Brazilian football fans have something new to shout about
Domestic Brazilian football enters a new era next weekend when, for the first time, the country will have a national championship on European
Over a period of nearly 10 months, the teams will all play each other
home and away, and the one with the most points will be the champion.
It is a significant step forward.
But it is essentially a compromise
solution - and like all compromises it runs the risk of leaving nobody completely satisfied.
It is only since 1971 that Brazil has had the infrastructure to hold a genuinely national championship.
Indeed, the military government of the day
made a conscious effort to use football to unite the giant country.
The tradition of the Brazilian club game is one of local rivalries.
country is divided into 27 States and, from the birth of the game until
the last few years, each State Championship was viewed as the most important title.
Since 1971 the year has been split - half for the State Championships and
half for the national.
The compromise sends Brazilian
football lurching into the future - when it could be striding
the format changed every year, but the essence remained the same. The
tournament was crammed into five months, with some sort of brief league stage
leading to some form of play-offs.
The majority of clubs were eliminated
long before the end, with no revenue coming in and plenty of bills to pay.
The clubs were interested in a European-style league, but this
created a clear administrative problem.
What would the 27 State Federations
do? Their main task - and source of revenue - was the organisation of the
State Championship. Take that away and they are nothing
but a useless tier of bureaucracy.
But they have political power. The State Federations vote for the President
of Brazil's Football Association, the CBF, and they brought their influence to bear as
the new architecture of the Brazilian game was drawn up.
The State Championships survive, albeit in reduced form. They take place
from January to March, with the new extended National Championship running
from this Saturday until mid-December.
The flaw is obvious. The National Championship will have its early momentum interrupted first by
international competitions - this year the Confederations Cup, in the future
the Copa America and the World Cup - and then by the opening of the European
Brazil's clubs could find their teams torn apart in
It would make far more sense to fall in line with Europe and start the
National Championship in August, but this would squeeze out the wretched
Thus was born the compromise that sends Brazilian
football lurching into the future - when it could be striding.