7.

    What about the "Clube dos 13" or whatever they were called? This was supposed to be the 'Premier League' of Brazil (and it was inspired by it, I seem to recall). So, the breakaway as you suggest has already happened, but for several reasons, it didn't take root - to put it mildly. Perhaps, that is a more interesting point.

  • Comment number 8.

    I totally agree with #4.

  • Comment number 9.

    Can't the big Brazilian clubs simply use the State Championships to blood young players rather than play their stars like Ronaldinho?

    In fact, isn't the existence of the State Championships one reason why Brazil has such good youth development? Youngsters learn their trade by playing against the lesser teams and dealing with all conditions, it breeds humility and a desire to improve and earn that move to Europe. Or am I wrong in that assessment, Tim?

  • Comment number 10.

    #9 makes a very interesting point, hope Tim responds.

  • Comment number 11.

    I would argue with you Tim on one key point. The success of the Premier League. Lets have a look at the 'success' of the Premier League.

    1. Huge ticket price increases across the board.
    2. Less competition. (Since the start of the Premier League only 4 clubs have won it. Realistically only Man City with their huge finances will add to that number) generally the same teams get in to Europe etc.
    3. It certainly hasn't helped the national team (although they are probably a lost cause!)
    4. Games played at terrible times - no consideration given to fans.
    5. Continued devaluation of the FA Cup.
    6. Portsmouth and Leeds nearly went out of existence. Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea (Pre Abramovic) had huge debts.

    The Premier League has made some very rich men richer Sky, Murdoch etc. It has led to huge increases in player wages and transfer fees. But who has paid for it? The fans. The Premier League is NOT a success. It is a disgusting example of the greed and lack of decency and fair play that is sadly all to prevalent in football nowadays.

    So Tim how would you define success? Are you talking in purely money making terms?

    With regards to Ronaldinho. For a few years at Barcelona he was amazing, to get a standing ovation at the Bernabeu is truly something special. I think his decline is partly due to motivation and partly his body/lifestyle catching up with him. Lets all hope he can rediscover some of his genius in Brazil.

  • Comment number 12.

    9 - perhaps, but..(though the idea that playing lesser teams breeds humility i think we can dismiss)
    The pressure is still on. There is a drift towards the big clubs using the state championships as a kind of pre-season, but there is a big difference. Pre-season results don't cost coaches their jobs. Bad results in the state championships frequently do.

    Furthermore, if you're not in the copa libertadores, there's nothing else for your senior players to do, so of course they get picked. What's the alternative - pay Ronaldinho 100,000 a week but tell him he doesn't need to play til May? The State Championships are not a Carling Cup - intermittent games in the season where you can blood young players. From now until early May they are the season.

    As Ronaldo has been pointing out, this puts a strain on the players. The Brazilian Championship comes to a close in early December - then they have a few weeks holiday. Back in the new year, and after 10 days of pre-season, they're playing the state competitions.

    Ten days of pre-season is a farce - it is no wonder Brazil's physical preparation specialists are so good when they have to work with a calendar like this.

  • Comment number 13.

    1 - i think Lamela is a wonderful prospect - he's not with the Argentina Under-20s. River Plate released some players, but not others, including Lamela.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't think Ronaldinho will play in the 2014 WC. He will be 34 then and is bound to be enjoyed. The coach will pick youth and current stars. If there is any consolation, he might just end up in the sub bench. Also to add to the response you gave to Sourabh Deshpande, some African players use Brazil, Argentina, Middle East and others as a springboard to Europe for example which is where they eventually want to be.

  • Comment number 15.


    read tims report on his visit to arsenal braga a couple of months ago. he does a better job of explaining the contrast between South american matches and here. Your spoiled. If you think the EPL has been a failure (and I agree with some of your points) then you probably just negative anyway

  • Comment number 16.

    How well are the state championship matches attended? If the bigger teams are still getting enough fans going to their games to make the whole thing financially viable then there's probably less chance of them being done away with. If fans voted with their feet then that would be the most powerful message that the state championships are no longer relevant.

    Sounds like they would serve better as a tournament spread throughout the season. Maybe replacing any reserve leagues that are played?

  • Comment number 17.

    Very interesting all this. As for your critique of Ronaldinho's talents, having watched far too much Serie A last season I thought he was routinely very good, often superb, and at times, sublime. I was stunned that he was left off the World Cup squad, which proved fairly convincingly that it missed him. I believe that with the proper motivation (he wants to make the 2014 side, no?), he can still deliver exceptional balls, and I have never really been a fan of his or the sides he's played in. He's just remarkably talented.

  • Comment number 18.

    Tim - I agree with you in terms of the TV revenue side of things, but gate receipts still form a significant part of a club's income in the Premier League.

    Following on from that, at the inception of the Premier League, it was very deliberately aimed at the people who have plenty of disposable income, somewhere in between working and middle class, if you will. Sanitised football grounds and a serious hike in ticket prices followed. Do you think this sort of thing is possible in Brazil? Is there a sensible alternative?

  • Comment number 19.

    Good read as ever, I've heard you talk on the subject two or three times and it's always interesting. Tradition can be hard to push away with just common sense sometimes, but, as you write, when there are big financial stakes in play the wheels are surely get into motion. If Brazil streamlined itself, and its economy continues to expand we could be looking at a serious rival for players at their peak right?

    And if the that happens will the European clubs start to yearn for an expansion of the Champions League leading to calls for a fully fledged Euro-League? Interesting times ahead.

    In terms of David vs Goliath mathes, I've often wondered the same about the UEFA qualiers for the World Cup or the Euros. Why should Spain travel to the Faroes, or Germany to Andorra? The end result is lots of meaningless games, a couple of pointless banana skills when the team who has no hope of qualifying puts 11 men behind the ball. The games that really mean something are few and far between, and one unlucky loss can put a country's qualification in doubt - it becomes a bit of a lottery.

  • Comment number 20.

    16 - the big local derbies draw big crowds - as mentioned in the article, a meeting between 2 small clubs in Rio can draw a crowd as small as 50 - and this is the second most important state championship in the country.

  • Comment number 21.

    No 11 has some good points. 1, 4, 5 and 6 I completely agree with. I would like to see a global wage cap. as for brazil it does sound pointless doing these state championships. why dont they just get on and change it? no wonder so many players leave brazil when they only get 10 days off and then have to play games against rubbish teams for 4 months. thats probaly why they all go to italy and spain to get a decent winter break!

  • Comment number 22.

    18 - Brazilian ticket prices have gone through a serious price rise over the last few years.

  • Comment number 23.

    50 people for what is essentially a top flight game in a country that has 5 world cups and produced many of the games greatest players

    Lunacy. What exactly is the argument in the state championshops favour? or is it just tradition

  • Comment number 24.

    Ronnie's a sad story when you think about it, he pretty much got Brazil to the promise land in 2002 but was denied a chance to take part in the Final. I don't think he'll make it to 2014, to many what if's in-between here and that magical year. It's really too bad, Ronaldinho is the one Brazilian who doesn't come off like an unabashed jerk, a role Neymar, Ronaldo, Robinho, Dani Alves, Luis Fabiano & even Romario have relished.

  • Comment number 25.

    The presidents of the 27 state federations hold the balance of power in the election to chose the president of Brazil's FA, the CBF.

    Take away the state championships, and the state federations have almost nothing to do - so they will never vote for a candidate who wants to scrap them.

    To be fair, the state championships have played a vital part in the development of the Brazilian game. In a country this size a truly national championship only began in 1971 - so the tradition of the game has been built on city rivalries.

    But things evolve. To my mind, the state championships died in 1994, when hyper-inflation was conquered. Up until that point, any structure was viable - the clubs met their commitments by paying late. Take inflation away, and back in the real world it was clear that the state championships had become obsolete - the small clubs had become so small as to be insignificant, and Brazil could now count on a nationwide number of giant clubs that would make more attractive opponents for each other.

    But the death throes have taken 17 years and counting...

  • Comment number 26.

    #11 Whilst i agree with some of your points, your off the mark with others. Points 1 and 6 make a lot of sense, since the introduction of the EPL price rises have been extravagant, and a lot of clubs have gone into debt as a result of chasing the dream of staying in the Premiership or going for europe.
    However, i don't agree with point 2. Whilst there have only been 4 winners since it began, i think competition has been good. There has rarely been a runaway leader of the league, and it does usually have quite a tightly fought title race. I would argue their is greater competition in the EPL than la Liga. Even before the EPL began we had a league dominated by Liverpool so i don't think its introduction has been a cause for teams like Man Utd to experience a spell of dominance.
    Point 3 - the national team has never been as good as we wish to believe. We struggled for success years before the EPL, and have done so since as well.
    Point 4 - tv has affected the timing schedule of games, but i wouldn;t go as far as saying the times are inconsiderate or terrible at all.
    Point 5 - whilst i agree the FA has become devalued recently, i would argue that this has actually been brought on by the Chamions league, not the EPL. It's only really been in the last few years that the cup competition has struggled, since the champs league took off. more teams in europe, or chasing european qualification mean they tend to take less of an interest in the cup unfortunately.

    THat aside, another good article tim. I find it ridiculous that brazil puts itself in this position, where big clubs spend half their season playing virtually meaningless games, whilst also putting their players bodies through very punishing schedules of virtually year round football. I can foresee some sort of breakaway in the future, as the big clubs realise they'll get more money and better competition from a european style structured league.
    I also hope Ronaldinho finds some sort of love for the game once more. in his prime he was one of the best footballers to have played the game, but what has happened in the last five years has been such a terrible waste of talent and ability.

  • Comment number 27.

    It does sound like a change is needed (matches with crowds of 50...) but I have a natural reluctance in completely scrapping traditional competitions (I must be more sentimental than I realised!).

    Perhaps they could make this a knock out cup competition played either at the start or during the rest of the season? If either case you could then lengthen pre-season to give the players a chance to recuperate and a knock out cup competition might generate more interest than 50 odd people turning up for a league match?

  • Comment number 28.

    Totally agree with post 11. Absolutely spot on.

    The same thing is happening globally, with fewer teams winning things (thus decreasing interest - in Italy gates have collapsed outside the 'big cities') and money being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

    Some will argue this is good, surely having three or four top quality sides is better than several average ones?

    This however, fails to grasp a fundamental fact - that before the modern riches we had a BETTER not worse spread of talent.

    In the 70's (my youth) you would expect a decent game against up to 15 sides out of 22. You would even expect three of the struggler's to give you a good game.

    Not now though. Outside the top four in the EPL it's pick and choose time, the bottom clubs - avoid like the plague. Even the top four and not what they were. Utd look well past their best, and their current unbeaten run is more an indictment of the EPL than a credit to UTD. Chelsea are getting old, Arsenal still lack players in key positions, and City a collection of stars rather than a collective. Spurs, as yesterday showed again, flatter to deceive.

    The same, according to German and Italian fans is happening there.

    I agree with Tims point that the State Championships are a bizarre phenomena. However, if Brazil scraps them will they end up like us? With local talent in terminal decline, and with big clubitus?

    I do hope not.......

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi Tim,

    I would like to allude to your points about Romario. I loved this little guy, and for me, when he left Barcelona, his career was more or less over.

    Then you tell me of his comebacks. Just how good was he during these, because I have seen stats of him being top scorer in the league at a rip age, but I cannot fathom the standard of the football he was involved in.

    Do you think, say in 2001 he would have been a top european striker had he been in a european league?

    I recall his 1997 Le Tournoi goal vs England and thought he could be resurfacing, then he played brilliantly against Man Utd in the 2000 Club World Championship.

    When did we see the last of the very best of him?

  • Comment number 30.

    Im a big fan Tim, another superb article. I have always loved south america and south american football, my favourite players form the continent over the years have been Javier Zanetti, Gabriel Batistuta, Cafu, Ronaldo, and I really like Gonzalo Higuain and Edinson Cavani at the moment.

    How is Cavani viewed in South America at the moment. His form for Napoli has been outstanding this season and Ive noticed he has been played more centrally for Uruguay after spending much of the World Cup on the wing.

    If anyone is interested Ive written a blog about him on

  • Comment number 31.


    What is the ageism view in South America?

    Is it recognised like in Europe that a player over 30 is past his best, or over the hill?

    Would you say this is viewed differently and therefore will this affect Ronaldinho playing a key role for Brazil again, even if he manages to recapture some magic?

  • Comment number 32.

    From your point then, it seems the brazilian fooball calender is structured to protect state federations rather than to help the actual game they are built on top of??

  • Comment number 33.

    Tim you miss lots of points:
    1: The sponsors most of the time dont end up paying (like with robinho).
    2: Brazil is huge (size of europe!) so state competitions are really important especially for local rivalries. Ronaldo's entrance to Brazil was winning the Paulista. The same with Robinho and santos in the Paulista the following year. So these arnt small teams playing, the finals are always with the big teams and giving the local fans what they want to see.
    3: Brazil doesnt have a rich working class which can afford to pay for high match tickets or sky sports subscriptions which allow the premiership to spend so much money. The average fan pays around 5-10 pounds to watch a match.
    4: Brazilian clubs dont really do well from merchandising as the hard core fans buy shirts from their own supporter clubs and so the club doesnt make any money.
    5: Flamengo brought in Ronaldinho partly because they needed a PR boost as their captain is in jail for murder of his girlfriend.
    6: Biggest problem - corruption everywhere in brazil

  • Comment number 34.

    33 -
    1 - not relevant to the argument - and ronaldnho has financial guarantees

    2 - see 25 above - also your references are to sao paulo, the only state where a championship is not a compete waste of time. last year's final - santos and santo andre - corinthians and sao paulo made it very clear that the libertadores was their priority.

    3 - lowest ticket price these days is usually 40 reais - at current exhcnage rate (sob sob) that's more than £15

    4 - lots of untapped potential - as corinthians have found out.

    5 - agree - hence the fact that the deal took place now, rahtre than in 6 months time, when ronaldinho would have been a free agent and the deal would have been cheaper and less complex.

  • Comment number 35.

    @11 Agree completely. Wasn't the Premier League supposed to be for the aid of the national team? All it has been is a massive detriment. If the clubs are not careful, it may begin to grow so vast (in terms of worldwide merchandising, money, outside investors, etc) that it will eat itself and implode in. I read not too long ago that a number of top clubs are on the verge of going completely bust, and not just in a Portsmouth type way - complete extinction.

    I do believe also the Premier League isn't the competitive mass many think it is. Yes, on any given day any team can beat another, but seriously, the days of a team coming into the top tier and challenging for the title are long gone. Indeed, I wonder why Tony Pulis, David Moyes and other managers of mid-table clubs continue to manage - they're safe from relegation, and there's zero chance of them actually winning the title, so what's the point? You just have to hope for outside investment of monster proportions, but even then, as Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce found out, nine times out of ten they will want a say in footballing matters in return for the pumping in of their £££s and will have their own manager ready to install once they've disposed of the existing one.

    Someone mentioned that apparently the Bundesliga is becoming less competitive, which sounds strange, as I've always thought it pretty open. Bayern Munich are only 5th at the moment, and Werder Bremen have fluctuated between 1st (2003-4), 10th a few seasons ago, 2nd twice (2005-6 and 2007-8) and currently 14th. It strikes me as much more open. Also, due to the fan representation on the boards/ownership sides of all clubs, the ticket prices and general costs to fans are much better - indeed, I think it was Borussia Dortmund whom recently pushed their ticket prices over the euro equivalent of £20, and suffered a mass fan strike and were forced to repeal this instantly. On the other hand, many tickets for EPL clubs are £50+.

    It's also worth noting that the astronomical costs needed have caused transfer fees to rise - you're telling me James Milner (£24m) was last summer worth nearly twice as much as Mesut Ozil (£15m)? It also, as people have noted, causes clubs to teeter constantly on the edge of financial carnage, as Portsmouth, Leeds, West Ham, Liverpool, and perhaps at times Manchester United have experienced. I also wonder if the inflated player wages decreases the hunger a player has to succeed - if he earns enough money to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life with just by turning up to train every week, then why should he play hard to win the EPL trophy, or the Champions League, or the FA Cup? What would be the point, other than perhaps pride, and more money he doesn't need?

    I'll stop my extended ranting for now, but give this a read - very interesting.

  • Comment number 36.

    A blinkered point of view if ever there was one, Tim, and one you rehash every year around this time. 25,000 watched Corinthians first game in the Paulistao yesterday. Sport's opening match in the Pernambuco attracted 25,000 on a Tuesday night. Santa Cruz pulled in the same crowd yesterday. In fact in the first round of the 12 team Pernambuco championship the average crowd was 10,000, and that includes home games of teams from tiny cities in the interior who played to sell out crowds of seven and eight thousand. Globo have expanded their pay per view TV coverage of the championships this year, and a quick skim of the Brazilian papers will show the usual high profile coverage. Certainly Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos didn´t look that disinterested yesterday.

    Also on a philosophical level it´s troubling to suggest that teams with small support base "have no right to exist". Where would Wimbledon's glory days fit in here? I suppose one of your targets is Duque De Caxias, a club without fans if ever there was one. But the same club play in Serie B of the national championship. Should they be expelled from that too? Should Gremio Prudente/Barueri have been denied promotion to Serie A a couple of years ago? They have no fans either. San Martin in Peru who you talked about once in your column? It should be remembered that Duque and teams like them earn their place in the first divisions of their state championships - they all have promotion and relegation.

    Your argument seems as always to be based around the Carioca, perhaps the worst of all the state championships owing to its inflated size, nonsensical structure and lack of middle sized teams. But you are guilty of misleading your readers into thinking it´s the whole story. There are 27 state championships in Brazil, some of which are successful and competitive (São Paulo and Pernambuco to name a few), some of which (RJ, Rio Grande Do Sul) are less so.

    I should mention too the social inclusion arguement that perhaps it´s a good thing that kids from the interior get to see their heroes in the flesh every now and again. Brazilian states are enormous and society is dominated by and concentrated in the big cities. Many Brazilians living in the hinterlands will never visit their state capitals, and there are millions of football fans living in these regions.

    So in closing, yes change the structure, yes make some of them smaller, but to dismiss a 100 years of tradition and local rivalry on the basis of "I don´t like it" is sweeping with far too big a brush. As for the state based power bases, Brazil is organised on federal lines and whether you have the championships or not the dinosaurs in the local federations will have their say.

  • Comment number 37.

    7,000 saw palmeiras - first game of the season - should be full house time.

    The North East is a mystery to me - the clubs in this region seem to have excllent supporter bases, but never do anything at national level - hence, perhaps, the fact that their state tradition remains strong.

    My argument about small clubs - not at all they they have no right to exist - but if they have no fans they have no right to be professional clubs. There is nothing wrong at all with being amateur.

    Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos - of course they are not disinterested. Corinthians have two crunch games coming up to qualify for the group stage of the Libertadores, so they have to get in form early. Ronaldo made it perfectly clear what he thinks of the state championships at the fttecom conference in december.

  • Comment number 38.

    @36... come on, I wouldn't call this a rehash... Rehashing is what Jonathan Wilson does with all his books, a collection of all his usual obsessions, England vs Hungary 1953, Charles Reep and Viktor Maslov. And Tim doesn't ask us to plunk down a chunk of dough to read this... meaning it's all free, and if it's free, it's for me!

  • Comment number 39.

    The state championships do have their merits. While in Brazil last April I watched both legs of the Sao Paulo semi finals between Sao Paulo and Santos. Both were very entertaining games and the atmospheres were electric.

    Before that I watched a more or less dead rubber between Portuguesa and Itauo (sp?), attendance was only around 500 but it was still a great game, infact it was Juninhos last game as a professional player so a bit of history witnessed there.

    Anyway my point is, the state championships aren't the complete waste of time that the comments on this article seem to imply.

  • Comment number 40.

    36 - I can't see the merits in your so-called 'social inclusion' stuff. Seems to me that the state championships are entirely the opposite. Who benefits? The traditional elites who control the state federations - some of which have had the same president for over 30 years. And then at the top of the pyramid you have Ricardo Texeira in charge of the CBF for over 20 years. This is 'social inclusion'?!!!

    'Social inclusion' is a neat-sounding banner that in this case seeks to defend the same old power in the same old hands

  • Comment number 41.

    39 - your point is that you don't seem to have made a point at all.

    Of course a Santos -Sao Paulo semi final is going to be an event - the point (you miss it) is the time they have spent getting there, playing small teams - when Brazil is so vast that there are plenty of big teams out there they could be playing. There could be that electric sense of occasion every week -this is the potential that is being thrown away.

    500 for Juninho's last game - with the team that he started with and is now back as president - says it all, really.

  • Comment number 42.

    Tim, do you feel that Ronaldinho's arrival could allow another player to flourish out of the limelight? With Ronaldinho taking much of the media attention, I think the Argentine, Bottinelli could really make an impact in his first year in Brazilian football.

    I didn't follow Brazilian football closely when Romario returned to Flamengo in 1995 so can't make a comparison, but were there any players within the Flamengo team who benefited from being shielded by Romario's high-profile?


  • Comment number 43.

    Hmmm Tim, wake up on the wrong side of the bed today?

    My point as clearly stated in the last line of my post is that I dont think the Paulistas are a complete waste of time as your article and lots of the comments on here make them out to be.

    I'm afraid I don't know enough about the division of money etc among the smaller clubs to indeed justify the length of the competition and amount of teams involved as well as their calibre.

    Do you understand? Hope the rest of your day is better ;)

  • Comment number 44.

    I think my comment above was a little mis-interpreted. I totally agree that the system in Brazil does sound crazy and needs to change.

    My point was only that the fact the top clubs no longer needed to "divide the TV revenue with the professional clubs of all four divisions" was not the main reason for the EPLs success.

    We can see examples all accross the world of different systems used to divide up the TV revenue, with Spain being perhaps the most extreme. none of these leagues have the success, at least measured purely in revenue terms, as the EPL.

    The correct division is more of a balancing act aimed at forming a deep competitive elite that can regularly compete for domestic and european trophies. I am not sure that the EPL does have the right balance, but perhaps it is slightly better compared to other leagues?

    Of course, other sports (especially in the US) have more extreme measures, such as salary caps and the draft system to ensure competitiveness - it is a shame that these sort of measures are unlikely ever to appear in football...

  • Comment number 45.

    What is your opinion on Boca's Mouche?

  • Comment number 46.

    The annual debates (not just here) discussing the pros and cons of the state championsips and if they should be scrapped or remodelled, are becoming almost as tired as the championships themselves.

    Despite their reputation, it is worth nothing that the Campeonato Paulista received an improved TV deal last year and this year the Campeonato Gaucho - one of the most uncompetitive championships - agreed a new sponsorship agreement with Coca-Cola.

    Regardless of opinion the championships are being invested into.

  • Comment number 47.

    42 - romario didn't really help anyone - the opposite if anything - he liked to cut down players who threatened his top dog position.

    I think ronaldinho is a different character - certainly he helped messi along in his early days at Barcelona

  • Comment number 48.

    Hi Tim,

    Good blog. I criticised your piece on Ronaldinho a few weeks back, feeling that Ronaldinho was no longer worth speaking about - He had the potential to be remembered as one of the all time greats, and in his peak years at Barcelona was doing things i've never seen before or since, but he self-destructed and robbed not only himself, but the world of perhaps seeing the best player of his generation. I couldn't really see the point in discussing his return to the Brasil squad, and have no expectation that he'll get anywhere near the next World Cup squad if it's picked on merit.

    With that in mind I was expecting this piece to be a bit of a Ronaldinho love-in, so was very impressed with your using the opportunity to focus on the deal's impact in Brasilian football - excellent Tim.

    What i'd like to ask is, why do so many Brasilians end up like Ronaldinho and Romario? Robinho seems the same. What is it in their culture that seems to make them implode like this? Why does partying and slacking off, living off reputation seem to end so many careers early? I'm sure i'm not the only one of your readers to find this fascinating?

  • Comment number 49.


    Well as I said in my earlier post at #4, would it in your opinion be a waste of time for manu, liverpool, Bolton, wigan, everton, and man city spending 4 months playing in a north west championship against Preston, rochdale, oldham, stockport and carlisle? if the answer is no, when they could be playing arsenal, chelsea, newcastle, villa etc then your mad.

    Or maybe you think Aresnal vs leyton orient in january would sell the emirates out?

  • Comment number 50.

    I agree with the absurd notion of the Brazil State Championships. They offer no competition for the large teams and represent a large amount of wasted time. Interesting to see how the situation develops over the next few years..

  • Comment number 51.

    it's obvious that fans in Pernambuco are going to the stadium if those are the only important games they'll have during the year. we have 4 divisions, where the 2 richest ones (A and B) are financially supported by CBF and the other two have WO's because disqualified teams won't waste money travelling for a worthless final match. we have a huge country where only ~80 clubs might have a full-year calendar worth it. the other clubs play in recently created "filler" state competitions, which begin nearly four months after the state championship ends.

    a state championship will give a false impression that your team and certain players are ready for bigger challenges. we talk about these competitions during four months, but all they do is fill local media with content and press coaches for a title that they don't need to win - they just can't lose.

    in 2009, our current coach, Celso Roth, was coaching our local rivals Gremio and were (unfortunately hehe) very well in the Copa Libertadores. however, losing 3 derbies to us and the state championship cost him his job, even if the directors set the Libertadores as the main objective. and last year, our rivals Gremio won it with Silas. 3 months later Silas was fired and when the year ended the high point was Gremio qualifying to the Libertadores (and we losing to Mazembe). not a single word about the Gauchão.

    I have thought about a structure similar to England to replace our current one with more than 5 divisions, but like Tim said, it's politically impossible, especially because CBF cares more about the Seleção than its competitions, so unless the clubs do something, nothing will happen. and I believe that even minnows would benefit from a revamp.

  • Comment number 52.

    It´s hard for nordeste teams to compete on a financial level because of the same financial inequality that means the region trails the sul and sudeste in every economic and social indicator from unemployment to child mortality to literacy levels. Yes Sport, Santa, Bahia, Vitoria can pull in huge crowds but they´re usually paying around r$10-20 a ticket - their core support, the urban working classes, wouldn´t pay more. Whereas Corinthians, São Paulo etc can sell tickets for r$50-100 or more. In this context gate receipts, rather than crowd size, is what is important. We are talking about two entirely different social realities which is then reflected in every aspect of footballing income from sponsorship to local tv money to shirt sales. Not to mention the corruption and short termism that is ingrained in the region....

    By social inclusion I was simply talking from a supporter angle. If I am a disadvantaged kid who lives in the interior of a big Brazilian state I am never going to see my heroes in the flesh because I don´t have money to spend on weekend trips to the state capital. With the state championships at least once a year Flamengo, Corinthians, São Paulo etc will come to my town and maybe I can go and see them. This seems like a good thing to me.

    As for Palmeiras, probably the 7,000 crowd had a lot to do with the truly gruesome 2011 their fans are preparing themselves for.....

  • Comment number 53.

    Inferno Coral, please stop the nonsense os 'social inclusion' - professional football unfortunately cannot be used to please alldisadvantaged kids in all states - plus, disadvantaged kids unforrtunately have no money to apy for the tickets regardless if the big teams are playing in the capitals, their own cities or on the Moon.

    I agree with Tim entirely, it is simple enough - there are not enough dates for a Brazilian league and the state leagues.

    Today they take place in detriment of a much more interesting contest, the Brazil Cup (Copa do Brasil). If the top clubs did not have to play in the states, there would be enough time for the Libertadores and for the Copa do Brasil, which would then go back to being played by all main sides.
    And let's not forget other "benefits" brought about by the state leagues: lack of a proper pre-season, the fact that the Brazilian league is squeezed and then cannot be interrupted when the national team plays (always with some loss to clubs that provide players), finally that the biggest teams have no time for the profitable friendlies in the European summer.

    That doesnt mean we need to totally avoid regionalization - indeed Brazil is a big country and 5 national divisions would be totally out of order - for this reason this is what I defend:

    two national leagues - the first exactly as it is today, no changes, the second merging the current second and third divisions, with around 36 clubs that would be split in two groups by the geography criteria - a Northern and a Southern, with games only within each other, only playing against each other in a final 8-team play off to define the 4 promoted sides.This would uphold the regional derbys 9imagine the number of North East sides in that Northern clubs, with derbys week in week out, emulating the successful Copa Norte/Nordeste) and less travel costs.

    Finally, the state leagues could carry on during the whole year WITHOUT the clubs from 1st/2nd division - and the top sides in each state would play a quick national Cup-style competition, at the end of the season, to determine 4 or 8 sides to be promoted to the 2nd national division.

  • Comment number 54.

    Tim, what do you think Ronaldinho's realistic chances of making the Brazil 2014 WC squad are? Baring in mind he will be 34 by then and will not have played regular competitive club football, by your own admission, for four years. Furthermore, if current head coach of the national team Mano Menezes is still in charge for the tournament, surely it is unlikely he will pick Ronaldinho on similar grounds for his omission from last year's tournament, when Dunga left him out due to poor form and a lack of team-spirit.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of team Menezes puts together, obviously with the 2014 WC in mind, when the passionate public will no doubt be after the traditional free-flowing attacking football. Menezes, like his predecessor, favours a defensive style so he surely has a dilemma.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hello Tim, good blog again. Though, i think you base your (excelent) argument too much on the Carioca state championship. I live in London for 20 years now, but was born in Sao Paulo, and witnessed so many great matches of the Paulistao in the late 70s and the whole of the 80s (following my Tricolor Paulista of course). Was unfortunately present in the Morumbi when we lost to Corinthians in 1983 with over 80 thousand supporters. Perhaps i'm a bit of saudosista and like a bit of tradition. Since the Paulistao is the very first league in the history of the Brazilian football, i would not wanted it to be abolished with the rest of the other state championships, though i'm all in favour of re-structuring, perhaps changing the congested calendar, making it smaller etc.
    Though, i do see your point if you are based in Rio, apart from the big four, there's no competition in the state league.
    In my point of view, as a paulista, i'd see the abolishment of the state (Sao Paulo) championship the same way as an English supporter would see if someone was asking for the abolishment of the FA Cup!

  • Comment number 56.

    Poor form? 12 goals, 16 assists? Did any of you see any of Milan's games last season?

  • Comment number 57.

    Tim I have a question

    Isn't it unfair for Brazilians to play the most important league (Libertadores) in the start of the season, when the rest of the countries are in mid-season? What do people think about that in Brazil?

    Also, I remember Everton playing River Plate in a pre-season last year, as well as Boca playing Bayern and Manchester. That is a massive potential for Brazilian clubs, to play friendlies with European clubs, but they can't becuase of their calendar. How to Brazilian directors and fans react to that? Brazilians only have one holliday in the end of the year and don't get to rest in the middle of the year, whilst the Argentineans,etc have the same Hollidays in the end of the year plus a much larger pre-season in the middle of the year. Isn't that a massive physical disadvantage for Brazil? Does that explain any results in the Libertadores,etc?

    thanks, im a big fan

  • Comment number 58.

    I think you should change your pic, Tim. Put a nice shirt and tie on. You look like you're on the run from the law.

  • Comment number 59.

    1) As you say Tim, football is sown in England's green and pleasant land, forged locally in the home of the Industrial Revolution, before the advent and/or explosion of newspapers, radio, tv and the internet were able to allow an elite to hog the large majority of supporters and thus prevent the development of the English football pyramid, which, in my experience, is unrivalled anywhere in the world. In fact, there are no pyramids in a lot of countries.

    During his time at Notts County, the oldest professional league club in the world (formed 1862), Sven Goran Erikkson said you can 'taste' football wherever you go in England. If you drive along the M5 on a Saturday morning, you will pass, or be passed by, West Brom fans going up to Blackburn (Premier League), Leeds fans going down to Cardiff (Championship), Plymouth fans going up to Carlisle (Div 1), Chelteham fans going up to Accrington (Div 2), Kidderminster fans going down to Bath (Blue Square Premier League)...just to mention a few of the many examples.

    2) Judging from this and some of your previous blogs, football in South America, a big place, because of the distances involved, the historically poor infrastructure, and poverty of the people, is much more geographically polarised than in England, or even Europe. If I want to go to a game in England, I can get to any ground and back home again in the same day, and be at work in the morning. In England particularly, away support is a vital element of our football culture and prosperity. Non-league clubs get crowds in the thousands, and will bring these supporters with them, multifold if it's an away Cup game at a League club.

    3) I think Ronaldinho's best days in Europe are a long way behind him, but, and I hate to keep harping on about it, I suspect he still has a lot to offer the Brazilian team collective, if not the European one, just as you say Romario did, and (after leaving Europe what seems like so long ago he must surely be near to drawing his pension) Veron seems to have done to the Argentine collective.

  • Comment number 60.

    46 - i don't see this as a tired debate at all - it's crucial to the future of what could easily become one of the world's major leagues.

    Of course there are people willing to invest in state championships - they include the big clubs, who can count their fans in the tens of millions.
    but from the poit of you of the big clubs, how does it make sense?

    Imagine an alternative - along the lines brilliantly outlined by post 53. Think of the advantages;
    proper holidays for the players
    a proper pre-season
    the national championship starting with a bang

    on these lines, the potential of the brazilian championship is massive - the only thing it will lack compared to europe is access to the champions league.

    but - with no state championships the celendar will allow time for pre-season friendlies against european sides, thus internationalising their profile


    when we get to the stage when the south american sides are strong enough to put on a show in the World Club Cup I think there will be much more interest in that competition - who knows, maybe even an expansion.

    That's whay this is such a fascinating moment - there is an alternative future.

  • Comment number 61.

    Alex Ad - while I´m not overjoyed to hear that it´s "nonsense" maybe social inclusion is the wrong choice of words. what i am saying is that when the big boys play in the interior there are usually big crowds waiting for them, probably made up of people who have neither time or money to go to São Paulo/Rio/Salvador etc etc for games. Rather obviously I´m not talking about street kids or the very poor. therefore there is a market and an interest there that surely makes the games viable.

    I liked your restructured national championship idea, although the Copa Nordeste last year was a washout with most games watched by three men and a dog. That would change if it was incorporated into the national league though. Serie D already follows this structure, though with regional four team groups rather than a fully fledgled league at the start.

    Finished now - three comments is more than enough on any blog!

  • Comment number 62.

    54 - Ronaldinho will have plenty of worthwhile competitive action - just none before mid May while, as this year, Flamengo are not in the Libertadores.

    Realistic chances of 2014? Slight, perhaps - but there is genius in there, so don't write him off.

  • Comment number 63.

    Just to put so comparison on the teams that the clubs in the Carioca have to play, I've based it on a 16 team tournament and used London as an example.

    So, the four Premier League teams would be seeded so it would split Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Fulham between the two groups.

    The you'd have QPR, Millwall, Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic, Brentford, Dagenham and Redbridge, Leyton Orient, Barnet, AFC Wimbledon, Hayes and Yeading, Staines Town, Hampton and Richmond to be split between the two groups.

    So phase one sees the teams playing the other in their group on a single round robin format, giving 7 games. Then the top two in each group qualify for a single game semi final when the group winner plays the opposite group runner up before the two meet in the final. There is no extra time in the knockout games, they go straight to penalties after 90 minutes.

    Phase two sees the teams playing every team in the other group in a single round robin format, giving 8 games. Then the top two in each group qualify for a single game semi final when the group winner plays the opposite group runner up before the two meet in the final. There is no extra time in the knockout games, they go straight to penalties after 90 minutes.

    If the same team wins both competitions then they would be crowned the winners of the competition. If not, the two winners of each phase would meet in a two legged affair to decide the title.

    There would be a minimum of 15 games for each club, potentially rising to 21 for the successful clubs and the clubs play weekend, midweek, weekend etc for the majority of the competition.

    To base it on an English season if this competition starts the first weekend of August it would finish around the end of December. Then the Premier League would start around New Year and this would finish the middle of June. The players get six weeks off before starting again.

    Imagine one of the big four going for a midweek away game at Staines Town? Ludicrous isn't it. That's that happens in the Rio state championship.

    Apologies for any London teams missed out.

  • Comment number 64.

    The small clubs in the Rio championship are much more Staines Town than QPR, Cahrlton and Palace

  • Comment number 65.

    63. What about West Ham? Surely they are bigger than Fulham!

  • Comment number 66.

    64. Tim, it was hard enough finding those clubs. I should have just got the big four and then gone conference and lower for the rest to be honest.

    65. Like I said, apologies for any clubs missed out. It was a real top of the head thing.

  • Comment number 67.

    Please God no. Takahara was a disaster at Boca. The Argentinean media had a fun day out with the Japanese puns for that one. Nakzazawa and Miura I can think of went to Brazil at a young age and both won +80 caps for Japan. However, it was pretty common back in the mid 90's for players to go to Brazil to get training seeing as most of the J-clubs hadn't developed proper academies and scouting networks back then.

    Now its the other way around, Japan et al taking on 18, 19 year old Brazilians who haven't made the cut in their own country.

    On the topic of the Brazilian State Championships, does it not work within the favour of clubs in that they can bolster the value of a player to Europe by boasting a good scoring record in these competitions? *cough* Neymar *cough*

  • Comment number 68.

    I hope the reception the Flamengo fans gave Ronaldinho meant that he would get to task straight away. With his vision, technical excellence and dribbling ability, he will not necessarily need that burst of pace to be as potent in the Brazillian championship.

  • Comment number 69.

    The destruction of the state championships would see an increased sense of importance for the national championship. Also (although a different type of competition) ridding England and Scotland of the league cup would raise the status of the other domestic titles.

    In short, get rid. It's boring and unnecessary.

  • Comment number 70.

    #61- But usually the big boys don't attract big public anymore even in the smallest cities; Flamengo played in Volta Redonda last year with crowds often around 5,000, and they were the Brazilian champions. Same is true to most of the clubs. Even the supporters in the small cities are tired of them, because, guess what, they follow football too and know when they are watching a shitty game.

    Besides, if the public knows that these clubs will play there each year, it's not a "now or never" thing. The tournament for the big boys meeting the small clubs would be the Brazilian Cup, which would get even better if the Libertadores teams had the chance of playing there too.

  • Comment number 71.

    The Premier League is successful because it's a global brand. Somebody made the point earlier that working class Brazilians cannot afford the tickets and sky subcriptions that English fans can but everything is relative. There are many more Brazilian football fans than English ones simply due the population being three times bigger, and it's certainly not just English based fans that fund the premier league.

    If Brazilian league football could market itself to, say, the Asian markets (like the Premier League does), then the potential is massive. Brazilian football has a romance to it that could be marketed to huge potential. This will only happen though when the best Brazilian players stop coming to Europe and decide to stay in the Brazil for the best years of their career. Then people from around the world might choose to watch Brazilian league football rather than European (lets not forget that a consequence of this would be lesser quality European football, due to there being fewer Brazilians in Europe).

    I have to agree with Tim though that the state championships aren't exactly going to help this happen.

  • Comment number 72.

    #63 I believe that a comparison to Conference teams is a bit of a stretch too, because when the season begins, Staines Town knows how many games they'll play. a team playing in a state championship will probably close doors from May to September, when the "filler" cup begins or when the 4th division begins, and it's possible that the club will close until the following year if they get relegated or can't afford the rest of the season, especially because in 4th division travel costs are paid by the clubs themselves

  • Comment number 73.

    I 100% agree with your arguments about the State Championship's Tim. I remember Fluminense coach Muricy saying in one interview that he hardly gets to coach his team on the training pitch during the coarse of the season because he knows his players need to rest due to the amount of Football they play through the year. I don't think Santos' Neymar has missed a week of football all year, firstly playing the 2010 Paulista, then the Brasileirao 2010, then playing some Charity games, and now playing for Brazil in the Under 20 South American cup. As soon as that's over he will be back playing in the 2011 Paulista Championship, which has already started. It's ridiculous! It is surely going to catch up with him and could potentially wreck what looks like a great career this talented player could well have. In the Carioca Championship, it's pretty much guaranteed that Fluminense, Flamengo, Vasco and Botafogo make it to the semi final's. They might as well have their own 4 group Championship if they want some kind of pre-season perhaps. As for Ronaldinho, I dont think he is going to be in a more suitable place. Everyone knows his passion for Samba, and now being able to play in capital City of Samba (Rio de Janeiro) could bring him happiness, or temptation, with bars and women, we shall see. He is not the most famous man in Brazil, so he will be closely monitored. Lets hope he produces his magic once again, even though I'm a Fluminense fan. Tim, what do you think of Dario Conca yet to be called upon by Argentina, even though he's been voted the best player in Brazil in 2009 and 2010?

  • Comment number 74.

    Besides Lamela, there is another exciting young player that River Plate decided against releasing for the South American Youth Championship - Manuel Lanzini. Nicknamed 'La Joya' (The Jewel), he is just 17, but has already featured in a handful of games for River's first team. A quick, elusive little dribbler with a fierce shot, he is one to keep an eye on.

  • Comment number 75.

    I 100% agree with your arguments about the State Championship's Tim. I remember Fluminense coach Muricy saying in one interview that he hardly gets to coach his team on the training pitch during the coarse of the season because he knows his players need to rest due to the amount of Football they play through the year. I don't think Santos' Neymar has missed a week of football all year, firstly playing the 2010 Paulista, then the Brasileirao 2010, then playing some Charity games, and now playing for Brazil in the Under 20 South American cup. As soon as that's over he will be back playing in the 2011 Paulista Championship, which has already started. It's ridiculous! It is surely going to catch up with him and could potentially wreck what looks like a great career this talented player could well have. In the Carioca Championship, it's pretty much guaranteed that Fluminense, Flamengo, Vasco and Botafogo make it to the semi final's. They might as well have their own 4 group Championship if they want some kind of pre-season perhaps. As for Ronaldinho, I dont think he is going to be in a more suitable place. Everyone knows his passion for Samba, and now being able to play in capital City of Samba (Rio de Janeiro) could bring him happiness, or temptation, with bars and women, we shall see. He is now the most famous man in Brazil, so he will be closely monitored. Lets hope he produces his magic once again, even though I'm a Fluminense fan. Tim, what do you think of Dario Conca yet to be called upon by Argentina, even though he's been voted the best player in Brazil in 2009 and 2010?

  • Comment number 76.

    #69 has a point -- its time to throw the league cup away once and for all. All it does is clutter an already teeming fixture list, it has no prestige and most clubs play their reserves and are glad to be out of it. Non-league sides are barred but they have the Vase, league 1 & 2 teams have their JPT & there's the FA Cup as well!

    Seriously, what is the point of this competition?

    btw, all the blogs posted on here are impressive, especially poster 30's. Check out mine!

  • Comment number 77.

    37 - Tim you disappoint me, I'm sure you will know that Sport Recife won the National Championship in 1987, and of course more recently Copa do Brasil 2008. Otherwise, excellent thought-provoking blog as always.

  • Comment number 78.

    77 - try telling a flamengo fan that sport won in 87!

    That was the year the big clubs did a breakaway - sport won the official title, flamengo won the title contested by the big clubs.

    Time for another breakaway!

  • Comment number 79.

    Interesting article as always Tim, certainly a topic which has sparked some debate this week.

    The poor standard of opposition for the big clubs has been raised as a key issue with the state championships, and above you refer to some of them as being like Staines Town-but I would like to know how frequently the gulf in class is visible? Apart from the occassional 'giant killing' in one of the cups here in England, the big sides are usually expected to brush aside lower opposition. Does this happen regularly in Brazil? And have there been many farcical scorelines that emphasize the odd balance of power (i.e 10-0)?

  • Comment number 80.


    I can agree that since 2003, the way the brazilian calendar is organized, the State Championships got squeezed in the beginning of the season. The fact that São Paulo add a playoff to its league and Rio de Janeiro has increased the number of clubs from 12 to 16 didn't help either. The only major state that organized its tournament masterfully is Minas Gerais: 12 clubs, 15 weeks (instead of 23).

    Having said that, throwing away the State Championships would be a waste of money; not the opposite. All 4 major state championships (those I've mentioned above) pay more to any of the Big-12 than the Libertadores does to its CHAMPION! And with the Brazilian league already with 20 clubs and 38 rounds, its hard to imagine that any real paid through the state championships would migrate to the national just because the state one wouldn't exist anymore.

    It's not only about power and CBF election votes. The clubs are confortable with the state championship: it's cheap and easy to travel; they got more money; they have more titles to fight for; they could lose national importance keeping their status of Big Club domestically; etc.

    The whole brazilian calendar need to be rethought, for sure (National Series "C" and "D" are a dead weight for the clubs that plays them, just to point one example), but getting rid of the state championship is not an option...


  • Comment number 81.

    Re 79

    Not as much you think. Just to mention the 4 majors (Rio, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais:

    In Rio, when the minnows start to actually beat the big clubs, FERJ (Rio FA) decided that the big clubs wouldn't play in the countryside anymore. That helped restablish the State Big-4 (Flamengo, Vasco, Fluminense and Botafogo) to its original place, and get the finals with a sold-out Maracanã.

    In São Paulo, it's quite common to one of their Big-4 (Corinthians, Palmeiras, São Paulo e Santos) not make the playoffs. That's why FPF (São Paulo FA) decided to increase playoff spots this season. Instead of 4, and commonly see 2 big clubs out, now they have 8.

    In Rio Grande do Sul, in the last 15 tournaments, the Big-2 (Grêmio and Internacional) have finished in first and second in the same tournament only 5 times.

    In Minas Gerais, in the last 20, the Big-2 failed to finish in first and second 11 times.

    There are competition.

  • Comment number 82.

    Just to finish, I do believe that all 4 majors state championships in Brasil have potential to be better leagues than Portugal's, the Netherlands' and Scotland's. Actually, São Paulo could be just below Europe Top-4 (ENG, GER, SPA, ITA), competing directly with French Ligue 1. Just as the Brazilian National Championship, just as Copa Libertadores, the state leagues underperform themselves.

  • Comment number 83.

    Tim, your points are too speculative.

    I wish you could go further deeper in this road... make a DOCUMENTARY about it... interviews with clubs presidents, Clube dos 13, TV stations, fans, State Federations presidents, players etc.

    Show the history of the state leagues, and try to imagine the future. Make interesting questions that maybe will SEED in the minds of these many cartolas the incentive to break away from the current model.

    Of course, be scientific. Maybe some good points in favor of State Championships WILL be raised, and must not be put aside because you dont agree with them.

    But it would really be interesting. The State Championships are probably one of the most "different" things brazilian football has in relation to other countries. It would provide other countries with an insight into our peculiar system and maybe even generate some international discussion, and this will reflect on brazilians who will see the "unbiased" international documentary showing things some of them never noticeda, along with foreigner discussion about it.

  • Comment number 84.

    @InfernoCoral: what? The Rio Grande do Sul State Championship is not competitive???? Thats quite the nonsense!!!

    In the last 15 years, only FIVE finals were Grenais!!!

    1996 Grêmio Juventude
    1998 Juventude Internacional
    2000 Caxias Grêmio
    2001 Grêmio Juventude
    2002 Internacional 15 de Novembro
    2003 Internacional 15 de Novembro
    2004 Internacional Ulbra
    2005 Internacional 15 de Novembro
    2007 Grêmio Juventude
    2008 Internacional Juventude

    ps: Grêmio 2x2 Lajeadense had more fans than many Brasileirão Série A matches...

  • Comment number 85.

    Tim: would I be wrong to consider big clubs support the estaduais for some reasons like:

    1 - they can prospect new players. At the end of each state championship, many players from the smaller clubs are transfered to bigger clubs. Most of these players are ONLY noticed when they play against big clubs. You can say that if Victor had not played well against big clubs in the Paulistão, Grêmio would never notice him and he wouldnt be considered the best goalkeeper in the country. Only one among many examples.

    2 - its a chance for big clubs to connect with their fans who live away from the capitals. This connection is important, at least for clubs like Grêmio and Inter (dependent on club associates). They open the so called CONSULATES at cities away from Porto Alegre. There are thousands of associates who pay a monthly fee to the club but can NEVER go to a match in Porto Alegre. When Grêmio and Inter play in Santa Maria, Caxias, Livramento, Santa Cruz do Sul, Pelotas, etc, its a chance for these people to watch their teams live.

    3 - clubs DEPEND on the state championships to maintain fans (or to contain the fans ire). State championships provide the best chance for the clubs to win at least one title in the season. While winning State Championships dont bring MUCH GLORY, NOT winning anything in the season is a disaster!

  • Comment number 86.

    I generally agree with Tim's point about the innecessity for the state championships but #85 does make some interesting points. I have a question how much do the small clubs in Rio Grande do Sul, Minais Gerais, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero rely on the gate receipt income from playing their state's big clubs? If it provides a substantial portion of their income that would seem like a potential impediment to ever scrapping the state championships.

  • Comment number 87.


    I wonder why teams don't include a "fitness clause", e.g., that Ronaldinho would be paid a (large) chunk of his salary only if he meets certain fitness criteria at the end of each period. It seems like players like Ronaldinho have the talent but just not enough discipline to stay fit, and it's a big risk for the clubs that sign them to mega-deals. It seems reasonable that teams would require either tests-based fitness guarantee (body fat percentage, weight range, 100/400m sprint times, mile times, etc.) or effort-based fitness guarantee (certain number of hours in the gym with a club-assigned trainer). Has this happened in football, and do you think it's a good line to take with stars like Ronaldinho?

  • Comment number 88.

    4. At 12:30pm on 17 Jan 2011, weezer316 wrote:

    He isnt saying anything about TV money, his point is that Flamengo and clubs like it are wasting 5 months playing clubs like Volta Redonda.

    In spain barca and real are playing valencia, athletico, bilbao etc, where as in england they manu play chelsea, spurs, aresenal and the like, clubs of something like similar stature.

    I agree that its an absolute waste of time. Imagaine manu and liverpool wasting 4 months playing morcambe, stevenage and gillingham? Reclon that would fill old trafford


    Well we do with clubs like Wigan, Blackpool etc who have small fan bases we just give home supporters more tickets available if need be. However when these clubs play united they attract higher crowds as success breeds success. If Flamgo encouraged more of their supporters to attend away games they would make more money (after all the entire 20 million fans aren't all in the same place

  • Comment number 89.

    I can´t help myself....

    70 - the concentration on the carioca is skewiffing the debate. it´s the worst of all the estaduais with too many dead rubber games, guaranteed big 4 semis, no middle sized or at least competitive opposition (unlike the paulista, or even the mineiro). the sao paulo teams still draw crowds when they go into the interior, as do the mineiro teams and the teams in the northeast. if the crowds arent always huge its because the stadiums are small. but the interest is there

    84 - great, accused of nonsense twice in the same blog! but you´re quite right, i didn´t do my research. i dont know why (maybe because i lived there for a while) but i always think of the mineiro as more zebra prone than the gaucho. clearly i´m wrong. Sorry! Though we have to agree that often these upsets happen because the big teams have their minds on other things.

    78 - ah tim if only 1987 came down to flamengo fans or the clube dos 13. unfortunately for them and the rio media, it doesn´t. it comes down to the cbf as the governing body recognised by fifa. and as we know (and as a Santa Cruz fan this sticks in the throat) the official champions in 87 according to the CBF were Sport, even though it was all a hilariously disorganised mess and they only won because of this. After all, who played in the Libertadores in 88? Sport and Guarani. Not that anyone would know any of this from reading Placar, Lance or watching Globo....full story here

  • Comment number 90.

    What a horrendous league sturcture. I thought we had issues in Scotland, but it is nothing compared to Brazil.

    I almost cant believe you have clubs with 20m supporters in a league with teams commanding 20 to 200 spectators. That would be like Glasgow Rangers or Celtic playing my amateur team in a league that ran over 3 months.

    Is there must be constant debate in Brazilian media over league structure? Surely their player development is stifled by not getting proper competition in the pro-leagues....

    I remember going as Gremio in Champ Man years back, but gave up after 2 months as the championships changes every 6 months. Nightmare!

  • Comment number 91.

    @Rosarino: my point is that the big clubs are quite confortable in their positions, with the estaduais happening: there ARE reasons beyond tradition and the power structure of the federations, for the big clubs to not "revolt".

  • Comment number 92.

    Btw, I am seeing Tim live right now, and he was able to talk about the whole question of the State Leagues.

    Another journalist (brazilian) said the were a cultural question, the brazilian fans like it. Tim said cultures change too. I think Tim, you missed the chance to tell a different story: do the fans REALLY like it? Or do they like the derbies? Then use the argument of the small crowds.

    Anyway, Redação Sportv is not the proper place for these in depth arguments. I wish you could make your point at the ARENA Sportv, where they sometimes spend the whole 1:30 hour debating these kind of philosofical, economic, cultural or management questions.

    Cant you convince the guys from ARENA to form a panel to debate it?

  • Comment number 93.

    I haven't read beyond No.7 yet, but feel obliged to respond to that comment. The reason the Clube dos 13 haven't done anything is that they were threatened with severe punishment by the CBF, and FIFA is backing the Brazilian governing body. It's the same thing as when anybody in football thinks about going to the courts - the CBF and FIFA insist everything be handled behind closed doors in their own sports tribunals.
    Tim, you have my vote, though I haven't been complaining about the state championships for as long as you, evidently. However, it has long appeared to me that, in view of the size of the country and the precarious finances of most clubs, it would make much more sense to have an elite national championship of, at most, two divisions and make the rest regional.
    What this blog has stimulated in my head is a layered modification of this idea, whereby only the minnows play the state championship, to qualify them for the next season's regional championship, and the regional champions qualify for Division 2 of the following season's national championship. Furthermore, the Brazil Cup could be limited to the teams in the 2 national divisions, something along the lines of the English League Cup, which would strengthen the claims of the champions to merit Libertadores qualification.
    I'm sure this could be worked out in such a way that it would satisfy both the big clubs and the CBF/FIFA. What do you think?

  • Comment number 94.

    @ 9: I think you've brought up a good point. Personally, I would say the bigger clubs look upon the state championships firstly as a means of establishing local bragging rights and secondly to build and organize their squads for the national league and cup competitions. I don't think the significance goes beyond that, although obviously the second factor gels with your idea.
    @ 11: likewise, more good points. To be fair to the basic premise of the blog, where EPL success was just a pointer, I think that it is a success in terms of marketing (it is probably the football world's leading product) and in the Champions League - where the EPL clubs generally go far, unless they meet one another or one of the continental giants.

  • Comment number 95.

    88. At 11:26am on 18 Jan 2011, PetShopBoys_Forever wrote:
    4. At 12:30pm on 17 Jan 2011, weezer316 wrote:

    He isnt saying anything about TV money, his point is that Flamengo and clubs like it are wasting 5 months playing clubs like Volta Redonda.

    In spain barca and real are playing valencia, athletico, bilbao etc, where as in england they manu play chelsea, spurs, aresenal and the like, clubs of something like similar stature.

    I agree that its an absolute waste of time. Imagaine manu and liverpool wasting 4 months playing morcambe, stevenage and gillingham? Reclon that would fill old trafford


    Well we do with clubs like Wigan, Blackpool etc who have small fan bases we just give home supporters more tickets available if need be. However when these clubs play united they attract higher crowds as success breeds success. If Flamgo encouraged more of their supporters to attend away games they would make more money (after all the entire 20 million fans aren't all in the same place


    Wigan and Blackpool may have a smaller fan-base but fair play to them, they managed to reach the PL and are entitled to host games against the bigger sides. The problem in Brazil are not small sides in the first national division - but the fact that the state leagues warrant 23! extra dates of the annual calendar for the benefit of a competition where only 2 or 3 teams are really big - that is ON TOP of the national league that these same big clubs have to attend to in one single season.

    Guys, its simple maths - the year has 12 months, 52 weeks - there are only so many games a team can play - and the fact Brazilian teams are still to this day forced to play in the states as opposed to in other more profitable alternatives is an impediment for the progress of local club football.

    Some people keep going on and on about the smaller sides that "need" the funds from the visits of the big teams: well, tough luck. As I defended @53 small clubs should play in their own regions and states, and these minor leagues could eventually lead them to the top divisions in a capilar system similar to the Blue Square or Rymans conference or whateve other non-league competitions that take place in England.

  • Comment number 96.

    Just out of interest what is the league structure in Argentina? I know it's smaller geographically than Brazil but these two countries are normally compared in footballing terms.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 96 as far as I know Argentina has two national competitions, with the same teams, in each year - Apertura and Clausura. It's peculiar but not similar to the state leagues that exist in Brazil. Though you're right that the two countries are normally compared, geographically Brazil is much larger meaning the split into states made sense in the early days of professional football.

  • Comment number 98.

    @ InfernoCoral (#89)

    "... often these upsets happen because the big teams have their minds on other things."

    About the Gaucho, that's not quite true. In this 15 years, only in the 2007 season it's possible to make such claim, and I'm not sure it fits.

    Internacional began the tournament with its Reserve squad, and lost a lot of points. When people realized they would fought Relegation, and with Libertadores being a disaster beyond salvation, the main team came in trying to rescue something out of the semester. They did well and manage to get in the last game of regular season needing only a draw away at Veranópolis to get in the playoffs.

    With the main squad, they lost fair and square (2-1) in the night of its 98th anniversary. That year, the reigning world champions finished the tournament in SEVENTH place. That what was one of the funniest days of my life. I almost OD'ed in Schadenfreude...


    Here, both Veranopólis goals:


  • Comment number 99.

    @ 25: good insights Tim.
    @ 26: although one is a cup and the others a league (or cup/league hybrid), there are certain similarities between the FA Cup and the Brazilian state championships. In the former case, it only qualifies you for the Europa League, which will never achieve the reputation of the old Cup-Winner's Cup or even the Fairs Cup. Because qualification means you're not among the top clubs in your country, it is looked upon as a compensation prize for 'loosers'. Qualifying for the Champions League or avoiding relegation from the EPL are seen as far more important priorities. Over here, the state championships don't qualify you for anything except local bragging rights. Most states have just 2 rival teams, whose fans hate one another, so it does count for something, I suppose.
    This question of hatred amongst fans is a relatively recent (last 20 yrs Tim?) and growing phenomenon that I find extremely worrying, as it's the ingredient that fueled hooliganism in Europe. If you look at local football blogs, they're full of capital letters and foul language as the ignorant spill their bile onto the internet. When I first came to this country, opposing fans could sit together in the stadiums and share jokes about the game afterwards, because the pleasure was one that united them - the joy of watching good football!
    Following that line, I find it sad that the guy who brought the joy back to football - which had become very dour, let's admit - has lost his own joy in playing it. I am not privy to the reasons, but they could involve any or all of: corruption in the sport, the behaviour of extremist fans, the sheer pressure to achieve and the sheer physical toll. Let's hope he rediscovers that pleasure, though I think he would've been better advised to join Santos if that was the aim (instead of hiring himself out in a bidding war).

  • Comment number 100.

    Ah, one last thing - many Brazilian supporters (it seems including some that comment on this blog), including of some clubs that are in the first national division, don't want the end of state leagues because it is their teams' only chance of silverware. There is the false perception that they support great sides because they won 30-odd time the local meaningless state championship.

    The Brazilian supporter needs to mature as well and understand that if we are to have a decent national competition, which they want to take part of, then the beautiful history clubs have in their states need become just that - history - and only a handful of teams will get to have silverware each season - as in any other normal footballling nation. Just think of the contrary - ask Sunderland, Everton or Birmingham supporters if they value more being in the top half of the PL (as this is the most they can aspire to) or if they would instead want to see their teams winning Tyneside, Midlands or Merseyside championships (should they be created)?


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