Brazilian football 1
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No other country produces more footballers than Brazil. South America’s biggest nation boasts not only countless natural-born talents, but also excellent football schools. We visited one of the most successful and prestigious.
It is a mid-afternoon in Guaribas, a dusty village deep in the arid north-eastern state of Piaui, one of the Brazil’s most poverty-stricken regions. There are no official football pitches in town and even if there were, it would be too hot to play on them. Yet a group of youngsters have still managed to find a cool spot for a kick-around. Their pitch is simply the shade of a large tree. They have placed improvised goalposts at each end of the shade and the ball is considered to have gone out of play when it goes into the sun.
For many young Brazilians, football offers their only form of recreation and the only hope of escaping a life of poverty. Only the lucky few have access to full-sized pitches and eleven-a-side games. Others have to make do with a beach, a piece of wasteland, a quiet street, the shade of a tree – as in Guaribas – or on a tiny island in the middle of a river, as seen recently in nearby Teresina. Anywhere will do for a game and it does not matter if there are poles, tree trunks or other obstacles in the middle of the field.
With the possible exception of Argentina, no other country turns out as many top-class footballers as Brazil. It seems that no sooner has a Robinho, a Marcelo or a Diego been sold to a top European club than another one comes along to take his place.
“In Brazil, the first present a child gets is a ball. He starts to love the ball and almost as soon as he can walk, he learns to play with it,” said Nei Rama, technical coordinator at the youth development centre run by first division club Fluminense.
The latest off the production line is Internacional’s 17-year-old forward Alexandre Pato – “Alex the Duck” – and his 18-year-old colleague Luiz Adriano, both of whom scored goals at last year’s FIFA Club World Cup, which was won by Intrenacional after they beat Barcelona in the final.
According to Brazilian football association (CBF) statistics, Brazil last year exported an extraordinary total of 851 footballers. The destinations ranged from Real Madrid, who bought Fluminense’s 18-year-old defender Marcelo, to clubs in lesser-known footballing nations such as Brunei, the Faroe Islands, Indonesia, Guatemala, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.
Many of them go abroad without playing at the top level in their own country, such as Francileudo dos Santos Silva, who was born in the northern state of Maranhao and is now a regular for Tunisia, where he has been naturalized. Portugal international Deco and Mexico’s Antonio Naelson, who both played at the 2006 FIFA World Cup TM, fall into a similar category.