Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After the 7-1 disgrace/humiliation/shame inflicted upon the “Seleção” in the semi-final by the “Nationalmannschaft”, all the pundits and políticos went ballistic—or perhaps “foot-ballistic.” They unanimously agreed that something must be done! Immediately if not sooner! About the only thing they all agreed upon, though, was to give Big Phil the heave-ho.
President Dilma opined that the main reason for Brazil’s failed football fortunes was that Brazil exports all its best talent to Europe. Unsurprisingly, her advisers had neglected to remind her that Argentina also exports all its first-rate football talent to Europe (its second-raters come to Brazil). She also said CBF (the Brazilian [strong] arm of FIFA) ought to be more “democratic” and “transparent”; she was vague on how to implement this.
Slightly less vague was the Brazilian Minister of Sport. He, a lifelong Communist, opined that we really need to get the government back into football. Minister Rebelo’s advisers had not neglected to remind him that two days prior, the astonishingly misnomered Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria, had sacked each and every member of his country’s equivalent to CBF; one day later, FIFA summarily banned Nigerian football teams from participating in international football.
Forewarned, the Minister mumbled that the government ought not appoint CBF members or (heresy!) dictate CBF rules, but “you know, hey, gee whiz” the government really ought to do something to “protect” the players and fans. Someone then whispered “Proforte.”
Proforte is the latest version of the governmental bail-out of Brazilian football teams, called “clubs”, which are run by amateurs. All clubs are supposedly non-profit associations, meaning they shouldn’t pay income tax. The problem is, notwithstanding the millions and millions of dollars that run through their coffers (but not their books), they never pay ANY taxes, especially social security (INSS) or retirement (FGTS).
The total tax debt of Brazil’s largest football clubs exceeds US$1 billion, but the government has steadfastly refused to collect this debt. Why? Because if the debt were collected, all major Brazilian football clubs would be shut down. This is unthinkable, because football here is “too big to fail.” Who can imagine Rio without Flamengo? Or São Paulo without Corinthians?
Last year, Minister Rebelo and a band of Congressmen called the “bancada da bola” (“football back benchers”) proposed a blanket forgiveness of ninety percent of all tax debt by football clubs, in return for promises to start paying taxes now. The clubs rejoiced, taxpayers quivered, serious persons snorted in dismay.
The latest plan (“Proforte”) has a semblance of reality about it. First, grant all the football clubs 25 years in which to pay their past debt. Second, insist they pay their current taxes timely. Third, shut down clubs that don’t pay on time, or (horror of horrors!) demote them to lower divisions. FIFA rules permit all these things.
The Curmudgeon suspects the “Proforte” law will pass, because Futball is the opiate of the Brazilian Lumpenproletariat. The Curmudgeon does not believe for one micro-second that, if passed, any of the major clubs will respect it. They will adhere to the plan, but will promptly default on their obligations; and yet, they will suffer NO penalty whatsoever. For, as they all know, they are “too big to fail.”
PS – The German Nationalmannschaft will be hard to beat over the next four years, they could repeat their WC win in Russia. You read it here second.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, fetched up on these shores exactly 36 years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)