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The Brazilian Lottery Part I

I would like to kindly introduce Mario, he is a reader and commenter on the blog who decided to email me with an idea. His idea was to use his Brazilian background to help shed some light on the issues surrounding the risk of signing a Brazilian player, their transition to Europe, and ultimately their value to AC Milan. This piece will run for the rest of the week in four parts so enjoy.

Part I

Ask any soccer fan in the world which country produces the most technically skilled players, and the unanimous answer will be Brazil. Even the most casual of fans will recognize names such as Pele, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho. At one point or another, we have all been awed by a Brazilian player’s sublime skill, as he weaves through defenders with such grace that it almost looks as if he is dancing with the ball. We have all seen the pinpoint accurate no-look, one-touch passes, the flicks, the backheels, and the through-balls that look like a hopeful act of desperation as they leave the Brazilian’s feet, only to land perfectly in the path of an oncoming runner. Brazil is the land known among football circles as the originator of beautiful soccer, the “Joga Bonito” style where any player can invoke supreme acts of skill at any time to change a game, and dazzle opponents and fans alike.

Ask someone a little more experienced than the casual fan what else Brazil is known for? The second thing they are guaranteed to think of is shoddy defense (though recently this has changed). Historically, Brazil has always been a team that can attack with any player on the field and score more goals than anyone can score on them, allowing for subpar defending. The most famous Brazilian defenders are better known for their marauding runs forward and support of the attack then they are for their defending (Carlos Alberto, Dani Alves, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, etc)

More recently, Brazilian players have been attributed a third characteristic: lack of discipline. There are exceptions to every rule of course, but the majority of Brazilian players that have made a name for themselves in recent years have shown lack of interest, bad work rate, questionable decision making, and much more.

Why? They are unarguably still some of the most technically gifted players in the world. Yet over and over again, we see players who have more than enough skill to be successful in Europe get sent packing back to Brazil, or demoted to lower divisions. It is the reason for this lack of discipline that I will try to pin down and explain through these posts.

Before I go on, a few disclaimers about myself, what, and why I’m writing:

• The majority of my family lives in Brazil
• I have always loved and watched Brazilian soccer, from the national team down to the state tournaments (for those who care, my favorite team in Brazil is Cruzeiro)
• I lived in Brazil for about 4 years, from the ages of 2-3, and the ages of 8-10
• In my second stint of living in Brazil, I played for a soccer school in Belo Horizonte, more on those and the role they play in Brazilian soccer later
• My aunt is good friends with a member of the Board of Directors of Cruzeiro, and I have spoken with him a few times about the state of Brazilian soccer, as well as extensively toured Cruzeiro’s youth campus (Cruzeiro’s youth program is considered one of the best in Brazil, having developed players such as Ronaldo, Dida, and Maicon among many others)
• Last but not least, I do not consider myself an expert on the subject of Brazilian players, and nothing I say here is decisive, and I am quite open to discussion. I am merely attempting to make sense of an undeniable phenomenon in modern soccer through a look at my personal experiences, the extensive knowledge of my father, and my conversations with my Aunt’s friend.

Now that I have set down a rough outline of what I will be talking about, over the next few days there will be three more posts exploring various aspects of this topic. In my next post I will explain why Brazil’s defending has always been lacking compared to their attacking, followed by an attempt to explain the reasons for the disciplinary problems that many Brazilian players face. I will be checking the comments often so please feel free to ask me any questions you may have as this series is posted, and I’ll try to get to everyone I can.