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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Brazil's football politics
By Tim Vickery

Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and right-back Cafu
Will coach Parreira and the recalled Cafu see eye to eye?

The Brazilian government appear to be making progress with their campaign for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

But, whatever the political and diplomatic merits of such a move, it may not be good news for the country's number one sport.

In the short term, the campaign has set off a mini crisis of relations in the national football team.

The most widely-known symbol of the nation, Brazil's football team, were soon roped in to the political arena.

In August they played a friendly in war-torn Haiti - an event clearly linked to the government's United Nations objective.

The likes of Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldinho Gaucho all turned up for the game.

But Milan and Bayern Munich refused to release their players.

They were within their rights to do so; they have an agreement with the Brazilian FA whereby they have no obligation to release players for friendlies outside Europe.

This is the first time in 14 years that I've been left out of the squad and I can't understand what has happened

So five players were missing - captain Cafu, keeper Dida, young sensation Kaká, senior centre-back Lúcio and left-sided midfielder Ze Roberto.

Brazil's President Lula had insisted that the side be at full-strength. And since there are plans to repeat the experience in future years, it was decided that an example should be made of the five players, who missed the match through no fault of their own.

All were axed for the games against Bolivia and Germany earlier this month.

Cafu was stunned. "This is the first time in 14 years that I've been left out of the squad and I can't understand what has happened," he said.

"I did everything possible to be released but I've been punished."

It seemed a harsh way to treat a player who has never let his country down in the course of winning 126 caps.

Now Cafu and the others are back for the World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Colombia. But perhaps they will not have the same respect for coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

Did Parreira leave them out of his own accord or was it a suggestion from Lula or FA boss Ricardo Teixeira?

The Statute for Sport, which could bring important advances, is crawling through Congress and won't go to a vote this year
Former Brazil legend Tostăo

Either way, it would be a surprise if team spirit does not suffer some damage.

This, though, is a problem that should swiftly be overcome. More worrying in the long term is the price that Lula seems prepared to pay in return for the political participation of the Brazil team.

A new Statute for Sport is currently going through the Brazilian political system.

Included in the original bill was a proposal that the president of the FA and the state football federations should be limited to two four-year terms of office.

This is a blow right at the heart of the existing power structure. Teixeira has held his current position for 15 years.

Some of the state bosses have been around for even longer. With the Brazilian Championship attracting all-time low crowds (the current average is below 7,500) new faces are badly needed.

Former great Tostăo, now an excellent columnist, takes up the story. The Statute for Sport, which could bring important advances, is crawling through Congress and won't go to a vote this year.

"Those articles which limited the mandates of the presidents have disappeared from the project. Only the cosmetic measures remain. Nothing important will change."

The bargain seems clear. The price of the push for revolution at the UN is continued conservatism at home.

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