Is the Concentracao an Outdated Concept That Is Harming Brazilian Football?

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Is the Concentracao an Outdated Concept That Is Harming Brazilian Football?
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Players in this corner of the world have a long list of complaints about the way football is run in Brazil: the hectic, disorganised calendar, substandard playing surfaces, midweek kick-offs of 10 p.m. to accommodate media giant Globo and their soap operas, to name but a few.

 

But perhaps none grate more than that unique aspect of Brazilian football—the concentracao.

 

In theory, it may sound an excellent innovation. To give players the maximum opportunity for rest and relaxation prior to the physical demands of a football match, the squad remains encamped in a hotel together for one or even two nights prior to the game.

It is a demonstration of the father-son relationship between a coach and his players.

Or, if observed in a slightly less rose-tinted fashion, the lack of trust placed in the playing staff to stay out of trouble in the hours leading up to a match.

But in this day and age is it really necessary? And has it ever been truly effective?

Should Brazilian clubs abandon the concentracao policy?

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Brazilian writer Ruy Castro, in his excellent biography chronicling Garrincha, tells tales of how players would strive to evade the extremities of the concentracao during the 1950s and 1960s.

Normally, a hotel room would be booked under an assumed name, giving the players the freedom to gamble. It was not uncommon for a player to have lost his win bonus before even getting near the football pitch.

What becomes evident from the book is that the biggest obstacle to overcome however, was not the club directors—it was boredom.

In the modern era, players continue to take measures against the concentracao. Last year, during the Campeonato Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo were fighting for the title for a large part of the season.

To complicate matters, senior members of the playing staff were locked in a bitter dispute with club directors over late payment of salaries.

A compromise was reached; the players did not show for the concentracao.

While they did not win the title—the crown going to Cruzeiro—the Glorioso did manage to qualify for the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the UEFA Champions League, for the first time in 18 years and have continued without a concentracao this year. (link in Portuguese)

Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images
Ronaldinho and Pato, whose antics outside of the confines of the concentracao have made them infamous

Its effectiveness is constantly called into doubt. In Brazil, sports columns are full of gleeful tales of players breaking curfew or the strict rules laid down by their superiors.

In 2012, while still playing for Rio club Flamengo, a story emerged about Ronaldinho. He reportedly offered a waitress $100 to bring beer to his hotel room later that night and on another occasion was caught waiting to escort a young lady to his hotel room by then coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

Neither remained at the club much longer after the incident.

But perhaps there are some benefits to this unique, Brazilian approach to game preparation. A number of young prospects have prospered in their homeland before being given freedom and untold quantities of cash and subsequently squandering the talent that could have put them on a pedestal for youngsters the world over.

Alexandre Pato is still only 24 years old and perhaps the most effective modern example. When he burst onto the scene with Internacional at the age of 17, he looked destined to take the footballing world by storm—a forward worthy of inheriting the famed No. 9 shirt for the national team.

Transferring to Milan in the summer of 2007, his short career continued its upward trajectory. Arguably the most gifted of the current crop of Brazilian strikers, he will not be leading the line at this summer's World Cup and is struggling to find a place in the 23-man squad.

His problems with injury have been well documented, but upon splitting from his wife after a ten-month marriage, she alleged his nocturnal lifestyle (link in Portuguese) was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Tasting liberty and wealth for the first time in tandem may have derailed Pato, for the time being at least. He is currently rediscovering his shooting boots on loan at Sao Paulo.

It is possible, and indeed hoped for, that a more disciplined regime can help him take back the famed yellow shirt that he once seemed destined to wear.

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