Thursday, 17 July 2014

It's going to be a long, dark summer

The Campeonato Brasileiro is back, and with it the incredible agony that watching Flamengo playing has lately been. If before the paralyzation for the World Cup they were the penultimate team on the table, ahead of the last one by three points and in need of just a draw to get out of the relegation zone, they now reached further down: with only seven points conquered in 30 possible, Flamengo are the worse between the four clubs leveled at the bottom, losing it in every tiebreaker. Yes, not only goal difference of number of goals conceded or scored, but all of them.

To understand why the biggest and most beloved team in Brazil is in such a bad situation it is necessary to set aside all forms of wisdom, coherence or contextualization and think like one of the executives that work for the club. Then it goes as follows: the goalkeeper does not demonstrate any willpower to play at a higher level anymore; the full-backs, who play in the most physically demanding position in the field, have a combined age of 66; the midfielders can neither tackle nor create chances, and the longest period of time they’re able to keep hold of the ball is exactly three seconds; and the attackers, for their need to run back to receive a decent pass and, most importantly, their complete lack of technique, do not get to make more than four attempts in 90 minutes of play, one of them on goal. Tops.

In a more analytical and pointing-fingers way, Felipe, the keeper, seems to have given up his desire to be called up to the national team at some point in 2013 (not that he stood a chance) and almost left the club last June (not by his own choice), yet somehow he managed to keep his position in the starting XI. Léo Moura, the everlasting right-back, 35 years of age, had to be rested every second match for fitness reasons already in the last season, so imagine how it is now. His left counterpart, André Santos, aged 31, had played only 30 games in the three years prior to his purchase. Elano, a once talented midfielder who now alternates between injuries and recovery periods inexplicably taken on the pitch; Hernane and/or Alecsandro, two strikers whose names bear more folklore than memorable performances; the whole youth academy of the club, which is always said to be full of potential but never make it professionally unless they leave Flamengo for any other team in the world; etc, etc, etc...

This list can go on forever, and it has to mean something.

It seems pretty clear that the board of directors, either out of a perverse desire or by pure lack of competence, is doing something wrong. Or maybe they see the situation in a completely different manner than everyone else, which is probably worse. The fact is that urgent issues are not being taken care of, while other stuff, like the signing of Eduardo da Silva, a player who hasn’t placed his foot on a clash for the ball since his unfortunate accident in 2008, demands all the attentions of the board.

Of course, there is the ridiculously endless debt Flamengo is in and at least this problem seems to have been addressed by the current legislature — which is important and understandably makes any extra financial effort even more strenuous —, however the main thing for a football club is the way they play the beautiful game, not how good their balance sheet looks like. And, by Jove!, there’s nothing, positively nothing beautiful in the way Flamengo are playing nowadays.

Anyway, it’s obviously too early to be throwing the towel now. There are still 28 matches to be played this season and every single one of these remaining 2.520 minutes shall be of intense anguish and torment. The problems with Flamengo are so incredibly apparent that there is nothing else for their 42 million supporters to do other than suffer in resignation. If the direction doesn’t address the issues accordingly it is better to play it like them and pretend everything is fine. This is the only way to get past the long, dark summer that lays ahead.

Monday, 14 July 2014

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Now that the World Cup is finally over we can all get back to our normal lives. It sounds dreadful alright, but an event of this size and importance when finished must be mourned following all the stages of loss and grief, depression included. Especially for those who now have to resume watching a national league that fails by large to fulfill its potential, namely the Campeonato Brasileiro.

Mind you, a national team is only a reflexion of its local tournament. The Bundesliga, for example, is adored by everyone who likes watching good football for its organization and, despite the thorough domination in recent years by Bayern Munich, its evenness. The Spanish La Liga for some reason still has dedicated followers, but whenever the only two teams in it fail to win La Fúria accordingly flounders in an international level. In the Premier League there is all the money in the world and no national pride, being its winner often criticized for having 95% of foreigners in their squads. Internationally unknown, the Eredivisie is always revealing new great, and not exclusively Dutch, players. Italian Serie A ages itself year after year, purposely or inevitably. The Primera División in Argentina is a stage for incredibly passionate clashes, with only one or two technically gifted players winning the league for their clubs each season.

And the Brazilian Campeonato Brasileiro, poor thing, in spite of having amazing players throughout (so much so that at least two or three go each year to a “major” European league), the most passionate fans in the world (even though for them their teams are either the unbeatable champions or the crappiest thing in the universe) and now even 12 stadiums of FIFA standard (although only nine will be properly used in the future), remains trapped in a past where everything always worked out no matter how disorganized and chaotic it was.

Not Germany, but a deranged Flamengo who ended up winning the national league in 2009.

This happens because the same body who controls the local tournament also manages the national team, and their visions, methods and posture are clearly seen in each and every step of their administration. While in Brazil things are taken lightly after a 7-1 defeat in a semi-final of a World Cup at home, the Germans, after a few desillusions (aka not getting into the final) in a row, imposed a rule in which every major team in the country must keep a youth academy in order to develop new players in accordance to their own understanding of how football should be played. This is called planning, something that will hardly ever be seen in a FA which could choose any training ground in the country but deliberately opted for one where having a secret session was impossible and the temperatures were considerably lower than those in the venues the team was supposed to play. And that, my friends, for pure political reasons.

It would take a few other longer paragraphs to discuss the rotten insides of the Brazilian Football Confederation — on how a 82-years-old contributor to the dictatorship still rules it, on how he manage to anticipate the voting process in the organization just to elect his successor before a possible humiliation in the World Cup, on how this successor is under investigation by the federal police for fraud and many other things, etc. —, but since this article is only a passage from anger to bargaining the matter shall be left for another occasion.

The only hope now is that missing the chance to win their sixth trophy at home brings many changes to the football practised in and by Brazil. Not only for pity towards the grieving country, kings of the sport in yester-years, but for the humanity as a whole: remember that a sad Brazil is a place without carnival, samba and caipirinhas.

The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue