Ronaldo’s medal nothing to get over-excited about
Ronaldo was not surprisingly delighted to lay hands on a winner’s medal so soon after returning from last year’s knee injury but even he probably knows deep down that it is not that much to get excited about.
Ronaldo’s performances for Corinthians have already started talk of a Brazil recall — he has not played for his country since the 2006 World Cup — and national team coach Dunga was in the crowd when Corinthians held Santos 1-1 to win the Paulista championship on Sunday.
But what exactly is the Paulista championship? The format of the Brazilian season often baffles outsiders and maybe this is a chance to put it into context.
For the last few years, the country has run a conventional league — usually known simply enough as the Brasileirao (literally the Big Brazilian) featuring 20 teams who play each other home and away in the conventional style.
It is preceded, however, by the regional championships, one for each of Brazils 27 states. These tournaments are based on politics rather than any footballing logic.
They have been around since early 1900s when a national championship was inviable but have survived the advent of air travel and all attempts to remove them.
Each state has its own federation who in turn choose the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF). Therefore, abolishing these tournaments would be electoral suicide for Ricardo Teixeiro, who has held the post since 1989.
Taking the Paulista as an example, only six of the 20 teams — Corinthians, Santos, Palmeiras, Sao Paulo, Santo Andre and Barueri — play in the Brazilian first division. The rest are from the second and third divisions and some are barely professional.
This means that for four months, most of Corinthians’ matches have been against lower division sides.
Given that Palmeiras and Sao Paulo have been more interested in the Libertadores Cup — South America’s equivalent of the Champions League — and that Santo Andre and Barueri are themselves small teams, Santos were probably their only real rivals for the title.
For Ronaldo, the real test starts next week with the Brazilian championship.
PHOTO: Corinthians’ Ronaldo receives a pass during their Paulista (Sao Paulo State) Championship final match against Santos FC in Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo, May 3, 2009. REUTERS/Junior Lago