By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Vasco da Gama, one of Rio’s ‘big four’ clubs, have started a mass exodus prior to the start of the 2014 Campeonato Carioca, the Rio de Janeiro state championship. The São Januário outfit were relegated from the Campeonato Série ‘A’ for the second time in five years and now must rethink their entire squad in the face of financial difficulties.
The club is set to lose eight players. Considering the paucity in depth of Brazilian domestic squads, it would be a major setback for any team. When the huge off the field problems at Vasco are taken into account it is nothing short of disastrous.
The side’s leading scorer in 2013, André, along with Fillipe Soutto, are set to return to Atlético-MG after finishing their loan spells in Rio. Right-back Fagner also goes back to his parent club, Wolfsburg in Germany. Central defender Cris has been released after failing to make a positive impact.
Ecuadorian striker Tenório is set to move to Japanese football, Yotún will go back to Sporting Cristal in Peru and Willie to the North-East with Vitoria. The final name on the outgoing list is Francismar, released from the club.
The one silver lining has been the renovation of striker Edmilson’s contract, who tied himself to Vasco for a further year. The forward said to Radio Tupi: “I’m very happy to continue at Vasco, in Rio and now I must give my all next year to help Vasco win promotion.”
Edmilson arrived at the club in April 2013 and quickly adapted to life in the Cidade Maravilhosa after nine years out of Brazil. During the final stages of the Brasileirão and with the club battling against relegation, Edmilson netted six goals in the final seven games in an ultimately futile mission.
Yet with his stay confirmed at the club for another season at least gives a ray of hope to the club’s fans. There could be more good news over the next week with midfielder Pedro Ken reportedly close to agreeing a new loan deal.
Off the field, the club remains in political turmoil as the its demise is a source of anger for fans and embarrassment for its directors. President Roberto Dinamite, a former idol at São Januário, has borne the brunt of the supporters’ anger for months, and is unlikely to stay in charge of the club after the elections early in 2014.
A new political group connected to Vasco, led by Fernando Horta, blames Dinamite directly for Vasco’s terrible year. Horta is running for the Vasco presidency and launched a scathing attack on his political rival last week. “Our objective is to turn Vasco into a more respectable and more serious club. We are ashamed of the current club, it is not even close to how it was in the past,” he said.
After a year of turbulence and disappointment, Vasco da Gama need to put 2013 firmly behind them and start rebuilding from square one. Roberto Dinamite’s term at the club has been a dreadful time for the Cruz-Maltino; new lungs may well be needed to give the club a much needed breath of fresh air.
Vasco will begin their Campeonato Carioca campaign on Saturday, January 18th. They kick-off the state championship against Boavista at 19:30 PM at São Januário stadium.