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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 August 2006, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Flamengo's fans cheer during a game against Vasco in the Maracana
All is not well in the so-called land of football

The big kick-off in England has a magic which Brazilian football would do well to imitate.

Some of the spell, of course, is cast by the August weather, with the stadium gleaming and the pitch in pristine condition.

But a large part of the big kick-off effect results from the fact that the supporter is returning to his second home after spending some three months away.

The pre-action pause is vital to the success of a league competition.

Such a break is badly missing from Brazilian football.

Admittedly, economic factors mean that no matter how good the organisation of the domestic game, Brazil's stars will still move to Europe.

And the game also suffers from problems which are far bigger than football, such as social violence and a poor transport infrastructure.

Even so, it is hard to escape the conclusion Brazilian football is operating some way short of its potential.

Recently I was at the match between Vasco da Gama and Cruzeiro, at that point 9th and 2nd respectively in the table.

A crowd of just 2,794 gathered to watch them.

At the final whistle I rushed to the Maracana for the local derby, Fluminense against Botafogo, where only 11,171 had bothered to turn up.

The total gate money for both games came to around 40,000.

These numbers make it very clear that all is not well in the so-called land of football.

Earlier this decade Brazil decided to adopt a European-style league format for its national championship, with all the sides playing each other home and away.

The new league was designed to keep all the clubs in activity, but one vital point was forgotten.

The European leagues get off to such a good start - the big kick off weaves its magic - precisely because of the summer break from the club game.

Football supporters are dreamers by nature and however terrible their team might have been back in early May, by mid-August the fan has persuaded himself that this might be their season.

The new signings will make a difference, referees will finally give them a fair crack and the path to glory is open.

Fired with hope he goes to the early games, and whatever happens he builds a bond with the players. It is his team.

But in Brazil there is no pause for this magic to work its effect.

The national championship starts in April or May.

Less than a week earlier the wretched state championships - one for each of the 27 states that make up the country - have come to an end.

The supporter is already well acquainted with the team and its defects.

He has a get-out clause. It is my club, he says, but it is not my team.

He stays away, and so Brazilian football becomes ever more dependent on transfer money coming in from abroad, selling its stars instead of selling its spectacle.

  • Tim Vickery takes part in Up All Night's World Football phone-in every Saturday morning at 0230 BST on BBC Radio Five Live

    Tim Vickery column
    13 Feb 06 |  Football


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