Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Soccer Is A Natural Resource And Brazil Is A Third-World Country

Here are the friendly games that Brazil has played since the 2006 World Cup ended:

August 16, 2006 Brazil-Norway in Oslo
September 3, 2006 Brazil-Argentina in London
September 6, 2006 Brazil-Wales in London
October 10, 2006 Brazil-Ecuador in Stockholm
November 15, 2006 Brazil-Switzerland in Basel
February 6, 2007 Brazil-Portugal in London
March 24, 2007 Brazil-Chile in Gothenburg
March 27, 2007 Brazil-Ghana in Stockholm
June 1, 2007 Brazil-England in London
June 5, 2007 Brazil-Turkey in Dortmund
August 22, 2007 Brazil-Algeria in Montpellier
September 9, 2007 Brazil-USA in Boston
September 11, 2007 Brazil-Mexico in Boston
February 6, 2008 Brazil-Ireland in Dublin
March 26, 2008 Brazil-Sweden in London

Notice anything strange about that list? Not one friendly game has been played in Brazil in the last two years. The CBF (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol) has a contract with Nike that pays something like $65 million per year (which is a pittance), and since that contract was signed the "Seleção Brasileira" has represented Nike more than it has represented Brazil. Brazilians don't have the money, generally, to buy $150 jerseys, so Nike demands that Brazil play in countries where the people do have that kind of money. Brazil is required to play its competitive "home" matches (the majority of the games listed above consider Brazil the "home" team) within Brazil's borders, or surely Brazil would play its World Cup Qualifiers in Tokyo and Berlin rather than São Paulo and Porto Alegre.

The situation is terrible, but it isn't likely to end any time soon. The CBF is run by an incompetent thief named Ricardo Teixeira whose sole qualifications for the job are being married to João Havelange's daughter and loving money more than soccer. Brazil was the reigning World Cup champion when he signed the contract with Nike, but he signed for next to nothing. One clause in the contract allowed Nike, and not the CBF, to schedule Brazil's friendly opponents and locations.

These days Brazilian players of any quality tend to leave the country to play in Europe at 18 or 19 years of age, so the Seleção is full of players that most Brazilians don't know. Lucas, who plays for Liverpool, spent only two years playing for Grêmio's professional team before leaving the country. He is Brazil's best young talent and likely to be the cornerstone of the seleção for the next ten years, but plenty of Brazilians have no idea who he is.

Teixeira has expressed his desire to end the state championships (fortunately, he almost certainly won't be able to do that) and change the Brazilian soccer schedule to conform with that of the major European championships (September to May) in order to facilitate the sale of players abroad. Like any other third-world country rich in natural resources, Brazilians no longer enjoy the fruit of Brazilian football. Football is becoming for Brazil what coffee and diamonds were in the 19th century.


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