As the football league season ends in Europe, most of the football fans across the world will endure three dull months with nothing but the transfer rumours and the small matter of the Confederation cup to keep them interested. The worst three months, mid-May to mid-August. But not if one is a fan of Brazilian football. The 2013 edition of the ‘Campeonato Brasileirao Série A’, better known just as the Brasileirao, started the past weekend.
What makes the Brasileirao really interesting is the unpredictability associated with the league. In the other big leagues, there are only about three or four clubs who can be truly considered title candidates, and thus one knows what to expect as the season progresses. However, picking out a favourite in the top league in Brazil is no easy task. On the 56 occasions the Brasileirao title has been contested since its inception in 1959, it has been won by 17 different clubs, three of whom – Guarani, Sport and Palmeiras – are not even in the top flight this year.
Interestingly, the two teams who have won the championship the most times – eight to be exact - Palmeiras, as mentioned above, find themselves in the second tier of Brazilian football, while Santos last won the championship back in 2004. And with their star man Neymar off to Barcelona, they look even less championship material this season. But then again, you can never write them off. Atlético Mineiro, Botafogo, Corinthians, Gremio, Sao Paulo and Santos will all look to challenge the defending champions, Fluminense.
However, what really makes the 2013 Brasileirao a treat to watch is the vast array of talent present in the league. The Brazilian clubs have always been seen as ‘sellers’ of talent to the European and Asian football market. But in the past few seasons, a large number of Brazilian superstars have made their way back to their homeland. And these are not just the big name superstars with stalled careers in Europe who are coming back with a view to re-igniting their career. The clubs having a comparatively strong financial backing now-a-days are attracting other young talents and established stars in their prime too. According to Global Transfer Market 2012, the FIFA Transfer Matching System’s latest annual review of international player transactions, not only did Brazil lead the way in terms of outgoing transfers last year, it also topped the list of countries with most incoming transfers: 696 in total.
Players who have made the journey back home from Europe within the last five years and made a decent enough impact to be selected for Brazil’s Confederations Cup squad are the Fluminense trio of Diego Cavalieri, Fred and Jean, Rever of Atletico Mineiro, Jeferson of Botafogo, Paulinho of Corinthians and Sao Paulo’s Jadson. While other big names returning include Atletico Mineiro’s celebrated triumvirate of Diego Tardelli, Jo and Ronaldinho, Corinthians forward Alexandre Pato, Cruzeiro centre-half Dede and Sao Paulo’s veteran striker Luis Fabiano, not to mention newly returned veterans such as Ze Roberto (Gremio), Alex (Coritiba) and Gilberto Silva (Atletico Mineiro).
Brazil’s Confederations Cup squad of 23 includes 11 players currently plying their trade with clubs based in Brazil. A far greater number than the 5 that featured in the Brazil squad for the last FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009 and a whole eight more than those that appeared in the team Dunga took to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. A member of the celebrated side that won Brazil’s third world title at Mexico 1970, Tostao commented on the development in his column in last Sunday’s Folha de S. Paulo: “The fact that 11 home-based players have been selected is a sign of Brazilian football’s increased ability to hold on to and sign better players. It’s also a reflection of how few Brazilian players there are at Europe’s leading clubs at the moment, and of the attempt to captivate the fans and forge a strong emotional bond with them.”
The league is not just attracting local talent, as a host of big-name foreigners have migrated to the Brazilian leagues in recent times. These include the likes of Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (Ajax), Peruvian forward Paolo Guerrero (B.Munich, Hamburger SV), Spanish midfielder Fran Merida (Arsenal youth, Atletico Madrid, Hercules), Uruguayan icon Diego Forlan (Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid) and American international Freddy Adu (Benfica, AS Monaco)
With such a strong cast, the 2013 Brasileirao offers a footballing treat with a Brazilian samba flair attached to it. The only hiccup for football fans in India, due to the time zone differences, is getting up very early in the morning to watch the matches live.