The death of Brazilian football…

By: Four Four Two Magazine

Over 40 years on the shadow cast by the 1970 Brazilian team seems greater than ever.  The standard set by this team was possibly the highest point the game has reached in terms of artistry, sophistication and achievement.

Today as the sun sets on the careers of the most recent golden age of Brazilian football with Ronaldo announcing his retirement, Rivaldo soon to follow, whilst the third player of the dynamic trio from the 2002 World Cup winning side Ronaldinho looks to have played his last international game, leading football magazine Four Four Two have posed the question; "what is next for the Brazilian game?"

Once a conveyor belt of talent the void left by these three players has yet to be filled, since 2007 Brazil have not had a player nominated as the best in the world, more so Brazil did not have a player in the top 10 of European goal scorers this season.

For the first time in living memory they do not have a single attacking player of proven world-class pedigree.

If Brazilian football is not dying it is certainly struggling to breathe!

Simon I remember saying to me in October 2003 that “Brazil is finished” when I asked why as often with Simon (and it proved to be true) he replied “it would take me a week to explain Steve and I haven’t got a week.”

Simon didn’t help by repeating the phrase at various times over the following years.  I did get "that week” when I stayed in a hotel with him in Brazil last year, whilst he visited various people and clubs.

His observations were confirmed when we visited two clubs, Vasco and Botagorgo where we genuinely asked if we were observing community groups, even Simon was astounded when they informed us they were their talented players.  We watched groups of 8 and 14 years olds and the children in our soccer schools were very far ahead of both.

If you read back over the pervious issues of the KMFezine and newspaper articles as far back as 2004 you will see Simon has touched on this phenomenon previously.  He is fully aware that football is an ever evolving game, and while in one year you can be the best team in the world, if you don’t continue to produce talent, one generation will be nothing more that a false dawn.

Where to now for Brazil?

It was often speculated that there is something inherently creative in the blood of the Brazilian players, something magical in their souls.  Others less mystical in their explanation citing the weather, beach football or the poverty of the fevelas (poorer areas) and the economic imperative of reaching the top in football.

Simon during his initial visits to Brazil spent many months in every possible environment in which football was coached or played in the country.

He worked in the favelas, with top clubs like Flamengo, Bottofogo, Palmeiras and Sao Paula and with the former Brazilian greats of Pele, Zico, Careca, Jarsinho, Carlos Aleberto, Revilino and Socrates, he looked at beach football, futevolei and examined the myth of players being genetically advantaged.

Brazil is still the best nation for a young player’s development as they di the most hours but it is not in a strong position to win the next world Cup.

As the conventional game has grown into a global obsession and multi-billion dollar business the quality of Brazilian players has shrunk, their players and the national team, the identity of Brazil have been Europeanised.

The big bucks of the European clubs have pillaged the Brazilian game.  Too many of their talented young players have left the country in their early teens, well before their football education is complete.  Clubs buy the potential but then wonder why players do not reach their full maturation.

As Simon said in the May 2011 KNFezine: “ its is very much like parents having the highest ambition for their child who they enrol in Eton at 5-years of age, yet they steal the child back at the age of 9 and place them in a backstreet school at the age of 16 expecting them to be ready for the world.”

Priorities have changed.  The players are adulterated by the European game, becoming consumed by the money, fame and stardom that come with the increased status at the top level of European football.

In a further twist the game in Brazil is going through something of an economic boom, major sponsors are funding the “repatriation” of any older Brazilian players with a return to home clubs.  The return of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Elano and Luis Fabiano are proof that the world’s leading exported footballers has become a viable financial option for players to return and earn good money.

Whilst this may create a buzz amongst the supporters the players return a different breed to the one that left, with their European culture they are setting the example for younger footballers to follow.

The case of Ronaldinho’s is a prime example, his premature return from Europe suggests as much about the money now available in Brazil as it does about the impact returning payers are having on their game.  Ronaldinho, aged 30 and at the peak of his maturity as a footballer can no longer cut it at the top level anymore.

Player development is as much about culture as it is about training methods.  Whilst many are expressing adoration at the most recent Barcelona performance the current generation of Messi, Hernandez and Iniesta have been moulded by the philosophy imparted during Rinus Michel's and Johan Cruyff’s time at the club.

The major folly Simon identified from the initial trips to Brazil was the change from the Futebol de Salao ( size 2/10% rebound) to the Futsal ball (size 4/30%) and its impact on the player development.  Despite concerns raised by former greats who played the game the Spanish game of Futsal has taken precedence in Brazil and throughout the world as a small-sided game.  All of the national team players that he met had come out of Futebol de Salão.

In the mid eighties FIFA saw the potential of a “second form of soccer” derived from the small sided game.  FIFA heavily subsidised and promoted Futsal developing it as a game in its own right as a means to further exploit merchandise and TV revenue and  with perhaps the aim of a World Cup of at least half the audience for television as with conventional football.

Television executives demanded that FIFA source a ball “that could be seen” on TV screens and a ball with more opportunities for action, long passes, heading, long-range shooting and more aerial action for TV (source FIFA 1986).  Therefore the change to Futsal was based on money, paying no regards to the effect the change would have on the development of players.

The amount of times the player would touch the ball a minute reduced from 7.54 in Futebol de Salão to 2.6 touches per minute in Futal.

Wikipedia states on Futebol de Salão (when comparing with Futsal) “In Brazil a country where the sport has been played for decades, no difference as acknowledged, and the change in the ball dimensions has been seen as an improvement in the rules of the game instead of the creation of a new sport.

“I would ask, an improvement in what?”

An improvement for the CBFS who are by chance, the only Futsal body (previously Confederation Brasileiro Futebol de Salão who have complete autonomy from their FIFA recognised national association (CBF).  Some say money changed hands with Jao Havelan (then President of FIFA) involved, who is to say, it is a singular case regardless,  the CBFS gets all of the income generated from the sport.  In every other FIFA nation all income goes to the relevant football association.  It is surely a unique situation that warrants some investigation.

As a spectator sport also, yes certainly an improvement but as a development tool for Brazil in football, the change has been a complete disaster.

Fortunately young Brazilian players were not affected by the change and Futebol de Salão continued as it was but only until the mid nineties, under 9’s played with size half ball (10% rebound) a little larger than cricket ball in size, under 12s with a size one ball (10% rebound) and size two beyond that with the 10% rebound.

The dynamics of Futebol de Salão are completely different to Futsal and the typical size 4 ball with 30% rebound.  For any interested the stats are significant, English five-a side allows a palyer 2.219 touches per minute, Futsal 2.6 the difference is marginal.  The gap to Futebol de Salão (7,54) is marked.

Recently in the Sun newspaper, Glenn Hoddle stated that we must get the lads in English Academies from 200 touches to 1000 touches. A crude measure, but a basic means to measure skill development it is the most significant.

A two-hour Brazilian Soccer Schools session of a third individual work, a third paired and a third group work and play brings a player 3200 touches in a single session! That equates to 12,800 touches each week, training for just four sessions, or in a month 38,400 touches.  It is a little more tha the 200 that we are apparently doing or even 1000 suggested that we should!

So what about the Brazilian tag?

Football moves in cycles and whilst the article in Four Four Two highlights many of the existing issues facing Brazilian football the successes of Brazil impinges little on Brazilian Soccer Schools.

The country most recently influenced Simon more than any other, he spoke to any amazing array of people from all levels of the game over many years, it was the starting point of his research but as he mentioned in the 1997 BBC documentary “A while new ball game” his intention wasn’t to copy, imitate or replicate he went to see how the best as the stood that moment in time had approached things.

He found Brazil light years ahead of England Centre’s of Excellence and the tenants of then FA Technical Director Howard Wilkinson’s Charter for Quality and plans for Academies that led to better facilities and fewer hours.

In reaction to the Charter for Quality or similar initiatives Simon has said: “ I have never seen a facility make a footballer, I have a coach, a facility can neither think, talk or walk.  Use parks, playgrounds, open fields, your bedroom, you can use a ball anywhere.”

Facilities have not made players in Brazil they do more hours than anywhere else.  Simon has also looked a t other countries Holland, Italy, Spain and France their training hours and touches/activity per minute is a constant obsession of his with regards to skill acquisition.

In reality Simon’s research began in 1992, but prior to his first visit to Brazil he coached the Leeds City Boys team, his team winning all four age groups in Leeds over four consecutive years, one team scored over 300 goals in one season, conceding just 4.  This brought press coverage throughout Yorkshire including, regional television as well as is first sponsor Adidas , he was then offered the opportunity of working with Coever Coaching, but having earlier looked at their work he refused.

His intention in going to Brazil was not that we would seek to produce clones of Brazilian players; Brazil was simply his starting point and inspiration.  Over time our Brazilian Soccer Schools coaching syllabus and later SACATOTS has evolved through innovation and the study of other sports and human endeavour to become the complete training programme.

Futebol de Salão is used by Brazilian Soccer Schools a not as an end means but to develop a more complete conventional footballer.  The game and ball with younger groups is used to develop fast feet, creative passing, unconventional movement, touch and dribbling, facets vital to any players game but fundamentals most often neglected by more conventional methods.  Our approach if of a very long-term nature designed with the intention of developing the “complete” 11 a side outfield footballer.