Good morning and welcome back to the Brazil Sports newsletter. This week, we take a look at the mind-boggling calendar of the Brazilian football season, plus there is news that 17 of Brazil’s top 20 clubs have bad credit. Also, there is the latest from the world championships in athletics and gymnastics, and all the week’s football action. Happy reading!


Brazil’s bonkers calendar gets a bit crazier

The Brazilian football confederation (CBF) announced the calendar for the 2020 season, and it’s stunningly bad.

Fifa dates. In response to fan outrage over meaningless international friendlies coinciding with important club matches, the CBF pledged that as of 2020, the Brazilian league would pause for designated Fifa dates, as is the norm the world’s major leagues. While the new calendar does, in fact, include no league matches on the same day as international games, there are numerous occasions where Brazil’s biggest clubs will be forced to play less than 24 hours after national team matches.

Copa America. Then there’s the Copa América. Yes, the Copa América. Again. For $ome rea$on which this humble journalist cannot possibly comprehend, the South American football confederation (Conmebol) has scheduled another edition of the continent-wide international tournament, despite already playing it in 2015, 2016 and again this year.

The problem? The Brazilian championship will not stop throughout the month-long tournament, and a grand total of nine matchdays (almost a quarter of the league season) will be held during the international competition.

Hypothetical. Let us say that after signing a new contract, Grêmio’s exciting winger Everton decides to remain in Brazil for the 2020 season. On good form, there is a significant chance he will become a regular fixture in Tite’s national team squad selections. If this is the case, he could realistically miss a grand total of 12 league matches (one-third of the season) as well as the final of the Copa do Brasil.

Why so crowded? Reader, I hear you. The Brazilian football season has 38 matchdays and one national cup competition, just like every major European championship, so why oh why is the football calendar so messy in Brazil? The answer is the state championships, which are held every year in the first three months of the season.

Changes needed. While these state championships will be covered in depth in future Brazil Sports newsletters, suffice to say that these are tournaments which pit top division clubs against part-time sides over three months of football (in the heat of summer) with little more than bragging rights up for grabs.

While they hold huge historic significance to Brazilian football (the first “national” championships only began at the end of the 1950s), they are bloated, uninteresting, and thoroughly obsolete. An improvement to Brazil’s football calendar relies first on drastically reforming the country’s state championships.


Majority of Brazil’s big clubs have bad credit

A recent survey from newspaper Folha de S. Paulo showed that of the 20 clubs in Brazil’s Série A, 17 of them are on the “dirty list” of credit reporting agency Serasa. These clubs have a total of 621 protested instruments on the agency, adding up to a total of BRL 8.3 million in debts.

Debt champions. Three Rio de Janeiro clubs sit at the top of the table, with Fluminense, Vasco, and Botafogo racking up over BRL 1 million in dozens of protested instruments each. These papers make up only a fraction of overall club debts however. Botafogo’s current liabilities add up to BRL 750 million, largely due to tax bills and labor disputes.

The lucky ones. Ceará, Goiás, and current Brazilian champions Palmeiras are the only top-flight clubs not on Serasa’s dirty list.

From FC to S/A. The “salvation” of many of these heavily indebted clubs comes in the form of a Congress bill to allow football teams to become corporations. The proposal offers another wave of handy debt refinancing methods, and would permit Brazil’s clubs to enter administration.

Arena Corinthians. While not directly against São Paulo club Corinthians, corporation Arena Itaquera S/A is a recent addition to the Serasa list, with a stonking total debt of BRL 536 million to Caixa Econômica Federal in relation to the construction costs of the Arena Corinthians stadium. Arena Itaquera owns the ground, and Corinthians holds equity interest in the company.

Naming rights. The Arena Corinthians cost over BRL 1 billion to build in time to host the opening game of the 2014 World Cup. Until today, the club is hamstrung with debts to Caixa (which granted a loan of roughly BRL 500 million to build the stadium) and construction firm Odebrecht. The club’s plan to pay for the stadium was to secure a lucrative deal for the stadium’s naming rights, which, five years later, is nowhere near completion. Being on Serasa’s dirty list means finding a commercial partner is unlikely to happen any time soon.


What else you should know

Série A. Flamengo extended their lead at the top of the table to five points after they won away from home to Chapecoense, and second-place Palmeiras were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Atlético-MG. Meanwhile, Cruzeiro’s fortunes have gone from bad to worse. The major Minas Gerais club has slipped even further into the relegation zone, drawing at home to Internacional and being leapfrogged in the standings by lowly CSA. On Wednesday, Cruzeiro face fellow relegation strugglers Fluminense in a crucial clash.

Copa Libertadores. In the much-awaited semi-final between Grêmio and Flamengo, the latter took an important step toward the final with a 1-1 away draw on Wednesday night. In a pulsating first leg, Flamengo were the dominant side and took the lead through Bruno Henrique (and had three goals correctly disallowed by VAR), but a late goal from Grêmio’s Pepê has kept the tie well and truly in the balance. The second leg will take place in three weeks’ time.

Women’s football. After a poor first half, Pia Sundhage’s Brazilian national team managed a big 2-1 win over England in a friendly in Middlesbrough. The Swedish coach rang the changes after a drab and ineffective first 45 minutes and Brazil looked much more dangerous, opening up a 2-0 lead with a brace from Debinha. Bethany England pulled one back for the hosts, but Brazil held on to record their first ever win over the English in women’s football.

Athletics. Brazil ended the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Doha without any medals, but what appears to be a disappointing result was actually heartening when looked at from a different angle. Beyond the medal table, the IAAF also keeps a ranking based on country’s participations in finals, assigning points to all eight competitors. On this measure, Brazil managed their second-best performance in the tournament’s history, losing out only to Seville in 1999.

Gymnastics. Mixed results for Brazilian teams at the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart. The women’s team finished 14th place in the overall rankings after an injury to Jade Barbosa and with that, they will miss out on the Tokyo Olympics next year. For the men, there was a good start on Sunday’s opening day, putting Brazil in third place overall. The top nine countries will gain qualification to Tokyo.


Goal of the Week

Though it was a weekend of frustration for reigning Brazilian champions Palmeiras, at least their fans were able to cheer this stunning goal from 27-year-old winger Dudu. Facing two markers on the left side of the penalty area, he scoops the ball delightfully over their heads to work a one-two with his team-mate Gustavo Scarpa. By the time the defense realize what he has done, Dudu is side-footing the ball into the back of the net. 


SportsOct 07, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.