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Brazil’s Superior Court of Superior Court of Sporting Justice kicked Gremio out the Brazilian Cup on Wednesday after some of their fans racially abused Aranha (pictured below), the goalkeeper with rival club Santos.

It was the heaviest penalty ever imposed on a Brazilian football team for racist acts and it was about time. (See more in my Reuters story here.)

aranha_It’s interesting to hear the reaction from fans, many of whom believe the club should not be punished for the crass acts of a few racist idiots. The general feeling seems to be that the ban is either unfair or unnecessary.

Gremio fans are not racist. The club has banned the offending fans so it shouldn’t be punished again. The club shouldn’t be punished for something it can’t control. Why is the club punished when fans call players monkeys but not when fans call players gay/fat/ugly? The Court only kicked Gremio out the competition because they were 2-0 down from the first leg and wouldn’t have qualified anyway.

These are some of the things I’ve been told over the last 24 hours.

But they miss the point.

The simple truth is that if you want to end racism you have to take serious action and you must make fans realise their actions have consequences. Until now, all the punishments have been too weak. Fines, bans, etc. They haven’t worked.

Not only does kicking Gremio out the tournament embarrass the club, it has two key side effects. One is that other teams can see the Court is serious about attacking the problem. Racist fans will think twice about spouting abuse.

Just as importantly, it can empower “good” fans. The next time someone shouts “Monkey” at a football match there’s every chance that other fans will shout them down, well aware that if they’re caught their team will lose points or be disqualified.

The important thing now is that the Court imposes similarly heavy penalties – including disqualification if necessary – on teams whose fans are found guilty or racism.

The Court should be applauded for its action. Consistency now is what matters.

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.”

Read the full Reuters story here on how Brazilian fans are paying more and more attention to European clubs.

The reasons?

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.

Rafael-ScheidtAsk any Scottish football fan about Rafael Scheidt and you’ll get a guffaw, a roll of the eyes or a shake of the head.

Or all three.

Scheidt signed for Celtic from Gremio for around 4.8 million pounds in 1999. He had three full Brazilian caps but he more than lived up to his name.

Scheidt by name, shite by nature, as anyone who saw him play, might say.

The Observer Football Monthly rated him the second biggest waste of money in football history. The Celtic Wiki page said he was arguably the worst signing in the history of the club. One team mate reportedly said, “he couldn’t trap a bag of cement.”

leomarI thought of poor old Rafael yesterday when I wrote this piece about Leomar (left), a midfielder who was allegedly called into the Brazil squad in 2001 in return for a bribe.

The president of northeastern club Sport said he paid to get Leomar a call up in 2001 and an investigation has been launched.

The idea was that players who can say they are worthy of wearing the famous yellow shirt can command higher fees on the transfer market.

That led me to think of Scheidt. Nothing, I should hasten to add, other than the fact he was rubbish and yet played three times for Brazil, suggests that Scheidt’s call up was underhand or questionable in any way.

But it wouldn’t be a surprise if we heard more such reports.

As Romario said: “The president of Sport had the courage to go public and prove what we’ve been hearing for a long time: the national team is a cartel.”

Ronaldinho training with Atletico (from Atletico’s official site)

I started writing a story this morning about Ronaldinho Gaucho’s departure from Flamengo that ended up here on Reuters.

But my first musings were this:

   The question for Ronaldinho is where he goes now. Most doors looks closed to him in his homeland because few clubs can afford his salary demands and fans see him more as a disruptive influence than creative one. One poll asked fans of Brazil’s top flight clubs if they’d welcome Ronaldinho in their side. Supporters at all 20 teams said No.

      Gremio and Palmeiras, the two other clubs who tried to sign him from Milan, have rejected any suggestions they might want to sign him. Both teams are still angry at the way he misled them in contract talks last year – Ronaldinho allegedly promised to sign for both clubs before jilting them for Flamengo – and neither could afford him or put up with the associated problems he brings.

Perhaps the most likely destination is one of football’s emerging markets; the Middle East, the former Soviet republics, China or even the United States. In many of those countries, teams pay top dollar and give their top players more freedom.

How wrong I was. Ronaldinho signed for Atletico Mineiro today.

They must be mad. Even though they are getting him on the cheap, he’s unlikely to reproduce anything like the form that made him the world’s best player two years running.

As Tostao said: “Ronaldo didn’t play like he used to because he didn’t want to. It was because he couldn’t. There’s no mystery. That happens with all athletes, some earlier than others.”

Ronaldinho will turn it on in flashes for Atletico. But unless he’s learnt his lesson at Flamengo and starts becoming a lot more professional then he’ll be out of Belo Horizonte by Christmas.

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