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.