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Last Updated: Monday, 17 July 2006, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

With World Cup memories fading and anticipation of the domestic season growing, it seems an appropriate moment to ask the question: what is football's main event - the international or the club game?

For the vast majority of diehard supporters all over the world the answer is straightforward.

Brazil's national side is one of the best supported in the world
Brazil's national side is one of the best supported in the world
They identify far more with their clubs than they do with their national teams.

As one of this breed recently said to me, "I would prefer Arsenal to win a throw-in than England to win the World Cup."

But it is relatively easy for him.

With the likes of Lehmann, Toure, Cole, Fabregas, Van Persie and Henry in his team, he is practically watching a World Cup match every week. And now he has a brand new stadium in which to do it.

Contrast this with the situation of a fan in Brazil.

In the country's sports daily Lance! last week, Benjamin Back wrote that "it may not have been a dream World Cup, but we had 30 days of full stadiums (and what stadiums), quality pitches, beautiful supporters, good refereeing, wonderful kits and so on".

For the English, Spanish and Italians the difference hardly exists, but for us the return to reality will come very hard.

Welcome back to the Brazilian Championship. On the first day back last Wednesday a total of 919 turned up to watch Sao Caetano against Botafogo.

They were rewarded with a dreadful game.

President Lula, an avid follower of the game, hit the nail on the head in an interview he gave just before the World Cup.

"Brazil is the biggest producer of great players," he said. "But in my opinion it's no longer the country of football. The countries of football nowadays are Spain and Italy, who can buy all the good players on the planet."

The globalisation of football has robbed countries like Brazil of their best players and congregated the world's talent in a handful of European leagues.

At international level the forces are levelling

It has widened the gap between rich and poor - at club level. But that is not so true of the international game.

It is true that Germany 2006 belonged to Europe, but the continent might have to wait a while to win the trophy again.

Brazil have the stars, Argentina play the most attractive football and the signs from Africa are promising.

Players from all these countries are picking up valuable experience with European clubs which can then be used in the service of their countries. At international level the forces are levelling.

The international game, then, is more inclusive. It reaches out beyond the diehard supporters - in fact its power certainly helps convert many into becoming diehard supporters.

A key part of this power is the capacity of international football to make people feel they are being represented by events on the field.

When Brazil played Ghana last month they were not just facing a nation.

They were facing an entire continent. All over Africa people identified themselves with the Black Stars.

It is hard to think of anything in the club game capable of pushing those same buttons.

It is the fact that the entire planet has been invited to the party that makes the World Cup so special.

It explains Marcello Lippi's reaction after coaching Italy to triumph in Berlin.

He has won everything on offer in club football. But he said there was nothing to compare with winning the World Cup.



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12 Jul 05 |  World Football


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