Brazil: the land of the bullyboys

June 5, 2009

Sao Paulo have won the Brazilian championship for the last three years but their style of play is far removed from their country’s fine footballing traditions.

Defensive, physical, brutally efficient in attack and often destructive, Muricy Ramalho’s team have made few friends outside their own fan base.

Their 3-0 win over Cruzeiro on Sunday caused an outcry after they committed 14 fouls — against the same player. 

The victim was striker Kleber, who said: “The fouls were not violent, they didn’t injure me. But how can anyone play football if they receive 14 fouls in a game.”

His club added in a statement: “Nobody has witnessed so much cowardice in a football match in the recent history of Brazilian football. We demand that the authorities take action to stop this persecution…”

Sao Paulo, who committed a total of 30 fouls on Sunday, are not the only culprits in this depressing scenario. Many other teams use similar tactics.

Brazilian domestic football bears almost no resemblance to the version played by the national side or by the big-name players in Europe.  Sixty-foul games are common and the tactic of taking it in turns to foul the opposition’s best player is widely used.

This is what veteran Brazilian columnist, Fernando Calazans of O Globo, had to say on the matter.

“So this is where Brazilian football is heading? Not even Pele nor Garrincha could have played if they suffered 14 fouls. It’s the so-called rotation of fouls, prohibited under the rules but permitted by weak referees.

“It’s put into practice by the majority of Brazilian coaches, among them the widely-admired and widely-praised Professor Doctor Muricy Ramalho.

“If Sao Paulo can commit 30 fouls in a game and their opponents also commit 30 fouls, that makes 60 fouls. And what sort of spectacle do you get when a game is paralysed 60 times by fouls?

“The violence against those who want and know how to play football, and against those who go onto the pitch to do this, is increasing every year.

“The football pitch, today, is the land of the bullyboys.”

Dagoberto (R) of Brazil’s Sao Paulo battles for the ball with Royer Canas (C) of Colombia’s Independiente Medellin during their Copa Libertadores soccer match in Medellin April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Fredy Amariles

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