Opinion, by Robbie Blakeley
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Blink and you might have missed it. The 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro, the country’s national league season, kicked off this past weekend to little fanfare, unfortunately par for the course in this corner of the world.
One could argue the excuse of the imminent Confederations Cup – not to mention the World Cup the following year – are swallowing all Brazilian football related headlines. It’s certainly the case that domestic football is overshadowed at present but the underlying problem, that of the nation’s football calendar, is an old one.
The Campeonato Paulista, the São Paulo state championship, only finished last week. Rio’s own tournament ended a fortnight previously but solely because Botafogo won both the Taça Guanabara and the Taça Rio. Had two different winners emerged the Carioca would have also finished on May 20th.
This puts the national league, supposedly the big draw of the year, at a considerable disadvantage. Take the major leagues across Europe: the Premiership, La Liga, the Bundesliga and arguably the Italian Series ‘A’.
All run roughly from mid August to mid May, allowing for a three month cooling off period over the summer. Fans, not to mention the athletes themselves, are given some respite before the anticipation, hopes and dreams of a new football season begin to beckon over the horizon.
Come opening day, the excitement has built to a powerful climax verging on hysteria. On that first day of a new dawning anything seems possible, regardless of past miseries and what cool headed logic might dictate. Opening day, as any football fan will tell you, isn’t a time for reason.
But the sheer insanity of the Brazilian calendar doesn’t allow this to happen, primarily because the first four months of the year are taken up by the outdated and pointless state championships. This subsequently leaves no time for a proper build up to the Brasileirão curtain raiser.
Here in Rio Botafogo, Fluminense, Flamengo and Vasco da Gama are forced to face the likes of Resende, Duque de Caxias, Volta Redonda and Bangu in a lengthy, drawn out, two-staged tournament. The sheer power of those established four outfits leaves next to no chance for a smaller club to dream of success, let alone contemplate it as reality.
As long as power in the Brazilian game lies with the 27 state federations, and not with the clubs themselves, the charade marches on. A restructure of the CBF, the Brazilian Football Federation, is a must for any type of restructuring to take place.
Fresh minds in the box seat rather than the oligarchal José Maria Marin, a man in his early 80s and who only received the post by default, is fundamental to change in domestic football. Meanwhile, the magical “opening day” festival of positivity and enthusiasm will continue to bypass the Brasileirão.