Tuesday 13 February 2018

Gringo no-go? Reinaldo Rueda, Flamengo and the backlash against foreign coaches in Brazil

Even from the start, Reinaldo Rueda's reign at Flamengo seemed destined to be defined more by controversy from without than by his actual achievements.

The Colombian was a popular choice among fans when he was appointed in August 2017. His reputation had been burnished during an all-conquering spell with Atlético Nacional of Medellín, and, with three national teams on his CV, he brought prestige and experience.
The decision to appoint a non-Brazilian manager was not to everyone's taste, however. "It's not that I'm against foreigners working here, but we're already struggling to get jobs outside Brazil and soon it will be the same inside the country," remarked Jair Ventura, then of Botafogo.

That Ventura was not alone in adopting the Paul Merson position became patently clear in January, when, after five promising if anguished months at the helm, Rueda told the club that he was leaving to become the manager of Chile. Cue an outpouring of anger, accusations and, in some quarters, barely-veiled xenophobia.

My latest piece for When Saturday Comes is on the backlash against foreign coaches in Brazil. You can order a copy online here.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Playboy, Balotelli and Cockroach: Brazilian youngsters compete in name game at Copinha youth tournament

There was a Zidane, a Pelé and a Balotelli. A Kluivert and an Asprilla, too, although they weren't spelt correctly.

For the hungry, there was a Pasta, a Popcorn and a Porridge. Lucas Bigfoot was around somewhere, but fairly elusive.

Then there were the headliners: Playboy, Avatar and – yes, really – 6D. No, absolutely no idea on that one.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Brazilian footballer names on display in January's Copinha youth tournament. I attempt to explain some of them in my latest for Unibet.

Tuesday 6 February 2018

The greatest game you've never heard of: Grêmio, Náutico and the madcap warfare of the Batalha dos Aflitos

71 seconds. 71 seconds is all it will take.

At the start, it will feel like the world is ending. It will very nearly look like it too, what with the smoke and the riot police and the baying hordes. At the end... well, the world-ending thing will apply then too, actually. But a fuzzy sunshine-glow will have conquered that hollow, slow-burn dread that moments earlier had set up camp in the depths of your stomach.

You will worry, once the dust has settled, that people won't believe you when you tell them that the impossible happened. But they'll have to, because it did.

My piece about the Batalha dos Aflitos – the most ludicrous football match you've never heard of – is in the latest edition of the American football magazine Howler. You can buy a copy or subscribe here.