Brazilian Football Needs Major Overhaul Ahead of 2018 World Cup

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportJuly 18, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JULY 08:  Sami Khedira of Germany celebrates with his team-mates after scoring their fifth goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany at Estadio Mineirao on July 8, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Over a week has now passed since the most humbling result in the history of Brazilian football, quite possibly the most shocking in the world game.

The successive defeats for the Selecao at the back end of the World Cup, but particularly the 7-1 mauling at the hands of Germany, have already spelled the end for Luiz Felipe Scolari. The search for his successor is now underway.

But Brazilian football, once thought of as the definitive school in the game, has an arduous path to walk to regain its former prestige. Rivals have not only caught up, they have left the five-time world champions lying in the dust.

Profound change is needed in Brazilian football, and not just among the higher echelons of the sport. The disappointing showing from the hosts at the World Cup cuts deeper than a simple shift in coach and tactical approach.

Luiz Felipe Scolari has left his post as Brazil coach.
Luiz Felipe Scolari has left his post as Brazil coach.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

One area that needs drastic changes is the organisation of the domestic game, which is so badly arranged there are few breaks for the players due to the sheer number of matches.

The Campeonato Brasileiro, the Brazilian national league, kicked off again on Wednesday—just three days after the World Cup final.

Whereas in the top European leagues there is a three-month rest period over the summer, in Brazil the offseason lasts just six weeks.

Top-flight clubs still play in the enormously antiquated state championships, a throwback to how football was in this corner of the world prior to the formation of a national championship.

The biggest clubs in the land are forced into a four-month slog against minnows and part-time opposition. It is the equivalent of the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal taking on Chelmsford City and Whitby Town in a 16-game competition, on poor-quality playing surfaces, often in the searing heat of the Brazilian summer.

The Campeonato Brasileiro restarted just three days after the World Cup.
The Campeonato Brasileiro restarted just three days after the World Cup.Cristiano Andujar/Getty Images

The benefits are few, with crowds often below 1,000. Stadium attendances in the national tournament are also disappointingly low, something Clarence Seedorf commented on while at Rio de Janeiro club Botafogo, as reported by Brazilian television channel SporTV (link in Portuguese).

I still vividly remember one of my first games in Rio. It was the 2010 Brasileirao, and Fluminense were in the hunt for the title.

The Tricolor welcomed Palmeiras to the Maracana in the final game to be played at the stadium before it was closed for World Cup renovation works.

I was feverishly expecting masses, passion, walls of noise, bursts of colour, that famed Brazilian energy. I was left empty.

There were less than 20,000 spectators inside the Maracana that night. In a stadium that can hold over 80,000, the atmosphere, such as it was, got lost in the terraces. The crowd were quietened even further by a 93rd-minute equaliser from the visitors.

Of course, the attendance wasn't helped by the timing of the match. A Wednesday night, at 10 p.m.

Crowds at Brazilian matches are often low.
Crowds at Brazilian matches are often low.Buda Mendes/Associated Press

The stereotypical image of the Rio citizen as a beach-going, beer-swilling, body-bronzing man is far wide of the mark.

This is a city where tens of thousands are up and heading to work before six o'clock in the morning. The likelihood of attending a match that finishes close to midnight, followed by getting home, is a nigh-on impossibility.

If Brazilian football is to be reformed from the very roots, the calendar must be one of the central pillars. The scrapping, or at the very least a shortening, of the state tournaments is an urgent necessity to recapture a disenchanted public's interest.

As well as giving the players a longer break between campaigns, it would allow for some build-up and anticipation prior to the national kick-off. One of the best days of the season for football fans is Opening Day.

Jose Maria Marin must begin to make significant change.
Jose Maria Marin must begin to make significant change.Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

But supporters in Brazil are robbed of that experience when the national league begins, which is normally the weekend following the finals of the state tournament.

The country will doubtless be trotted out as among the favourites when the 2018 World Cup in Russia rolls around. But problems within the game here run deeper than rudimentary change at senior international level.

Simply waiting is not a solution. How willing CBF president Jose Maria Marin and those alongside him are to make those necessary changes, however, remains to be seen.