After returning from Buenos Aires last weekend I spent all of Sunday moping around the house watching football. And boy was I treated, first with Spain v Italy and then Ireland v Croatia.
“And”, I thought, “there’ll probably be a Brasileiro game on afterwards as well. Get in!”
But, as I watched Gremio v Corinthians I realised that despite the modicum of interest that I have for Corinthians I really didn’t care that much. And the game really did drag.
Well, watching the two Euro games earlier in the day didn’t help. But, it also made me realise that this was in fact one of the problems with the game in Brazil – football fatigue.
When I was a kid the start of a new football season was the thing I looked forward to most during the English summer (and that’s despite the fact I support Gillingham). The reason for this is because I hadn’t seen my team play for what felt like an eternity and if there were no Euros or World Cup then I wouldn’t have seen any meaningful football for at least a couple of months.
The horror, the horror.
In anticipation I’d save up my pocket-money during the summer holidays so that I could buy the new shirt at the first home game and I’d of course always go with a sense of misguided optimism. Like most fans, the long summer provided the opportunity to forget the previous season’s disappointments and it meant I’d go to the first game believing that maybe, just maybe, this might be our year!
When you support Gillingham of course, it never is.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure this works in quite the same way with the Brasileiro here in Brazil. Personally, with the league only four games old I already feel pretty indifferent about it. As a relative neutral (perhaps that’s one of the problems) I’m finding it very hard to take any interest in it at all. And what doesn’t help is the fact that many of the teams, players and supporters don’t seem to be that bothered either.
What evidence is there to support this?
In a previous post I talked about how smaller teams in Brazil hardly seem to get any support. Well, following the early stages of the Brasileiro the bigger teams don’t seem to be faring much better either. For example, after playing two home games each the average attendances for clubs who claim to have millions of fans (some with tens of millions) are:
- Corinthians: 18,352
- Palmeiras: 8,104
- Flamengo: 12,708
- Botafogo: 6,954
- Fluminese: 5,661
- Santos: 4,687
- Vasco da Gama: 6,684
- São Paulo: 8,405
And the lowest averages?
- Portuguesa (3,023)
- Atlético Goianiense (2,334)
Pretty poor for what should be the showpiece of Brazilian football.
I guess my point is that if a relative neutral like myself watches a game on TV and sees a stadium that is not even a quarter full, what is there to inspire me to keep coming back for more in the future? Personally, I will carry on watching, but that’s just because I’ll watch ANY game of football. However, I’m not sure that will be the case for the occasional viewer who may happen upon a game shown on ESPN in Europe for example.
To be fair, it’s not just a case of fans being fickle or lacking commitment. Far better and more knowledgeable writers of Brazilian football than myself (check out James Young and Euan Marshall) have already written about many of the problems with the way in which Brazilian football is organised, and how this can affect spectator attendance.
My own observation, for what it’s worth, is that part of the problem relates to my earlier point about football fatigue. For example, the Premier League season finished on 13th May and the next one won’t start until 18th August, a gap of almost 100 days. This gives every supporter, no matter how crap their team is, plenty of time to forget about the previous season and to build-up their (false) hopes for the next.
In Brazil? Well, here the football year is divided into two. Initially teams play in state leagues (Estaduais) which this year ran between 21st January and 13th May. Then they take part in the Brasileiro which kicked-off just a week after the Estaduais finished and which runs until 1st December. Assuming next year’s Estaduais start at a similar time there’ll only be a break of 45 days.
But’s that not really the issue here because I think the main problem is that the Brasileiro starts just one week after the Estauais finish.
In other words, Palmeiras fans who saw their team go on a disastrous run towards the end of the Paulistão then have to see their team carry that form straight into the Brasileiro (they are currently second bottom).
But they need not worry because the club has kindly released a new shirt for the ‘new season’ to cheer them all up. The problem? It costs a mere R$190 (£60). Can’t afford it? What do you mean your pocket money doesn’t cover it? Ok, get yourself a mortgage and pay it off in 9 instalments.
And speaking off taking advantage of fans this brings me nicely to my next point. Tickets.
In São Paulo the cheapest tickets are R$30 (£10) although half this for kids and students. While that may not seem a lot compared to watching a game in the Premier League or even League 2 in the UK it’s still a hefty wack to pay out for the average Paulistano – especially given how many games there are. For example, to fit in the Brasileiro and Estaduais, as well as leaving space for the Copa do Brasil and any fixtures teams need to fulfil around South America, there are very often games most weeks on weeknights and at the weekend.
And let’s face it, why would you pay for a ticket if many teams don’t even field their first teams? The reason they don’t is also to do with scheduling, because the Brasileiro starts as the Libertadores (South American Champions League) heads into its final stages. Additionally, it often coincides with a whole bunch of international fixtures because the European leagues have just come to an end.
What this means is that the Brazilian teams who are still in the Libertadores will rest their big players ahead of knock-out games. Additionally, many of those same players may also have to travel to fulfil international commitments in Europe, the US or wherever else the Brazilian FA has flogged the Brazilian national team. As such, Neymar has not featured in ANY of Santos’s four games this season because he has either been rested for the Libertadores or away on international duty.
And if this was not enough to put fans off attending games, the timing of games, often as late as 10pm on a week-night because they have to fit around TV Novelas (Brazilian soaps), means that even if some fans do want to go to the game they won’t get home unless they drive because the buses and occasionally the Metros have already stopped.
So whilst I think some fingers can be pointed at Brazilian fans there’s no doubt that the root causes of many of these problems lay squarely at the feet of the CBF – the organisation that runs the league. The same CBF who’ve overseen Seric C & D being suspended. And the same CBF who are responsible for the World Cup in 2014. And we all know how that’s progressing…