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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 08:59 GMT
Carnival time for Fluminense
BBC Sport's Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery

Sequins met soccer on Saturday night as Rio's Carnival got under way.

Fluminense, the city's most traditional football club, celebrated its centenary last year.

Punctuality not being a Brazilian virtue, the samba school Acadêmicos da Roçinha chose this Carnival to commemorate the feat.

Fluminense was the theme of their parade, and out there on the avenue, making my Sambódromo debut, there I was in a very natty hat and a sequined version of the club shirt.

Just a few years ago it seemed that Fluminense FC might not even be around to celebrate their centenary

Sociologists and bar room philosophers have wondered long and hard about why so many in Rio are prepared to sacrifice so much for the Carnival parade.

After one year's active participation and nearly a decade of curiosity, this is my humble contribution to the great debate.

A large part of the pleasure comes from the responsibilities involved.

You want to put on a good show for the people watching in the stands.

You want to give everything for the people you are representing - the school, and in this case the club as well.

And you are together in this endeavour with those in your wing of the school.

The world famous carnival in Rio
The people take to the streets in Rio

You're wearing the same costume and sharing the same objective.

It's an essentially collective pleasure - like that obtained from playing or watching football.

There is a fiercely competitive element to the parade, with points and penalties and a whole structure of promotion and relegation.

Acadêmicos da Roçinha are currently in the second division, and hopeful that the popularity of the Fluminense theme might put them back in the top flight.

Just a few years ago it seemed that Fluminense FC might not even be around to celebrate their centenary.

They fell to the third division. Many were predicting that the end was in sight. In the event, their tradition saved the day.

Amid one of the frequent changes of format in the Brazilian Championship they were re-instated in the first division.

It was a particularly controversial move because it was the second time it had happened inside five years.

But it is one thing to receive a break - and another thing to have the talent to be able to take advantage.

Producing their own top quality players was vital to the club's long term survival

In the last three seasons Fluminense have justified their status by putting in strong bids for the Brazilian title.

Even more important, the club is building for the future. Staring oblivion in the face concentrated their minds wonderfully.

They came to the conclusion that producing their own top quality players was vital to the club's long term survival.

A youth development programme was launched.

It is now bearing fruit, as was made clear last week when three Fluminense players were called up to Brazil's squad to dispute the World Youth Cup.

The jewel in the crown is 18-year-old Carlos Alberto, a hugely gifted playmaker who Manchester United's scouts were rumoured to be observing in the recent South American Under-20 Championships.

They may well have been disappointed. Carlos Alberto did not have a great tournament.

Brazil Under-20 coach Valinhos is working hard to get his playmaker to combine better with his team-mates by letting go of the ball when the moment is right.

It is a battle worth fighting because Fluminense's young star has plenty of talent.

His footwork is certainly far superior to anything I produced on Saturday night in the Sambódromo.

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