Brazilian football mired in power play

Rio de Janeiro, April 30 (IANS) Brazil’s Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo has reiterated his desire to overhaul the country’s football calendar in a bid to revitalise its foundering domestic competitions.

But in doing so he has set the government on a collision course with the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), not to mention highlighting how political manoeuvering can shape sport in South America’s biggest country, reports Xinhua.

Speaking during an event Monday, Rebelo said it was time Brazil acted to stop the vacuum of home grown talent to European clubs.

“We are a country that has participated in every World Cup and that has won the tournament five times, more than any other team,” Rebelo said. “But we have only two percent of football’s financial wealth while England has more than 30 percent and Germany 23 percent.”

“Our clubs have missed out on international exposure and we need to make the most of the 2014 World Cup to change this panorama”.

The government last week announced the formation of a football task force charged with addressing the dire financial plight of local clubs.

The initiative, which includes a proposal to cap player salaries, could see the government waive taxes of up to $1 billion currently owed by clubs to Brazil’s treasury.

It also flags a plan to streamline the cluttered calendar by bringing it line with European football.

Under the current format, which begins in January and ends in early December, Brazil’s top-flight clubs play in two domestic championships, a cup competition and continental tournaments.

Proponents of a change say a break corresponding with the northern hemisphere summer would allow local clubs to gain international exposure by playing friendlies against Europe’s top teams during their pre-season.

There are also increasing calls for the reduction – or even abolition – of Brazil’s state championships, which last almost five months despite drawing dismal crowds and television ratings.

Rio de Janeiro’s Campeonato Carioca, which includes Brazilian giants Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco da Gama and Botafogo, has this year attracted average crowds of less than 3,000 paying fans.

The government’s pronouncement on the calendar issue was last Friday (April 26) rebuked by CBF president Jose Maria Marin via a statement on the body’s website.

“In addition to sounding like intervention, for not being the minister of sport’s duty to make changes to the calendar, the correct forums for this discussion are the CBF, the state federations and the clubs,” the statement read.

Therein lies the issue. Drawn-out state-league competitions, while seen as an anachronism to most, are vital to Brazil’s myriad lower-tier clubs who need their two matches a year against Flamengo, Corinthians et al to stay financially solvent.

Fair enough? Perhaps. If not for the fact that it is the support of those very clubs that Marin needs to stay in power.

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