By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The number of top-flight footballers from Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro now petitioning the CBF (the Brazilian Football Confederation) for better conditions topped one hundred last week as the movement continues to grow. Under the collective banner of Bom Senso FC (‘Good Sense’ Football Club), players are speaking out against a footballing calendar that places almost constant pressure on their bodies with a packed fixture schedule.
Next year, as with this year’s Confederations tournament, the World Cup will put the Brazilian league on hold for more than a month, with the resulting fixture congestion posing a significant threat to players’ health. The shortfall must be made up as the CBF attempts to cram in the state championships and the Copa do Brasil alongside the Brasileirão, as well as the lucrative Copa Libertadores and Copa Sul-Americana competitions.
The CBF announced that the 2014 state championships will now begin on January 12th, despite this year’s league ending later than usual on December 8th. According to Brazilian labor laws, workers are entitled to thirty days’ holiday per year. With squads returning to work on January 8th, coaches would be granted just four days of pre-season before 2014’s opening games kick-off, a notion that has brought ridicule upon the CBF.
The Brazilian calendar is already famously cluttered. The season lasts eleven months compared to Europe’s nine, and dates reserved by FIFA for international games are invariably used for domestic matches, infuriating those teams that lose key players. Now, the forcing of squads to play after only four days of pre-season has spurred some of the country’s top names into action.
Former Seleção goalkeeper Dida, São Paulo legend Rogério Ceni, Fluminense’s star striker Rafael Sóbis, Internacional pair Andres d’Alessandro and Rafael Moura and Coritiba’s Alex are just some of the big names to sign the petition.
The players’ main objective is to change the football calendar, primarily through a shortened version of the state championships. During Rio state’s Campeonato Carioca, a number of games are played in the searing heat of January and February, when temperatures regularly top 40 degrees Celsius.
Moreover, twelve of the sixteen teams that enter know they have a tiny chance of being crowned state champions ahead of Rio’s ‘Big Four’. The days before the first nationalized league championship in Brazil in 1970 are long gone, but the system has yet to change thanks largely due to the CBF structure that bows to the smaller teams and this rare chance to play profitable games against the likes of Flamengo.
“This is not a rebellion, we are not discussing a strike,” said the long-serving São Paulo goalkeeper Rogério Ceni. “We want more exposure of Brazilian football, not less. But it has to be in a more ordered way, which is beneficial to players, television and sponsors,”
If the state championships continue in their present format, Brazil may see more sides following Atlético-PR’s example. The club fielded an under-23 side during the 2013 state tournament to give their first-team players longer to prepare for the Brasileirão. It appears to have paid of with the club currently sitting third in the table.
Members of Bom Senso FC have descended on the CBF headquarters in Barra da Tijuca to demand urgent meetings with the body and principally its president, José Maria Marín. If Marín decides to act in favor of ‘Good Sense’, he could bring about the biggest change in Brazilian domestic football since the league was nationalized in 1970, something the vast majority of clubs are firmly in favor of.