Sunday 30 December 2012

Brazilian football new year's resolutions

Alternative title: funny things that have happened in Brazilian football in the last 12 months that I have callously grouped together in one of those not-entirely-coherent end-of-year lists.

Still, everybody else is doing it, so why can't I?* Happy new year!

I will... train more often
Adriano upon signing for Corinthians last year: "My aim is to return to the national team. I'm sure it's possible. I've come here to win."

March 2012: Corinthians terminate Adriano's contract after revealing that the striker skipped 67 (67!) training sessions in a year. 

I will... pay for items at the club shop

"You're not paying my brother," exclaimed Assis, sibling and agent of a certain Ronaldinho, as he pushed a trolley full of merchandise towards the exit of the Flamengo club shop. "So I'm not paying either."

An hour and a half later, after frantic discussions with Fla's director of finance Michel Levy, Assis left the store with 25 free shirts - the number to which Levy was entitled through his role at the club. Brilliantly, this didn't quite satisfy the 41-year-old Assis, who grabbed - and proceeded to pay for - two towels emblazoned with his brother's image before storming out. 

I will... trust my players
Convinced that Ronaldinho is violating club policy by sneaking women into the club's pre-season training camp, Flamengo coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo takes matters into his own hands, trawling through CCTV footage at the Londrina hotel his the players are staying. "Sherlock Luxa", as he is later dubbed by GloboEsporte, finds what he was looking for and demands that Ronaldinho is sacked.

Two weeks later: Flamengo dismiss Luxemburgo. (#playerpower)

I will... consider the long-term effects of my actions

17 October: Palmeiras fan Adailton Alves quits his job as a janitor to lend his support as his club fights relegation. "My wife isn't happy but it's better to be addicted to Palmeiras than to drugs or alcohol. It was so sad when Palmeiras were relegated in 2002. I hope it turns out differently this time."

18 November: Palmeiras relegated. Adailton unemployed.

I will... be more modest
Vanderlei Luxemburgo to an unnamed Flamengo player: "You're a shit. You're poor. I own three aeroplanes."

I will... not cast the first stone
Palmeiras midfielder Daniel Carvalho, criticised for being out of shape since his return to Brazil: "When I arrived at CSKA Moscow they gave me steroids to bulk me up."

Roman Babaev, CSKA Moscow director of football: "It's nonsense. He likes eating."

I will... abide by the laws of the game

A modest state championship game between Guarany-SE and Sergipe hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons in April. With Sergipe leading 1-0 in the dying stages, Guarany goalkeeper Acássio went forward for a corner, ending up marooned as Sergipe broke away seconds later. Midfielder Diego Lima charged into the Guarany half, guided a shot past the last defender, and waited for the net to ripple.

But it didn't ripple. Rather, a rogue ballboy nipped onto the pitch and volleyed the ball clear. An unseemly brawl and internet stardom ensued, but the ballboy was unrepentant when interviewed: "I don't regret it because we [Guarany] were robbed by the referee. He disallowed a clear goal earlier in the match."

I will... dress up more often

. And again.

I will... keep my thoughts to myself

In a Rio nightclub in the early hours of the morning, Adriano stumbles onto the stage and grabs a microphone. "I want to tell everyone here that I love Flamengo. I know this will be all over the internet tomorrow. I'm from the slums and you can't take that away from me!"

Flamengo president Patrícia Amorim: "He makes it hard for us."

I will... be more respectful to women

Corinthians striker Elton on his sexual prowess: "You have to be deadly - both on and off the pitch. I really go for it. By my count, I've slept with over 500 women."

I will... take more care with my work

Palmeiras hired an artist to sculpt a bust of legendary goalkeeper Marcos, who retired this year. Let's just say the result wasn't quite satisfactory...

I will... put my fingers in my ears and hold my breath
Caldense player Leandrão missed his side's state championship opener with a bad case of... hiccups.

I will... not covet another man's (child's) possessions

CBF official José Maria Marin was caught pocketing a medal at a youth football tournament. The real joke? He's now the CBF president.

I will... suppress my vampire instincts

Irritated by the attentions of Boca Juniors player Matías Caruzzo in the Copa Libertadores final, Corinthians forward Emerson Sheik went all Mike Tyson, taking a big old bite of the defender's hand.

"He started spitting at me, then he ran his hand over my ass two or three times," Emerson later told Placar magazine. "What was I supposed to do, punch him? In any other game I would have. When we fell on the floor and he pushed my face, the sweat made his fingers slip into my mouth. That was bad luck for him."

(Emerson, by the way, has a pet monkey. Make of that what you will.)

*NB – this is an entirely unacceptable moral code.

A version of this article was published by The Guardian here.

Saturday 22 December 2012

January sales: five young Brazilians to look out for during the European transfer window

For one month every year, a sizeable chunk of the world rejoices as presents rain down courtesy of benevolent bearded benefactors. Yes, the European transfer window is just around the corner, promising another flurry of joy, pain and barely believable men with two mobile phones clogging up Sky Sports News with rumours about Peter Crouch being spotted in a chip shop in Norfolk. It is both a fever dream and a waking nightmare for football fans.

If you're lucky, your chairman might avoid the pitfalls of the market (Marlon King, Nigel Quashie, etc) and bring in some South American talent to spice things up in 2013. In my latest Unibet column I've picked out five young Brazilians who could be appearing on Premier League wish lists this year.

Read the article here.

Monday 10 December 2012

Brazilian Football Digest: November

No time to keep up with the day-to-day happenings of Brazilian football? Help is at hand. I've picked out the key stories from October for my latest monthly digest on the Betting Expert blog. This edition features some title-winning cariocas, nefarious CBF dealings and a cracking goal from one of the many Brazilians named after presidents of the USA.

To read it, click here.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Grinders keepers: how Fluminense won the Brasileirão

As title-clinching wins go, Fluminense's victory over Palmeiras on November 11 felt slightly anticlamactic. Sure, Brazilian broadcaster Globo wheeled out treasured commentator Galvão Bueno for the occasion (the Brazilian analogue of the proverbial fat lady clearing her throat) and the match itself produced the goods (Flu won 3-2, simultaneously pushing their opponents further down a path that ended in relegation a couple of weeks later), but the occasion felt flat.

The explanation was simple: the Tricolor's second Brasileirão in three seasons had long had an air of inevitability about it. This is not to belittle the achievement. The Rio giants, while perhaps not the neutrals' choice, were ruthless in pursuit of their tetracampeonato. With one game to play, they have conceded just 31 goals - the fewest in the league - and scored the second most. They have lost just four of 37 games. The resilience that earnt them the nickname Time de Guerreiros (Team of Warriors) has hardly even been needed; relentless efficiency has been the key.

You can read the rest of this article at Unibet by clicking here.