Brazilian football 3
An island of stability
Brazilian professional clubs have always taken their role as talent developers seriously but in the last ten years they have also realized that it can provide a significant form of income and have invested heavily in so-called ?divisoes de base’ (youth divisions).
Fluminense is regarded as having one of the most advanced centers in the country. Xerem was opened in 1999 and is located around 40 kilometers from the centre of Rio de Janeiro, where the professional team and the club’s headquarters are located.
The distance means that the youngsters and the employees are isolated from the political turbulence, which often affects Brazilian professional clubs. In 2006, for example, Fluminense’s professional team employed six different coaches and was plagued by reports of rifts among the squad. But none of this filtered through Xerem, an island of stability and efficient administration.
The centre boasts six full-size football pitches – including one with the exact dimensions of the pitch at the Maracana stadium – plus a conference room, accommodation for 60 athletes, a games room, a canteen and a fitness room.
Around 200 young players are enrolled at any one time – 60 in the under-11s, 55 in the under-13s, 45 in the under-15s, 35 in the under-17s and 25 in the under-20s. They take part in a set number of practice sessions per week, ranging from three for the under-11s to five for the under-20s.
Teams also take part in local and international competitions. In the last few years, Fluminense teams have walked off with trophies in tournaments in Germany, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. The club, however, regard that as a bonus. “The emphasis here is entirely on the technical side and on producing players for the future,” said technical director Andre Medeiros. “There is no point in winning a game or a tournament if you don’t do it the right way.”
The club provides the trainees with three meals a day and employs a full-time nutritionist to supervise their diet. A key element is Brazilian black beans, which are rich in irons and other proteins. The clubs also takes responsibility for enrolling their trainees in local public schools and their progress is monitored by a full-time social assistant. Fluminense even employ a full-time psychologist – an idea often considered taboo in generally macho Latin societies.