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Vitinho is a football player for Botafogo. Or was. He just signed for CSKA Moscow. Which makes him an idiot.
Vitinho is 18 and could have gone to Porto, the Portuguese club that also reportedly tried to sign him. At Porto, he would speak the language, enjoy an amenable climate almost all year round, play for a club that has a reputation for bringing on young players, and be close to his family in Brazil. And he would earn a fortune.
Instead, he chose to go to Russia. He will earn a fortune there too but the sub-zero temperatures will make him miserable, he will never learn the language, and he will be a long, long way from home, in every sense.
Moreover, if he had chosen Porto they might have allowed him to stay with Botafogo until the end of the season and help the club keep up its title challenge.
Instead, Botafogo fans hate him; some have already daubed the walls of the club with insults. Every time he comes home to Rio he will be looking over his shoulder.
Vitinho is an idiot.
Still, why would he decide to go to Moscow rather than Porto? At either club he would be richer than he could ever have imagined. But his life at one would be infinitely better than at the other. What advice did he get from his parents? What did his advisers tell him? How much did they make from the deal?
We’ll probably never know the answers. But we do know one thing: Vitinho is an idiot.
When I first came to Brazil I was shocked at how many people wore football shirts. Everybody wore them, young and old, male and female, and they wore them everywhere.
It wasn’t unusual to see people in nightclubs or restaurants wearing the colours of Flamengo, Corinthians, Palmeiras and dozens of others. I thought it was weird (and still do).
If one thing has changed over the last decade it is that you no longer see people wearing just local shirts. Nowadays, for every Botafogo shirt there’s a Chelsea one, for every Cruzeiro a Barcelona, and for every Gremio a Liverpool.
Turned off by the corruption and mismanagement endemic in their domestic game and with the exotic attractions of Europe available on demand via TV, the internet and video games, many Brazilians – especially youngsters – are taking a greater interest in foreign football.
“Little by little, the big European clubs are silently ‘invading’ the hearts and minds of Brazilian football lovers, especially the young, who are seduced by competitions that are much more attractive than those we are used to seeing in Brazil,” said Fernando Ferreira, the director of Pluri, a sports consultancy firm. “The phenomenon of Brazilians supporting one team in Brazil and another abroad is more and more common.”
One is that Brazilian football is expensive and still a bit of a mess (even though it is slowly getting better). Another is that more Brazilians have more money to spend, as I’ve written about a thousand times. And third, the world is smaller and more people have more access to European football, via TV, the internet, social media and video games.
Brazilian clubs are trying to internationalise. But the truth is their fans have already taken that step.
I’ve never been a huge fan of naming things after famous people and certainly not after politicians. (And don’t get me started on naming rights.)
In football, there are so few folks that are above reproach these days that to name a stadium or a stand after a player or a manager is inviting trouble.
Which makes you wonder why the Rio de Janeiro authorities even considered naming their Pan American Games stadium (seen in this picturesque snap below) after João Havelange, the former head of the CBF and FIFA and a member of the International Olympic Committee. All three institutions have long had a reputation of being rotten to the core.
Well, back in 2007 they did and it was appropriate in at least one respect. The João Havelange Olympic Stadium was supposed to cost 30 million reais and ended up costing 380 million. And even then it wasn’t built to high enough standards for FIFA to even consider using it as a venue in the 2014 World Cup.
So far, so FIFA and CBF and IOC.
Now, a week after Swiss prosecutors revealed that Havelange took bribes, there is a small but growing movement to change the stadium’s name.
Some people want to change the name of the stadium to Nilton Santos, the former Botafogo and Brazil full back, or João Saldanha, the former Brazil manager.
I am against them naming it after someone else for the reasons argued above. You’re always going to find someone opposed, even if there’s no suggestion Nilton Santos or João Saldanha has skeletons in his cupboard.
Most Cariocas already call the stadium the Engenhão, after the neighbourhood where it’s located. Why not just formalise that? The Engenhão stadium sounds good to me. And it avoids any controversy.
Typically, the Rio organising committee hasn’t commented on the affair. But they can’t be happy at the thought of the 2016 Olympic Games being held at a stadium named after a man the world knows is corrupt.
You have to think it’s only a matter of time before they make a subtle change. They’d be wise to do it sooner rather than later.
Two of Brazil’s biggest football clubs presented newly hired foreign imports on Saturday, in the latest manifestation of the newfound spending power that has recently helped keep some of the country’s own talent from moving abroad.
That’s how I started this piece for Reuters this weekend.
The stars in question were Clarence Seedorf, who left AC Milan and signed for Botafogo, and Diego Forlan (right) who left one Internazionale, of Italy, and signed for another Internacional, of Porto Alegre.
Both are big names, even if they are getting on.
Seedorf, 36, has won four Champions League titles with three clubs, and Uruguayan Forlan, 33, was voted the best player at the 2010 World Cup.
The deals were unusual because Brazilian clubs rarely sign foreign stars from European clubs. They often repatriate their own ageing stars when their careers in Europe are over, with Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Luis Fabiano, among those who’ve returned home recently.
Now, however (as my story goes on to say)…
Growing wealth among Brazilian teams has also enabled them to keep young talents like Neymar, the ascendant Santos forward, from following their predecessors across the Atlantic, much less to developing leagues in China, the United States, or the Middle East.
A strong Brazilian currency, and lucrative sponsorship deals, mean many young Brazilian players can earn as much as they would by making the move to Europe.
With more than 30 million Brazilians having entered the middle classes over the past decade, advertisers are investing heavily in sponsorships. Television companies this year more than doubled the amount they pay clubs for broadcast rights.
So the arrival of Forlan and Seedorf marks a new willingness by Brazilian clubs to invest in banner players.
However, it should be noted that neither of the two teams paid transfer fees. That is still a deal too far for Brazil’s heavily indebted clubs.
And if it were not for personal reasons, neither Forlan nor Seedorf would likely even consider coming to Brazil.
Forlan’s new club is based in Porto Alegre, just a 90-minute flight from his home city of Montevideo. And Seedorf, who is married to a Brazilian, already owns property in Rio. Those were key factors in the deals.
Brazilian clubs are also going to have to keep selling their young prospects when the right offer comes in. Forlan’s arrival has prompted speculation that Internacional could sell Leandro Damiao or Oscar to teams abroad. Spurs are said to be among those most interested.
Whatever happens, fans were out in force in Rio and Porto Alegre to welcome their new heroes.
When Forlan arrived in the southern city of Porto Alegre on Saturday, 3,000 fans turned out to greet him.
Seedorf, meanwhile, was flown to Rio de Janeiro’s Engenhão stadium in a helicopter before being presented with his No. 10 shirt ahead of the game against Bahia, which Botafogo won 3-0. A crowd of 20,000 people turned up, three times the number present at Botafogo’s last home game against Ponte Preta.
It remains to be seen if these deals will be followed by others. There may be one or two.
But I doubt it is the start of a real trend. The quality of life in Brazil is still to precarious for that to happen. There has to be a very good reason for a European star to swap life in Rome or Paris or even Manchester, for Rio or Sao Paulo.