Before that, though, I thought I’d keep you abreast of the ‘controversy’ that occurred at the end of last season. Back in December I wrote about last year’s champions, Fluminense, avoiding the drop on a technicality: a small Paulista club, Portuguesa, had fielded an ineligible player in their final match of the season and were promptly docked 4pts (1 point earned in their draw and a further 3 point punishment), this pushed them into the relegation zone and lifted Fluminense out to safety.
I also mentioned the rather touchy subject that this was now the THIRD time in recent history that Fluminense had received external help in maintaining their top-flight status leading to cat-calls of ‘QUE VERGONHA!’ (‘the shame’, or, ‘the embarrassment’) from fans of Fluminense’s Carioca rivals.
As expected, however, Portuguesa did indeed lodge an appeal, claiming that the punishment far outweighed the crime, and although most will agree, it has been confirmed that the sports tribunal have simply applied the law as it stands and the verdict remains.
You’d think that Fluminense would have been eager to prove to the country that they deserve to be in the top flight, instead they opened their account in the Carioca State championship with a 3-2 loss to 3rd division Madureira and a 1-1 draw with non-league Bonsucesso.
The good news is that the once confusing format of the Carioca Championship has now changed. Unfortunately it appears to be even more confusing than the previous format!
For complicated reasons relating to history and tradition, Carioca teams battle for 3 trophies, the Taça Guanabara, the Taça Rio and the overall Campeonato. The teams used to play 2 tournaments, one for each taça (cup) and the winners of the cups would play each other over two legs to decide who was champion.
Now we have 3 separate tournaments:
The Torneio Super Clássicos (Super Derby Tournament) is disputed between the big 4 – Fluminense, Flamengo, Vasco da Gama and Botafogo.
And the Taça Rio is between the remaining 12 small clubs from the Taça Guanabara.
All three are running concurrently. They are basically playing the Taça Guanabara, but the results are being recorded in all 3 tables! For example, if Botafogo beat Fluminense they will earn 3pts in the Taça Guanabar league table AND 3pts in the Torneio Super Clássicos league table. Which isn’t confusing at all…
When I demanded change to the state championships, this is not really what I had in mind.
On a brighter note, the World Cup is just around the corner! I’m sure you’ve all read about the construction delays and problems and deaths that have been banged out on buckled typewriters by angry journos over the last few years, indeed, even I have partaken in a bit of Brazil bashing of late, but a recent remark from a friend focused my mind on a potential problem that the mainstream press seem to have overlooked…
I was asked at work, “How come, even in your winter, there’s always grass in the goalmouth?” This reminded me of the Brazil x Ukraine friendly that was played shortly after my arrival in Brazil back in 2010. I remember it because it was played at Derby County’s Pride Park and there was something of a hullaballoo being made here as to the standards of the training facilities and the pitch – the ESPN Brasil reporters were visibly awestruck with the quality of the training pitches and couldn’t believe that a 2nd division club had a stadium and pitch that put all of those in Brazil’s top flight to shame.
There’s a reason why Brazil’s pitches are, well, crap, and it’s a reason that has got FIFA all up in a tizz over.
Let’s take a look at St. James’ Park. Now that United is no longer in any secondary competition, how many matches are we looking at being played on the hallowed turf from, say January to June? 9 in the league. Let’s imagine we’d managed to stay in a cup for a bloody change – add another 2 matches for the FA Cup, maybe another for the League Cup? No wonder we can maintain a beautiful pitch all year round, even with the amount of rain, snow and ice it has to endure, and the lack of natural light that gets onto it.
Now lets take, oh, don’t know… How about the Maracanã? You know, where the World Cup Final is going to be played. I literally have no idea how many matches that the stadium is due to hold between January and June. What I know for certainty is that the number is a Hell of a lot higher than the piddly 13 we counted on Barrack Rd!
This may be hard to believe but Rio de Janeiro, a city the size of London, with 4 giants of the domestic game, has no other venue suitable to host a football match. We did have an alternative in the Engenghão, in fact this stadium was our main stadium during the Maraca’s renovation, I even got along to a State Championship final there and watched Ronaldinho win the cup with Flamengo. But, as I wrote last year, the stadium was closed in March 2013 due to structural problems and hasn’t been reopened yet!
So what does that leave us with, then? It leaves us with 4 clubs who currently call the stadium their ‘home’ ground. These 4 teams have to share the pitch with regards to league commitments, Copa Libertadores, Copa Sul-Americana, Copa do Brasil and this bloody State Championship nonsense that is currently being ground out for our viewing pleasure. I think a conservative estimate for games being played at the Maraca (the Brazilians LOVE a nickname) between January and June would be around 30. Probably more.
If the pitch is still in tip-top condition, we know that either a) it’s the best pitch on the planet or b) the groundsmen are!
Well – next time I’ll be giving you a bit more crack on the state of the stadiums (but with all the brouhaha it gets a bit boring) and will be letting you know what the Brazilians think about the prospect of a load of pissed up IN-GUR-LUND fans on the streets draped in St George Crosses… The mind boggles.
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comment boxes below. Also, if you’re coming out for the World Cup or are thinking about it (NBT!) let me know and I can try to give you some handy info/tips!