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Brazilian teams thrive amid World Cup concerns

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Tim Vickery | 09:16 UK time, Monday, 25 April 2011

On the pitch, last week was a splendid one for Brazilian football.

Fluminense's dramatic qualification for the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores meant that Brazil did not have a single team eliminated in the group phase - while Argentina lost three.

The Brazilian sides also managed to avoid each other in the second round, creating the possibility of the competition's last eight featuring five teams from the same country.

Off the field, though, the picture is not so impressive, with planning for the 2014 World Cup giving cause for concern.

Rafael Moura (right) scores for Fluminense in their 4-2 win over Argentinos Juniors - photo: Reuters

The state of the country's airports has always been seen as the main impediment to the smooth running of the tournament. Recently a survey by a specialist organisation concluded that work on the airports will not be completed in time - and even if it is, the airports will still be operating beyond their capacity.

Stadium work is also dragging with construction of the new stadium in Sao Paulo, the likely venue of the opening game, yet to start - and doubt has also been cast on the financial viability of four of the 12 stadiums.

Earlier this month, Senator Alvaro Dias, a long running critic of football administration in Brazil, even called on the country to give up the right to stage the tournament.

Dias is an opposition politician seeking to embarrass the government and he was more likely making mischief rather than presenting a serious suggestion.

There seems no reason to doubt that the tournament will go ahead in Brazil, but those in charge of the process have little cause for self-congratulation.

"There is still (just about) time for us to put on a reasonable World Cup," Jose Luiz Portella last week. But a very good one is out of the question. We have wasted the opportunity."

Portella, who in addition to being an engineer and a transport executive is one of the country's most intelligent football columnists, continued: "I have always been in favour of having the World Cup and the Olympics in Brazil, but not with this group who run our sport."

This gets to the heart of the matter.

Brazil's players are so good as a consequence of football's intrinsic meritocracy. By far the principal sport in a giant country, football attracts millions, the best of whom are groomed for a career in the game. The sons of Pele and Zico have tried and failed - a famous name could only get them so far.

Off the field it is a radically different matter. Ricardo Teixeira, former son-in-law of ex-FIFA President Joao Havelange, has been in charge of the Brazilian FA since 1989. The uncharismatic Teixeira also presides over the World Cup Local Organising Committee, in which his daughter as a key administrator.

They both might be part of the rapidly developing world, but there is a key difference between Brazil and 2010 hosts South Africa. Staging last year's World Cup was part of a lengthy process which has seen political power change hands in the rainbow nation.

Brazil has taken huge strides to consolidate its democracy, but old semi-feudal clans have not had their power shaken - as football demonstrates. Teixeira's power base is formed by the presidents of the country's 27 state football federations, some of whom have been in power even longer than he has.

Ricardo Teixeira (left) is the man charged with delivering the 2014 World Cup - photo: Getty Images

The World Cup started to go wrong from the very start because of Teixeira's unwillingness to alienate that power base.

The key date was March 2003 when Fifa president Sepp Blatter announced that, following the rotation principle, the World Cup would return to South America in 2014. Within days Conmebol (the South American Confederation) declared that Brazil was its only candidate.

True, Colombia later broke ranks and briefly ran a rival bid, but this was never serious.

Venezuela was investing heavily in stadiums at the time, and Colombia was looking to raise its profile in response to this challenge from its neighbour and rival. The Colombian move achieved its objective when the country was awarded this year's World Youth Cup.

Fifa officially announced Brazil as 2014 hosts in October 2007. There was no surprise or controversy - it merely made official what everyone already knew. At this point Brazil should have had its plans in place, it should have chosen its host cities, presented its stadium projects and identified its infra-structure necessities, but had not. Four and a half years had been wasted.

No host cities had been chosen because, for Teixeira, it was not convenient to do so.
Eighteen cities wanted to stage games but excluding some of them would have had negative political consequences for him, so the decision was handed to Fifa, thus eating up more time.

The list of host cities was finally read out from Switzerland at the end of May 2009, more than six years after it was apparent to all and sundry that Brazil would be staging the tournament.

Anyone with any knowledge of Brazil was aware that such a delay was asking for problems. Throw in time spent on bureaucratic enclaves and political in-fighting and it was clear work would be running behind schedule.

"There are countries which suffer natural disasters and need to reconstruct everything on an emergency basis," commented Brazilian architectural and engineering specialist Jose Roberto Bernasconi last week. "We create our own emergencies without any necessity."

Emergencies have to be paid for. The 2014 show will go ahead on time, but to ensure that it does, public money will have to be thrown at it, and some urban transport projects may well have to be cut or scaled back.

The 2014 World Cup, then, comes with two strong probabilities - one, that the hard-pressed Brazilian tax payer will shell out more than he/she should and two, the return to that tax payer is likely to fall short of what might be expected.

Perhaps we can add a third - that some of the most dazzling football played will come from the Brazil team. The products of football's fierce meritocracy, drawn from diverse backgrounds, Brazil's players will surely combine to produce some moments that make them, in the words of American sociologist Janet Lever "a living register of society's potential".

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) I'd be interested to know if you've ever put any thought to the idea that Brazilian clubs might in the future begin to dominate the Libertadores due to greater financial muscle than other South American clubs. Obviously in recent years with the expanding Brazilian economy, the clubs have benefited and many Brazilian stars have returned in recent years. I was wondering if you thought that if this trend were to continue say over the next 10-15 years, Brazilian clubs might pull away and monopolise the competition.
Andrew Keys

A) I've written stuff along these lines a few times, always to a furious response from Argentine readers! In the last couple of years we've seen four Brazilian clubs in the last eight, with only Estudiantes reaching the same stage from Argentina. As the article states, there is the possibility of five Brazilians in the last eight this time. Never write off the Argentines, though. They have a tendency to grow at the vital moment - they have won out the last five times they've met Brazilian opposition in the final.

Looking ahead, it's far from clear that the current strength of the Brazilian currency is sustainable - the country is finding it hard to export anything manufactured - and this might level out the playing field a little. Football is always dynamic, also, and it will be fascinating to see how Argentine clubs react. One thing for a start - they have to improve the standard of their goalkeeping.


  • Comment number 1.

    "Dias is an opposition politician seeking to embarrass the government and he was more likely making mischief rather than presenting a serious suggestion."

    I'd love to see you as a politics editor!

  • Comment number 2.

    It just adds to the farcical nature of FIFA's bidding system.

  • Comment number 3.

    Can we have it then?!

    I agree with the idea of spreading football around the globe, but if airports will be operating above capacity does this not mean safety is going to be comprimised? Even if there is a slightly increased risk then surely it shouldn't go ahead!

  • Comment number 4.

    A most interesting, enlightening and informative article,as usual.
    A couple of queries for Tim. What has been the repercussions of the disgraceful scenes at the end of the Argentinos Jnrs. - Fluminense game when the Argentine players attacked, punched and kicked the Brazilians after they had lost 4-2? This was reminiscent of the scenes after Amir Khan was rightfully awarded the decison over the Argentine Maidana when the Argentines yet again were a disgrace when they attacked the opposition corner.
    I hate to think what will happen should the Argentines not qualify from their group in the forthcoming Copa America!
    Secondly - I was in the Monumental in Santiago last Wednesday evening and saw Colo Colo unbelievably throw away a 2-0 lead to Cerro Portenio, lose 3-2 and go out of the tournament. However I was amazed to see that at free kicks the Uruguayan referee (Larrionde?) step out the required 10 yards and then from nowhere produce a cannister of liquid and mark, in white, a line on the field where the opposing defenders had to stand. It was actually quite effective in ensuring that the 10 yards law was respected. After about 5' the white line would dissolve.
    He did this several times in the 1st half but then seemed to give up on it in the 2nd and I did not see the white line marked again.
    Is this something which is only happening in the Copa Libratadores, was this the first time this peculiar system was tried and has it the approval of F.I.F.A.?
    Thirdly - the former Argentine international Americo Gallego is making a right mess of managing Colo Colo with his ultra-defensive tactis. At 2-2 last Wednesday he had 8-9 men behind the ball which just handed the initiative to the Paraguayans. Does Gallego have much of a track record as a coach in S. America? He looked a right idiot the other night as he argued every decision given against his team, continually advanced out of the techincal area as far as the halfway line and spent the whole match waving his arms around and shouting. No wonder Colo Colo are in the bottom half of the table.

  • Comment number 5.

    As ever Mr Vickery, love the blog. What do you think are the chances of Brazil actually having to give up the right to host the World Cup should everything continue to turn sour?

  • Comment number 6.

    Why is brazilian football such an admin disaster tim? I have seen you write umpteen times on how the large clubs waste months playing nobodies in state championships, and how this undermines the national league. I can also remember a situation where 2 clubs claimed they were national champions in 1987 I think.

    Does it all come down to the CBF being effectively run by the states heads or is it something else?

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Tim,

    Very interesting read as always, first time i've commented. It seems as if theres a similar situation regarding political make up to that in Brazil, compared to the English FA. I know that the FA in England has been told to make changes, and is as a result of each local FA having members who then affect things on a national level with their voting on matters.
    Is this the same in Brazil? From what i have read, the State championships are a major issue. Too many games in a championship that seems to exist because the local FA's don't want to lose their power and the major influence they have.
    As a comparision, if we had state/county games in England, would it be the same standard as say.... in London having Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs in games with Brentford, Barnet, Dag & Red, Crystal Palace and Charlton? Or is it levels below that?
    Regarding the English FA make up, there was a report with suggestions in how to change the FA's makeup. Has such a inquiry been suggested into the Brazilian FA?

    One Final set of questions is that with 2016 olympics in Rio, how is the planning for that going? Are they having the same political issues?

    Hope your able to answer a few of these

    Thanks and keep up the great articles

  • Comment number 8.

    One Tim Vickery! There's only on Tim Vickery!

    More's the pity.

  • Comment number 9.

    @2 Simply because England didn't win the right to host the World Cup, collecting an embarrassing 2 out of 22 votes?

    Sour grapes :)

  • Comment number 10.

    (4) James Autar

    I was in Buenos Aires last November and went to Watch Boca Juniors v Argentinos Juniors & San Lorenzo v Independiente in the Argentine domestic league. During both games the referee used a canister of spray to mark out the 10 yard line for free kicks to ensure there was no encroachment from the defending team. I thought it was a superb idea and proved extremely effective. I can't understand why it hasn't been implemented in Europe yet because I assume it's been highly successful in South America.

  • Comment number 11.

    Is anyone really surprised about this? I know I'm not. I've argued to a number of years that most of the stadia and infrastructure should be ready BEFORE a country is allowed to bid for a World Cup/Olympics. Personally, it would serve FIFA right as giving it to Brazil was purely a political reason for ex President Havelange, as FIFA dumped their rotation rule soon afterwards.

    It would be funny in a few years time if FIFA have to come crawling to the FA to host the tournament after it becomes clear Brazil cannot, especially after voting for 2018 (don't forget Blatter has already said we can hold it straight away), and it will ask serious questions about the Olympics being held in Rio in 2016.

  • Comment number 12.

    @9 if it's a farcical system it's because of FIFAs rotation nonsense and the selection of a the final candidate from a field of one. Brazil itself is saying their own world cup will be no more than 'reasonable' and that just isnt good enough for the pinnacle of the sport. I sincerely wish Qatar and Russia good fortune with their competitions and that both are much more than just 'reasonable'. if Enland had won the 2018 bid, you can be pretty certain that it would have been so.

  • Comment number 13.

    I,m brazilian and I agree with everything that you wrote, unfortunately. Here everybody knows that...

  • Comment number 14.

    'Is anyone really surprised about this? I know I'm not. I've argued to a number of years that most of the stadia and infrastructure should be ready BEFORE a country is allowed to bid for a World Cup/Olympics. Personally, it would serve FIFA right as giving it to Brazil was purely a political reason for ex President Havelange, as FIFA dumped their rotation rule soon afterwards.'

    All will be fine, it always is with big sporting events. The media love to look at every world cup or olympics and tear it to pieces before it happens saying such and such won't work etc... and its chaos right up to the last minute and then its all okay. South Africa came under a lot of pre tournament press coverage about how this wasn't ready blah blah blah, so did Athens at the 04 Olympics and more recently Delhi at the 2010 commonwealth games - all 3 events were fine in the end.

  • Comment number 15.

    First of all thank you Tim,you pointed some serious gaping holes in Brazil infrastructure and administration. Well there is still lot of time left.These can be solved with good planning and proper implementation .And I know Brazil will be completely ready and prepared to host the extravaganza till 2014.Brazilians passion and love towards soccer would make it complete,and one more thing i would like to say, logo of this world cup is the best ever logo i have ever seen the world cup history.I love it muaaah....

    shama praveen,
    c tutorial

  • Comment number 16.

    I think the article is interesting but I would have liked an article more focused on the Argentinos-Flu game and what happened afterwards:
    1) The last-minute penalty which enabled Flu to qualify should never have been given (if the game had finished 2-3, Uruguayan team Nacional would have qualified instead).
    2) The embarassing fighting.
    3) Apparently there will be no sanctions to the Argentinos and Flu players who took part in that fiasco?

  • Comment number 17.

    When will a decision to made whether the stadiums and infrastructure is in place for Brazil to host a successful 2014 world cup ? If, in the possible event that the answer is not positive; which South American nation will be in a position to host the tournament at short notice? I would assume that the answer to that will be none. Over to you the USA!

  • Comment number 18.

    andymac etc. - interesting reply and thanks for that. I am still wondering though if they have FIFA authorisation to use these cannisters of spray to mark the 10 yards line. I agree, it is a good idea and does help to prevent encroachment.
    Pablo: It should be pointed out that the Fluminense players were only protecting themselves from typical Argentine 'thuggery' which was disgraceful. Why the police did not intervene was unbelievable. Perhaps they were Argentinos Juniors supporters!

  • Comment number 19.

    4 - you've been very hard on gallego, who has a fine track record as a coach (as well as winning the World Cup as a player). He took over a team in crisis that can't defend, managed to tighten them up a bit, but not enough- i'm sorry to see Colo Colo eliminated- of the 32 teams, they were the 2nd top scorers.

    The spray thing was pioneered in Brazil, then taken up by Argentina and adopted by Conmebol. It is excellent - can't think why it's not universal.

  • Comment number 20.

    7 - the State Championships in Brazil are far worse than you could possibly conceive - the clubs you mentioned (lesser London clubs) have supporters - many thousands of them. Some of the small clubs in the Brazilian state comptitions have none - they represent no one.

    Here in Rio the local federation have been trying to cover up the size of the disaster. For games involving 2 small teams they put 900 tickets on sale - and announce afterwards that 900 were sold. But this is a mere accountancy exercise - the real number of tickets sold is so derisively small that it shows up just how meaningless the whole thing has become.

    It is extraordinary that the big clubs still consent to a calendar that forces them to spend so long playing such tiny teams.

  • Comment number 21.

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

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Tim, great stuff as usual. Same problem in Colombia with the U-20 World Cup. Colombia was chosen in 2008 to host the tournament, but only last year the local authorities started working on the different stadia. However, only a few details remain to be finished and all looks set for kick-off. The World Cup is maybe 100 times more difficult to organize than a U-20, but I'm sure Brazil will deliver. It may not be as perfectly organized as a WC in Europe, but will compensate with atmosphere, exotic destinations, beautiful women, booze, etc. European tourists know that Latinamerica is not perfect, so they won't mind a few bumps on the road.

  • Comment number 23.

    One Tim Vickery! There's only on Tim Vickery!

    More's the pity.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 24.

    @ #16 Pablo. You claim Fluminense 4th goal wasnt a penalty, but how about Argentinos Juniors penalty!? It was clearly not a penalty!!!! Either way, Fluminense deserved the win, be at 4-2 or 3-1. In regards to the fight at the end, it was clear the Fluminense players didn´t want to fight, but celebrate. The Fluminense players were trying to calm down Argentinos Juniors players, but all the Argentinos Juniors players wanted was a fight, why? because they couldnt handle the defeat! They should be banned from next years Libertadores or Sudamericana if they manage to qualify. There behaviour shouldn´t be tolerated! It was pathetic!!! I dont blame the Fluminense players for fighting back eventually. The Police wernt helping, so they had to defend themselves, who wouldnt!? Once again Fluminense produce yet another miracle!! Could they go on to win it Tim? Time de Guerreiros!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Tim, the difference between the south africa bid and the brazilian bid is arrogance. The south africans knowing that they had a big problem with corruption outsourced the most important parts, ie improving the airports (which they did a great job) and building the stadiums. The main importance of the bid to the south african leaders was to show the world that africa could host a world cup and bring it's people together, both of which they had great success. In brazil they thought that as they have a great team and can dance samba everything would come together. The reality has been political infighting between states and a lot of inactivity. With brazil's booming economy there also isnt a huge labour force sitting idle ready to build the stadiums so its doubtful they could be ready intime even if lots of taxpayers money is thrown at it. The sad thing is that the brazilian politicians care more about their cut then bringing a great world cup to their people.

  • Comment number 26.

    @fluzafao: I'm not sure about the Argentinos penalty. It's not a clear penalty, but I'm not sure if it was a penalty or not. And I agree that Argentinos are "more guilty" than Fluminense, and their players should be banned from international competition for a few matches. And the same for the -few- Flu players who retaliated. Also the Argentinos Juniors ground should be banned. But apparently Conmebol has said NOTHING about that. NOTHING. The sad thing is that I'm not surprised!

  • Comment number 27.

    How funny, if Brazil aren't able to host the world cup the only country which would be able to host it at such short notice would be the country they constantly ignore and unfairly treat.

  • Comment number 28.

    Haven't there been any FIFA inspections, allied to strongly coded rebukes, if this is so far behind schedule? After all, the IOC has been inspecting London regularly since 2005 and almost all aspects have received favourable reports, particularly in the areas of construction.

    We've seen that footballers tend to play better if they know they will be sold to a lesser club if they don't improve sharpish? Isn't it about time FIFA et al introduced just such a threat according to a pre-defined schedule to ensure that miscreants, as opposed to the taxpayers of the host nation, take the hit in reputational, financial and political terms????

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for the reply Tim,

    This State championship issue is fascinating. The extent of my knowledge comes from your articles and playing Football Manager - which has Brazilian players playing over 70 games in a season from the 38 game First division, plus the State championship and the Copa Libertadores. Is this the case in reality? Also having seen the past history for State championships, it would appear that the same teams seem to win - although the occasional underdog makes it to a final.

    In your opinion are there any positive reasons for having the state championships? The thought i have is that in the English football pyramid system, teams at 4-5 levels below League 2 start having supporters in the single and double figures. If you were a club at this level and had the chance to play Man Utd, or say your biggest local team like Norwich/Ipswich, or Newcastle, then you'd love the opportunity. I guess as more money comes into Brazilian football, the FA must be under pressure to cut back the State championship. Are there TV rights?

    Thanks for your insight as i believe that this state championship is an example of football authorities hampering the very sport that it was set up to help.

  • Comment number 30.

    Great article, as always. Happy just reading along with the comments but was just wondering what you meant by 'a mere accountancy exercise' in the response you put?

  • Comment number 31.

    I can't believe what i've just read!! Incredible. Is it Brasil's fault for being so ill-prepared, or Fifa's? Shouldn't they have put down the criteria to be met when the bidding process began? Shouldn't Brasil have been required to go through the bidding process even if they were the only bidder in order to outline how they were going to host such a huge event?!!!
    I baffles me that 3 years before the 1st game is due to kick off a country's preparations can be in such a mess!
    I'm all for rotating which continent hosts, but not if that means a poor tournament as a result! Surely they should have been given a deadline to make their proposal, along with any other South American nations, and, if the criteria of that proposal and deadline were not met then the process could be opened up to other countries?!
    ...............How has Blatter been there so long conducting the joke that is FIFA?!

  • Comment number 32.

    @Pablo If you think about it, what human being would stand there and just take a punch and remain calm. Just watch the end of the game again Pablo, you will see the Fluminense players trying to calm down the Argentinos Juniors players. Once one of the Fluminense players got hit, and the Argentinian Police failed to break up the fight, then the whole fight arruputed, because other Fluminense players clearly wanted to stick up for their team mates, what kind of friends wouldnt? From the images that the TV showed of the game, I would find it an absolute disgrace if the Conmebol even considered condemning any of the Fluminense players. As for Argentinos Juniors players, the ones who persisted on fighting, and threw punches should be banned, just like Navarro of Valencia was punished for his actions against Inter Milan in the Champions League.

  • Comment number 33.

    Don't forget a number of the stadia and infrastructure has to be ready in 2 years, as they host the Confederations Cup, in a pre World Cup tournament.

    What happens if Brazil cannot host this? Will FIFA then take the 2014 World Cup away from Brazil ?

  • Comment number 34.

    @29 yes, that's the case. I'll take São Paulo's example as it's the most absurd. in their state championship, there are 20 clubs. in the first stage, they play against each other. the first 8 (yes, 8 from 20) qualify to the playoffs. so if you win it, you play 19+4=23 games (the final is played in two games, while there's only one game in quarter and semi-finals). Santos is currently playing the Libertadores, having played 20 games in the Paulistão + 6 in the Copa Libertadores, so it's 26. They are guaranteed at least 2 more games in the Libertadores and one more in the Paulistão, with the 38 games in the First Division, they will play AT LEAST 67 games this year. They'll play more than 70 games if they win either the Libertadores or the Paulistão.

    About the FA's, as Tim said, CBF (who organizes the Brasileirão) is supported by the local federations (who organize their state championships). So CBF itself would lose power in exchange for a balanced calendar, hence why we're in this awful situation.

    now about the level of the championships, I can talk about the one in my state, the Gauchão, but I believe it's similar in other states. people that defend the state championships say that football in certain cities will disappear if their clubs don't play against the big teams from the big cities, and it's true that the big clubs (here it's Inter and Gremio) are what keep the state championship alive with the TV rights.

    however, every year we see clubs in financial difficulties, and aside from two other medium-sized clubs (Caxias and Juventude) who never get relegated in the Gauchão, there's a huge rotation, and even with the Gauchão a lot of clubs have simply closed doors because of financial problems. so, if TV rights are being sold for their highest price ever, and the small clubs spend much more than they can to TRY to be competitive, surely there's something really wrong with this formula!

    there's a cultural problem too, because (and this is why I'm a big fan of English football) almost no one support a local small team without supporting a bigger one (and they rarely support their local team, it's usually only the big one). so people in smaller cities love to see a team from the capital play in their town, but ask them if they're going to see a game between their team and another minor one!

    what usually happens is that if your rival visits your city, you'll watch with that team's supporters, but if it's your team, you'll sit with your team's supporters.

    and back to what you said about the winners, there's this too. in states with two big clubs, the only possibility of having a different outcome is if one of the clubs is in crisis. with better administration and financial stability, the chance of a smallish club winning a championship decreases every year. take São Paulo again, for example. there are 4 big clubs in São Paulo. in the long first stage, they were in the top four positions. all of them won their quarter-final games, so one of them will be the champion. what was the need for 19 games again?

    an all-London competition is not even the best example, it's more like getting Arsenal, Man. Utd, Chelsea and Man. City (today's top four), adding two clubs from First Division, 2 from League One and Two and the rest (ten) from Conference and below. imagine the outcome...


    tl;dr: state championships are a burden.

  • Comment number 35.

    Does this mean England could host the 2014 world cup because we do not need as much preparation as we are a 'easy choice' and could adapt quickly for hosting?

  • Comment number 36.

    fluzaofan - you are absolutely correct. The Argentines started the punch-up and even then the Brazilian players tried to just run away without retaliating but were forced to defend themsleves. All the Argentine sides remaining in the competiion should be thrown out and only then might the Argentines cease this 'thuggery' that is all too typical of their nation.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm English and i have no desire to see the world cup here in place of Brazil. My wife is Brazilian and my son is too. Being a regular visitor and having plans to settle there, I have made plans to be there for the World Cup. Its an amazing country with a vibrancy like no where i've ever been before. Even if it ends up being a mediocre WC due to issues with airports etc, the spirit of the place, the people and their love and passion for all things football will more than make up for it. I really hope they grasp the opportunity and put political matters aside for the sake of all those who will enjoy it. See you there!

  • Comment number 38.

    One thing that Tim hasn't said (of course,since this kinds of people are likely to sue him, as they have done to countless journalists before, I don't blame him) is the real reason as to why these things took so long to be done:
    The process leading to the bids to get the contracts for any major scale construction or service in Brazil is a complex and well regulated one by the law 8666/1993, designed to get the lower prices and best services and to avoid corruption (of course, it's not always effective, but it certainly has been an improvement).
    The main exception to this is for emergency situations (a mechanism designed for cases such as natural disasters or other calamities, but can and). So, if the process takes a long time, and reaches a point that things are so delayed the situation is critical, it can be considered an emergency, and so the government can hire ANYONE paying ANY PRICE.
    This means the politicians can, and certainly will, hire their friends, relatives, and people who have donated money to their campaigns. And of course, the people who brought the World Cup to Brazil (Blatter, Teixeira and friends) will get their share.

    This also explains why FIFA is much more likely to bring the World Cup to countries like Qatar (pretty much a feudal dictatorship) and Russia (Putin and allies made it like a police state run by mobsters) than the likes of UK, Australia and USA.

  • Comment number 39.

    #29- It is true. If Santos, for example, reaches both the Paulista and Libertadores finals, it will end the season with 75 games.

    And it used to be worse: in 1993, Flamengo played 102 games. That's right, one hundred and two games.

  • Comment number 40.

    Thanks Falcao79 for a piece of insight into the Brazilian setup.

    Just a quick point about visiting away games, i know Brazil is a big country so its hard to visit all over the place, but i guess with State championships its not as far to travel. Do you know what value clubs put on the State championship? Would it bee seen as the Carling cup is in England? A distraction at the beginning, but if u can come close to winning, you start using ur best team?

    Tim i don't know if you could help, but when the teams in the old Division One broke away to form the Premier League, could something similar happen with Brazil? i know the Premier league and FA situation isn't perfect, but as a set up, its hard to rival - despite having a few floors. Could a top 20 break away and form a Brazil Super league - playing just the best teams in Brazil, and therefore get more TV money?

    From an outside point of view, it does seem as though the State Championships are from a bygone era - when football was still amateur. Now football is professional, does it really need to be in this format? Maybe a State Cup would be preferable?

    Tim touched on it, regarding attendances, but Falcao79 have u visited some State games? I've had a look at alot of the teams that play in the state championships - it says most have capacity stadiums of over 10,000. But then i know in France, every major and minor town must have a "stade" that is usually of decent standard.

    I agree, perhaps London not the best example as for a city, it has an exceptional number of teams. Take Liverpool instead. We all know that Liverpool and Everton are the top 2. But who else are nearby? Tranmere Rovers, but then after than u go about 3-4 league below that. Is the quality of football that good? I just don't understand the appeal of a competition like this? Take the European Cup winners cup. That was ended as it wasn't felt a good competiton (that was the first euro comp i saw manchester united win - so i thought it was pretty good!). But the Champions league has changed no end in the last 15 years. Yet look how successful it is.

    Tim i'd like to ask have u been to many State championship games? and whats the atmosphere like?

    Its fascinating to learn so much about a competition that so many Brazilian stars must have played it, yet i know so little about it!

  • Comment number 41.

    @40 it's a competition that you're EXPECTED to win, but, if you do, don't expect anyone to remember it when the season is over. if you lose (most states have two big teams, so one will lose), the coach will probably be fired, unless you're doing well in the Copa Libertadores or the Brazilian Cup.

    for example, last year our rivals Gremio won the Gauchão (in May). in August, they fired their coach, brought an old idol and then qualified for the Copa Libertadores with a superb late season streak. when the season was over, there wasn't a single word about the Gauchão.

    there's also pressure from the media so the teams use their best possible team, especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo where you have 3 rivals. I suppose that in Rio and São Paulo the supporters press a bit because of this too, but here in Rio Grande do Sul it's fairly common to rest players for the Copa Libertadores and Copa do Brasil games, and if it's all going well in these competitions the supporters understand when the best players are given a rest.

    this year I haven't been to any Gauchão game, I don't really care anymore. I could go if I wanted (I pay a monthly fee to go to every game I want in Porto Alegre), but I won't lose 2 hours in traffic jams for a Gauchão game.

    the atmosphere in a Gauchão game is much less tense than it's in other games, you know your team is better and will lose the game only if it plays REALLY bad. you go to have fun, we (Internacional) had two 8x1 victories in 2008 and 2009 in the final against smaller teams. in the Copa Libertadores it's a big game atmosphere and in the Brasileirão it's balanced, it's the kind of game you want to see your team at least play well or fight for the result, even if the victory doesn't come.

    this weekend we had a lot of derbies. here are the attendances (paid tickets):
    Flamengo-Fluminense (derby): 20.466 ; Vasco-Olaria (big vs. small club): 22.867; Bahia-Vitória (derby): 21.458; América-Atlético Mineiro (you could call it a derby, but Cruzeiro-Atlético is the bigger one): 2.818; Atlético Paranaense-Coritiba (derby, Coritiba won the derby and the title): 19.132; São Paulo-Portuguesa (not a derby, but Portuguesa could be called the 5th biggest team in São Paulo): 11.134; Santos-Ponte Preta, 11.225; Palmeiras-Mirassol: 16.653, Corinthians-Oeste: 28.000+

    except for the América stadium (I actually don't know where this game occurred), the capacities of the other stadiums are all above 30.000, and all of the games were hosted in big stadiums.

    my team (Internacional) played away, in Caxias do Sul against Juventude, and the attendance was 13.000 from a total capacity of 25.000. 4.500 of that were my team's supporters, while the rest was from Juventude.

    I believe that the biggest interest is in the derbies. People basically wait 4 months to see their team playing their rivals in a final or a semifinal of the state championship, but I'm really not convinced that this is necessary, especially because everything's forgotten when the Brasileirão begins. I believe people just get (partially) interested in what's available, although it's clear that the state championships are not in their top priorites (especially because it begins in January, in the middle of the summer vacations). if the Brasileirão began in March, and until then the teams just prepared for it and the cups (Copa do Brasil and Libertadores), the Brasileirão would have a much better level and wouldn't have fixture congestion.

    the other guys (fluzao,Mengo2008) and Tim can talk better about Rio and São Paulo though, my view is from a state with two teams in the first division that are currently playing in the Copa Libertadores, another one in the third division and two in the fourth division, with more 10 that play the state championship and close doors until a "filler" competition begins in september, in preparation for the following year (mind you, some clubs don't even play this filler cup, they simply close doors until the next year). imagine Everton and Liverpool wasting almost 20 games in this sort of competition.

  • Comment number 42.

    just an addendum, the teams we scored 8x1 in the 2008 and 2009 finals were Caxias and Juventude, the biggest ones after Inter and Gremio, so you can imagine the sort of "challenge" the tiny clubs provide when Inter and Gremio are in top form.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think thah my country Brazil...was precipitade...In our country there are more serious problem ...such as social distortion since the economic rise is only experienced by a minority ...
    We have a greats futebol players ...But , we don´t have great team ...I hope ..that all rigth during world cup ....But , You english guy´s don´t expect a great transpot sistem ...during world cup...the rest will work very well , new stadums . beautiful girls , We are campaigning for Iron Maiden to the show's opening world cup

  • Comment number 44.


    I agree that the State Championships have many problems and some logic problems.

    But I disagree with Tim that they resist ONLY because of the CBF system.

    The media is still interested in the state championships. And the big clubs, who would most likely be the ones wanting to end the State Championships, according to Tim, also dont push to ending them, and there isnt really anything on the horizon suggesting any big club will stop playing them.

    The supporters themselves, while not giving big attendances in games, still hook up to watch the matches on TV. (state championships rarely go Pay Per View as brazilian league matches... most of the big club matches are shown on open air tv) and TVs are paying big money for some of the state championships, which prove they HAVE viewership.

    Tim´s ideas, right or wrong, are not shared by a majority of the media (everyone in the table argued against his viewpoints in one program of SporTV channel he took part and commented for the ending of state leagues), although is true that some other people of the media agree with him (Juca Kfouri is a good example).

    I created a topic about the subject on a Grêmio forum with 450 thousand members, and I would say about 85% of the people criticised me for even suggesting ending the Rio Grande do Sul league.

    So yeah, really, its MUCH more complicated than just politics. Tradition is also a BIG part of it.

  • Comment number 45.

    The state championships COULD BE good, but they aren't. They were killed by many causes, it's subject for an article not a comment. The point people should see is that this causes are also present in the national championship and Copa Libertadores. The difference from those to the state championships is size. The smaller suffers first.

    In short: to finish the state championships is to treat the symptoms, not the disease.

  • Comment number 46.

    Re 44


    I can spend a whole night in a bar talking about Gauchão problems, and it would probably not be enough. But I can also spend the same amount of time arguing on why it's better to have it even as bad as it is than ending it.


  • Comment number 47.

    Re 42

    Where Grêmio was in those years?

  • Comment number 48.

    @44 - Given the fact that its the only thing Gremio can ever win these days, they aren't exactly gonna vote it out. That competitive makes the Scottish Premier League look ultra-competitive.

    I agree slightly with some of your sentiments Tim. I do wonder how much of these state championships are used to bolster the clubs images and especially that of their players abroad. If a player smashes in 25 goals against a few amateur sides, it might be quite easy to dupe some Hungarian side to spend some money on their sixth choice centre-foward.

    I do wonder too if some of these political dinosaurs at clubs in Brazil use the state championships to project an image of success at the club. Sort of the way, Newcastle go on about their 1973 Anglo-Italian cup victory or Intertoto success a few years back.

  • Comment number 49.

    #37: prior to the SA WC, my daughter worked in Jo'burg, and my wife visited. They went on safari in Botswana and Zambia. They had similar feelings about SA as you do about Brazil, indeed my wife's making her fourth African trip this year, and has similar feelings about Madagascar, Ugranda and Kenya.

    #38: unfortunately, multinational bodies where many impoverished countries dominate the voting tend to massive corruption and self-serving decision-making. This extends to the UN as well as sports bodies.

    #43: another similarity with SA, where the urgent priority was reliable power to take advantage of the coal and minerals boom. Many projects were closed or did not proceed because of their need for reliable power supplies, investors went elsewhere. Power stations and transmission lines would have improved living conditions and led to much-needed economic and employment, empty stadia won't provide that.

  • Comment number 50.

    @47 in 2008 Gremio started with a new coach that was fired in February, they brought in a new one that was dumped out of the Copa do Brasil, and then lost in the quarter-finals to Juventude. in 2009 I have to correct myself, because we beat Gremio in the final of the first stage (the championship was played in two stages, just like the Campeonato Carioca is traditionally played, I recommend reading the its entry in the Wikipedia to understand the format) and we were pitted against Gremio in the quarter-finals of the second stage. so we (Internacional) won both rounds, and the 8x1 final was actually the final of the second stage.

    so in 2008 Gremio had its share of problems, and in 2009 we were pitted against each other. in the last 50 years, only TWICE didn't Inter or Gremio win the State Championship, in 1998 (Juventude) and 2000 (Caxias), times when Inter had terrible financial problems and Gremio was probably involved in Copa Libertadores.


    @44 it can hit back too, Taison (now in Metalist Kharkiv) had an amazing Gauchão in 2009, then totally faded away in the Brasileirão, was a substitute for most part of 2010 and then was (IMO correctly) sold when a good offer came.

  • Comment number 51.

    Could the big teams not play their academy/reserve teams in the state championships? And use their best players only as game practice for pre-season or if returning from injury?

    Guess what I am asking is are the teams under an obligation to field their best teams in the state champs?

  • Comment number 52.

    I cant help but feel like this is de ja vu from pre-South Africa 2010. All the media talk was about how bad the transport infrastructure was and concerns over crime and security. I see the nay saying and doubters have already begun for 2014. Brazil will look to South Africa as proof that all those potential problems can be overcome and I have no doubt that the tournament will be a huge success as was the case in South Africa.

    London may have a transport system in place but it is extremely unreliable, overpriced and run by clueless idiots. I don't see any of this reported in the media as concerns for 2012 when they very much should be.

  • Comment number 53.

    Tim you have fostered a revolution and mini wiki on Brazilian football!

    Roberto_Mexicano good point Tim discussed this in blog discussion last year about FIFA´s role.

    Anyway to lighten the discussion is there any truth in the rumour the Mascot for the 2014 WC is a SLOTH named QUASE!

  • Comment number 54.

    Tim... good article but a scary glimpse into 2014.

    It may be that after South Africa went off with no major incidents, FIFA may have lowered their expectations with regards to the World Cup, especially one hosted in the Third World. Brazil still affords lots of hotels, tourism and the kind of tourist interest that countries don't like talking about i.e., prostitution and drugs. I remember reading about the 2006 World Cup in a Portuguese magazine, and the big selling point as to why anybody should go to Germany to watch the World Cup was the idea of the "Super Brothels".

    I think more important than the Stadiums is the point you raise about the airports, especially with the rash of airplane crashes the country has seen in the last few years. This to me should take central stage with regards to World Cup preparations.

  • Comment number 55.

    I have no doubt that the 2014 World Cup will go ahead, and that it will be remembered fondly for years afterwards by the thousands who visit and the billions who follow it on TV. Foreigners will love it.
    The sting, though, is in the tail of the article - will the local population receive value for their money - when the World Cup was announced, the people were sold the idea that the money for stadiums would be private - a few years down the line, that money is nearly all public.
    In the developing world, where there are so many pressing priorities, the success or otherwise of a World Cup must surely primarily take into account the issue of whether the exercise has proved worthwhile for the local population.

  • Comment number 56.

    @ 11: while I understand why you say what you do, the flaw in your reasoning is that the only justification for the huge investment required to stage a mega sporting event nowadays is the expected return from that event. Hence you will never get 2 candidates (much less 6 to 8) all building the required infrastructure on the off-chance that they will be awarded the event.

  • Comment number 57.

    @ 14: I think that in putting all the blame on the media you are ignoring the potent influence of corruption in all this. The fact that the media has a tendency to 'create' storms in teacups tends to blind us to the vital role it performs as a watchdog. One sad factor in staging mega events is that corrupt organizers and politicians all want their cut, and delays are a weapon used by corrupt entrepreneurs to leverage add on payments. The scale of this can be appreciated in the fact that (as I remember it, though Tim and others can perhaps provide more precise figures) the Rio Pan-American Games were originally budgeted at US$400m and wound up costing more than US$4b !!!
    This is one of the prime characteristics of "third world" but "first world" countries aren't immune to it. The unions crippled the UK shipbuilding industry using similar tactics (with vessels consistently delivered late and over-budget), for example.

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 29: all the problems associated with the crowded schedule, regional and wealth disparities, travel (Brazil is the size of Europe, so the national league involves the sort of journeys you only see in the European competitions) would be resolved by having a three-tier national competition and making the rest regional, with the four (?) regional champions automatically promoted to the third division. The championships could be spread out over a longer period, so you don't need to play two league games a week, allowing time for national and regional cup games and the continental championships (Libertadores and Sul-Americana) to be better scheduled in between. It seems so obvious, and yet vested interests hold back any progress in this area.

  • Comment number 59.

    All this talk about the Brazilian state championship prompted me to Look at the great site that is RSSSF. And I decided to check when was the last time a small team won the state championship where big Brazilian teams play:
    Gaucho (Rio Grande do Sul): Caxias (2000)
    Mineiro (Minas Gerais): Ipatinga (2005)
    Carioca (Rio): Bangu (1966!)
    Paulista (SP): Ituano (2002)(*) and Bargantino (1990)

    (*) apparently there were 2 championships in 2002

    obviously, they can not be eliminated, but can't they change the format, similar to World Cup/Champions' League? Or maybe even the Catalunya Cup, where the two big teams join in the semifinal...

  • Comment number 60.

    @ 35: while the UK would be the obvious alternative, don't get your hopes up. Brazil has a way of muddling through in the end (the "jeitinho") and the national humiliation that is the alternative would be too high a political price either for the country or for FIFA. So it will go ahead and probably be a success (except perhaps for the national team, for despite the pressure to win on home turf, to make up for the 1950 "tragedy", it is asking an awful lot), due to the country's huge cultural richness and warmth of its people. And the taxpayer, as usual, will be the one to pick up the tab (Brazilians pay a huge proportion of their wealth in taxes - direct and indirect - and get very little in return, sadly). Hopefully, as with the Commonwealth Games in India, in the wake of the event there will be a serious investigation into what was done wrong and who benefited, but unless there is a huge backlash against corruption among the population I can't see any tangible results coming out of it.

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 40: there's no comparison. The only value of the state championships are as a kind of competitive 'pre-season' - putting together your team for the national championship and the cup competitions - and for local bragging rights. Perhaps the Charity Shield is the only thing in England that bears any similarity.

  • Comment number 62.

    @59 Pablo, just adding to your data, in 2002 Ituano won an empty Paulista, because all top six sides played the Rio-Sao Paulo instead - a competition including only the main clubs of these two states. Corinthians won the Rio-Sao Paulo in that year.

  • Comment number 63.

    again @59 and just to complement, I totally agree with you. The state championships, with the participation of big clubs, could remain as a very short, world cup style type of tournment to be played in the pre-season, with 6 or 7 dates only.

    They could still be played as season long leagues only by the small sides that are not in the national first and second divisions though. I defend that these state competitions should qualify their top teams to a national cup to be played at the end of the season, that would replace the national third division - meaning the state leagues would virtually become a way into the national league, rather than meaningless stand alone contests - in a way that works here with your south/north conferences.

  • Comment number 64.

    Great blog Tim!

    I can’t read Tim’s mind but I think he wanted to say that it is sad to have a WC that doesn’t reach its full potential. It is a great opportunity to build a much needed infrastructure; that would even foster Brazil’s economic development. But it won’t happen as needed.

    I think the facts about Brazil’s 2014 WC are:

    1) Stadia will be ready; but overpriced and paid mostly with public money. That was one of Tim’s points. Another point was that some stadia will be almost useless after the WC. In fact, there are more stadia than FIFA required because that pleases state FAs in Brazil and Ricardo Teixeira needs that to perpetuate himself in power;

    2) There will be air transportation problems, just like in 2010 WC. But this only means that there will be many flight delays and crowded airports (and all the stress associated to that). That is what (I think) Tim meant with airport capacity problems. Brazilian air traffic control works OK, with the same European standards;

    3) Another problem associated to air transportation is that Rio and São Paulo works as major hubs. So if you are traveling around Brazil, the odds of passing by Rio or São Paulo are huge and delays or cancelled flights will happen;

    4) Final concern related to airports is that most of them don’t have efficient public transportation to hotels. Odds of using taxi are high. The same will happen on the way to stadia;

    5) Those that come to Brazil will have a lot of fun.

  • Comment number 65.

    @ Tims reply at 55 and BLRBrazil 60 - yes, there are some people here jumping up and down with a potential last minute change of venue, or concerns for how that is going to pan out as an event - some guy has even mentioned fear of air crashes! Nonsense. Eventually it will turn out to be a great occasion for football fans, stadia will be alright, airports will cope with some headaches, everybody will have a great time and the football will be rightly celebrated.

    As Tim rightly puts it, the only people that should be worried are the Brazilian taxpayers - myself included - as we will be the ones footing the bill - it needn't be that way.

  • Comment number 66.

    @48: the Gauchão is the only thing Grêmio can win these days? What the hell are you talking about??

    the team finished the brazilian league in 3rd in 2006, 2nd in 2009 and 4th in 2010.

    add to that a 2nd place in 2007 Libertadores and a semifinal in 2009!

    and you say the nonsense the state championship is the only thing Grêmio can win these days???

    btw, as if Grêmio was the ONLY big brazilian club not wanting the state championships to go away. The state championships are the BEST safeguard for winning a title, for ANY big brazilian club.

  • Comment number 67.

    Phil - was wondering if you'd heard about the "World's Largest Football Flag", which was recently unveiled by Peñarol (of Uruguay...) in their recent Copa Libertadores game against Independiente...

    Cheeky request, but as a recently arrived Brit and convert to the delights of Uruguayan football and Peñarol in particular, it would be great if you could get a couple of pics onto the main site!! ;)

  • Comment number 68.

    as for the whole World Cup problems... while some states are spending money on white elephant giant public stadiums, in Porto Alegre, there will be TWO stadiums ready for the World Cup... one of them, Grêmio Arena, will be UEFA standart (better than FIFA) and capacity for 53 thousand people, will be completed in 2012 and will be entirely private. And it wont even be selected for the World Cup!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 69.

    I think state championships will never end. But it shouldn’t be so long.

    Brazilian fans are very demanding and this competition is a good excuse to placate the fans. Just to give two examples on how demanding fans may be. Internacional and Santos have both qualified to the next round of Libertadores. But both teams changed their coach because they were playing “ugly football”. Fans demanded smashing wins.

    At last, teams playing Libertadores usually rest their players - as much as possible – at state championships.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 66: while recognising that Grémio are a BIG club and you are right to defend them against dismissive comments, you haven't actually refuted Aardvaark's argument - he did say WIN, after all :o)
    Having read further comments, I feel I may have underestimated the importance in Brazil of "local bragging rights". Taking Aces' RGdS point, the state has 2 BIG clubs, both located in the capital of Porto Alegre. Both clubs have a long and glorious history, but Brazil has another 4 teams from SP and RJ and 2 in MG that are similarly strong and with glorious pasts, not to mention teams in Bahia, Paraná, Pernambuco and elsewhere that, in addition to their strong local rivalries, occasionally do well at the national level. That's a lot of competition for continental and national trophies. How much easier it is, then, to engage in bitter local rivalries with just one or, at most 3, other clubs in order to sustain the reputation of the club's management (ownership and management is still far from transparent or professional) and its policies. So perhaps the entrenchment of the state championships is intricately linked with the CBF/state power structure and there is sufficient support among the fan base to keep it going. One must wonder, however, just how much importance the clubs really attach to it.
    As a source of revenue, it surely doesn't match what could be obtained from fewer, more meaningful games in packed stadiums. And staying with the 'Gaucho' theme, I am sure that this year (unlike Europe, the season is an annual event, beginning in January and ending in December) Grémio's priorities will be 1) Libertadores; 2) National championship (where there is not only a title but qualification for the following year's Libertadores at stake); and following a less successful year (failure to qualify for the Libertadores) the Sul-Americana and Brazil Cup campaigns would also rank above the state championship.

  • Comment number 71.

    #37 Its an amazing country with a vibrancy like no where i've ever been before.

    No one is doubting that Brazil is an amazing country, and that the people don't have a passion for football. But at the end of the day do I want to travel there to watch the World Cup in half completed stadiums and the hassle of trying to get from one venue to another on half completed roads and non-existent airports. Afterall its not as if Brazil is a small country. Plus it is a country that has it fair share of gun crime? The world cup will go ahead in Brazil as planned, but as those on Dragon Den might say; "For those reasons I'm out and I shall not be investing in FIFA's iffy enterprise.

  • Comment number 72.

    PS: just to clarify, when I said "another 4 from SP and RJ" I of course meant in each of those states, making 12 really BIG clubs in Brazil, plus more than a dozen that are also able to compete at the top table. It is FAR more competitive than any of the European leagues. Even in the PL, there are only 6 clubs that can harbour any serious title ambitions for next season, while most of the rest are competing, basically, to avoid relegation. I am not foolish enough to suggest that the level here is superior, though it is improving as clubs manage to raise financing to hold onto or repatriate good players, merely that the competition is far more evenly balanced in Brazil.

  • Comment number 73.

    You have to talk about the infrastructure too. Travelling will not be easy. The only real plan I have heard about to improve transport is Tres Coracões where they are improving access by planes for the expected tourism (go the area is fabulous) to visit the home of Pele. It 3-4 hours from Rio, SP and BH.

    The interstate transport will be car or bus and the roads are tough. Don´t forget this is a continental sized country!

    Nossa, São Paulo have been building an new underground line since 2004 and it was due to open in 2008, it now has 3 stations open but they only operates til 3.30pm!!! It will be finished 2014 (but no one is saying when in 2014).

  • Comment number 74.

    @70: he said the Gauchão is the ONLY thing Grêmio CAN win these days. Not the only thing Grêmio has won lately.

    Its CLEAR that a team that in the last 5 years has made a Libertadores final and semi-final, a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place in the National League, CAN win more than the State League.

    Its the same thing as saying Arsenal or Liverpool can only win the FA Cup, since they havent won the Champions League or the Premiership in the last 5 years, no matter how well they did in both.

  • Comment number 75.

    @72 BLRBrazil, dont perpetuate this tale of competivity - there are 12 big clubs but in any given season - this one included - more than half of these 12 cannot entertain real ambitions of winning the National League, plus you said there are another dozen! out of this group that can also compete?? where are they coming from? perhaps a Coritiba here, a Atletico PR there, but very far from a dozen my friend.
    Yes there is a big rotation of which clubs are doing well - for example in one sason Flamengo, Sao Paulo and Palmeiras fight for the title, the next its Fluminense Cruzeiro and Corinthians, the next yet a different group, say Gremio, Inter and Santos - however at the end of the day its only a small group of 3 or 4 that have real chances of winning it, in any given year, just like any other European league.

    Actually, the rotation of teams at the top is in fact an evidence of how things are still level at the bottom - the top teams are less resilient and loose too many points to weak clubs (mind you not because the weak ones are good, just because the top ones are so irregular) - so they take longer to secure the top spots in the table giving the impression some of the itermediate teams still have a shot - but in the league format that never really happens because the intermediate teams are, of course, rubbish as well.
    Reality is, the Championship, here in England, one might argue, is quite competitive and unpredictable, but I havent seen anyone saying that for this reason it is more attractive than the PL.

  • Comment number 76.

    #51 They could, but that never work. For example:

    In the Carioca of 2002, the big clubs from Rio (Flamengo, Botafogo, Vasco and Fluminense) all agreed to boycott the championship and only use youngsters or reserve players, while focusing on other trophies.
    But the first three all had won national and/or continental titles in the 10 years before it, while Fluminense didn't had a national trophy since 1984, and had been relegated even to the 3rd division of the Brazilian league at one point. So, what did they do? They sent their main team and ended up winning it.

    #69- In Internacional's case, it was less about ugly football and more because of their humiliating defeat against Mazembe in December, one they didn't fully recovered yet.

    As for Santos, there were some complaints about ugly football, and what was the president's answer? Simple: bring a coach that has famously said "if you want a show, go to the theather" Brilliant!

    And #74: Well, I'd say that Arsenal these days can't win even the FA Cup...

  • Comment number 77.

    Really looking forward to the 2014 WC at Brasil but obviously there are a number of issues that you've already talked about.

    The other thing is sponsorship, I heard brasil were in a minor crisis with finding sponsors and had to accept deals from smaller companies such as smoke remedy and some minor media companies.

    Of course, regardless of these issues its going to be a great world cup!

  • Comment number 78.

    I am trying to participate in this discussion but am encountering difficulties in uploading my posts, with three so far having been lost or blocked.
    @ 74: your 2nd paragraph says all that needs to be said on the matter Aces - quite agree!

  • Comment number 79.

    Sepp Blatter, Havelange, nepotism, political intrigue, infighting, disorganisation, overburdened taxpayer, 5 years behind schedule, samba...a classic cocktail for an unforgettable World Cup! I'm looking forward to it already! I think I'm going to dig up one of those sexy 1970 World Cup documentaries with the anachronistic, quintessential English gentleman narration.

  • Comment number 80.

    Life is all about struggle, challenges and counter challenges in the developing world. Hardships and trials are part and parcel of our daily existence. Be it world cup football, world cup cricket, world cup hockey or world cup kabbadi, the accent is more on the sport than on comfort and the infrastructure in the developing world. One thing is for sure: Brazil will deliver both - entertaining football and comfort to players and viewers.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 81.

    @ 75: Alex, I quite agree with your point that not all 12 big clubs, much less all the other competitive clubs, entertain serious title prospects every season. What is more, over a long season, some clubs fall away, while others go on a run of success that can carry them into the Libertadores places or even to the title. However, I would argue that the Brazilian national league is more competitive than any of the European leagues, although the Premier League has become noticeably more challenging this season and MU's probable title owes more to their superior ability to eke out points than to superior quality. Their enthralling performances of other seasons has been noticeably lacking this season, although they seem to be turning it on again as it draws to a close and their confidence is buoyed by their strengthening grip on the title.
    You challenge me to come up with a dozen clubs outside the big 12 that have been able to put up a decent fight against their more traditional rivals (not on a regular basis, admittedly), so here goes: Sport, Vitória, Portuguesa, Goiás, Atlético PR, Coritiba, Bahia, Guarani, Avaí, Ceará, Juventude, Ponte Preta, Náutico, Santo André, São Caetano, Figueirense, Fortaleza and Criciúma. That’s an extra 18, from 9 states, to choose from; all of whom have made their mark on the national competitions over the last couple of decades.

  • Comment number 82.

    @MikeyBoy: what? Smoke-Remedy? What the hell is that? And WHO were having problems finding sponsors? CBF? The Brazilian government? Individual stadiums?

    Be more specific. I never heard of anything regarding any difficulty with finding sponsors, nor about smoke-remedy.

  • Comment number 83.

    Furthermore Alex, I was at pains to point out that I wasn't suggesting for a moment that the more competitive nature of Brazilian football was an indication of superior quality. We all know that the best football in the world is played in Europe and has been for about 20 years now. But that has come at a price, with the richest clubs cornering the market on the best players and gaining increasing domination over their domestic leagues. In England it's the same 3+4, in Spain 2+3, in Italy 3+3, Portugal 3+2, Scotland 2+3, while France has become only a little more even, after long domination by Lyon, with 3 or 4 teams now among the title challengers.
    But the whole point I was making was a local one, about how the competitiveness of Brazilian football enhances the attraction of attaining local hegemony through the state championship - the big fish in a small pool syndrome.

  • Comment number 84.

    but BLRBrazil, you're just listing smaller sides that won somethig in the last two decades - they don't make the upcoming championship any better because their form now does not qualify them as serious contenders now. Moreover, we can come up with similar lists - granted not that long - even in the EPL - Portsmouth, Birmingham, Blackburn, Leeds Utd, Newcastle where all sides that not so long ago either won or fought for accolades.
    My point is that the brazilian league, in any given year, will not have more than 3 or 4 clubs that are capable of wining it - specially after the end of the play off format in 2002. I do accept that this group of 3 or 4 sides will strongly vary each year (which seems to be your point), however I dont see that as a good thing - it shows that once a club get to the top it struggles to stay there, as it looses players to Europe, is uncapable of keeping the coach etc.
    I would like to see Brazilian clubs that can be strong challengers over many years - which was the case of some teams in the 60s 70s and 80s - as I believe it would make them more recognisable internationally thus making the league itself more attractive. IMO as it is today it is just a group of so-so teams that always fail to cause an impression.


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