Archive | Brazil

Tags:

Real World Football

Posted on 13 July 2010 by JamesHamilton

Whatever you might say about the professionalism controversies in England in the 1880s, it was the case then, and has been ever since, that practically all the actual football is played by amateurs.

Snopes-type legends about amateur football abound. About street football, which is alleged to have honed ballplaying skills so well – you can see an October 1930 clip of a street game here and decide for yourself. (British Movietone: registration possibly required). In other countries, it’s beach football, or a relationship between football and forms of dance, forms of self-defence, or football and dances which are self-defence in disguise.

At any rate, the Snopes-style myth connects poverty with skill on the ball.

South American countries were the first to truly value that kind of skill, and were the first to use football as a specific means of national self-expression. Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina went from football beginners to the best in the World in about 20 years – i.e. their very first footballing generation came up trumps (I’m assuming here that the 1924-1930 Uruguayans were a match for England and Scotland, which they almost certainly were).

By modern standards, these were poor countries whose kids did not allow poverty to keep them from taking up the craze. But I wonder. Not all of their best players came from the humblest backgrounds. And the pre-War period was South America’s golden age of growth and reform and relative prosperity.

Things are getting better in parts of Africa, but for much of the continent, “golden age of growth and reform and relative prosperity” aren’t the ones you’d choose to describe, say, 1970-1995. I’d like to know more than I do about the comparative levels of coaching and football education in early-century South America as compared to post-colonial Africa.

Here are two interesting sets of photographs which show two aspects of the contemporary scene in either place. David Thompson of the eponymous comment site brings us images of some extraordinary grounds in Brazil. And here is Jessica Hilltout’s fascinating series about contemporary African street football.

Comments (6)

Tags: , ,

Slapstick

Posted on 17 June 2010 by JamesHamilton

THAT Pires/Henry penalty

Athletics, cricket and swimming have their blooper reels and ice hockey its fights. But only football has cock-up at its core. Only in football is savage and ridiculous public error key to so many significant moments and germaine to so many results.

That’s down to the random element, of course, and (let’s get it over with) the ball is round. But the slapstick element at the top of the game is in decline. Increased fitness, tactical sophistication and technical ability conspire and the outcome is Portugal v Ivory Coast.

Nevertheless, even this World Cup has had its moments, and can I just say that subsequent first round matches have made England’s performance and result look better and better?

But it’s not England who have impressed me the most. They’re in the second rank, alongside buccaneering Chile, the US (those boxers’ names: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Clarence Goodson..) and Germany.

No, it’s Brazil I’m admiring – that mix of strong, capable defence, patient midfield and two wild talents up front. So that’s what Robinho is really about.. and it’s good to see a country developing from backwoodsmen into a major sporting power. This Brazil is a mature, rounded squad, tactically and technically capable of taking on the Italys and Spains. Compare the 2010 team’s skill and efficiency with the hapless, ill-disciplined, panic-ridden and gallumphing Brazil of 40 years ago:

Comments (1)

Tags: , , ,

Brazilian Physical Preparation – World Cups and More

Posted on 16 March 2010 by JamesHamilton

Tim Vickery is as always worth reading in full on Brazil’s preparations for South Africa 2010, but I wanted to draw your attention to the three crucial paragraphs. Because this is what Simon Clifford and Sir Clive Woodward have been saying for years, and this is what the English in particular have been slow to grasp (I’m hearing good things about Hibs’ new facilities, although I’m not sure that even those, or the new indoor centres in Glasgow which are equally encouraging, go anywhere near as far as the South Americans):

Shortly after the World Cup I interviewed Paulo Paixao, then as now in charge of Brazil’s physical preparation. He was understandably proud of the contribution he had made to his country’s victory. But with great nobility, he was desperate to stress that the merits were collective. “Brazil has a number of physical trainers who could have been in my place,” he said. “Nowadays , in terms of methodology of work, Europe is way behind Brazil, but the culture of physical preparation we have developed doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because we’re judged in socio-economic terms, looked down upon because we’re a South American country.”

He had visited Juninho at Middlesbrough and couldn’t believe the amount of players who were injured. “They don’t seem to mind,” he said. “If one player gets injured they go out and buy another.

“Without carrying out tests you can’t draw up a work programme, and in Europe they hardly seem to do any. In Brazil all the big clubs have physiology labs. From the start players are dealt with in a laboratory situation. The young player goes through a battery of tests to find out what he needs to fulfil his athletic potential. What we do is focus on the specifics that a player requires, be it muscular re-enforcement, stamina or aerobic work, or addressing muscular imbalance. You don’t see this kind of work carried out in Europe”

All of this is eight years ago, Vickery says – and in the meantime, Paulo Paixao and a colleague have done work in Europe. Some of this sounds very Arsenal-like, but given Arsenal’s run of injuries – consistently very long even when you take x-rated tackles out of the equation – it isn’t working for them. Or perhaps Colney is mere mood music, or advanced for its time but no longer so current.

Comments (8)

Tags: , ,

Christmas 2009: Scotland v Brazil 1974

Posted on 21 December 2009 by JamesHamilton

Scotland drew the World Champions – and such World Champions! in their first round at their first World Cup. And played them off the park. Only Rivelino would have deserved a place in Willie Ormond’s side that day.

Scotland could, if they wished, remember 1974 for this. Only the Netherlands, against the same opponents, would put on a better display in the entire tournament. It might be the best Scottish performance of all time, but if you’d rather have Baxter in ’67, a much ropier display all round, then suit yourself.

Comments (5)

Tags: , ,

Christmas 2009: Brazil’s Greatest XI’s Greatest XI

Posted on 20 December 2009 by JamesHamilton

If not quite the best ever, undoubtedly the best of the ’80s. 1982′s Brazil don’t really seem to belong to their decade – shouldn’t they be in Basle in 1954 to take on the Magyars whose formation they aped?

Scotland had them at 1-1 at half time, and with a little more self-belief might have held them. Not matched them. And there’s no shame in that. No one matched them. Italy won the tournament, apparently, but without leaving memories like these:

Comments (1)

Tags: , , , ,

Poor Spain, but France are now better than Brazil

Posted on 28 June 2006 by JamesHamilton

Impossible not to feel a lot of sympathy for Spain. Like England in 1998, they came to the tournament with a determination that this time, their talent would find its reward – and, like England, after playing impressively, they’ve gone out in the Second Round.

You can’t force football history – football’s magical coincidences, mawkish anniversaries, years of hurt and – increasingly – its graves and memorials, are all bunk when it comes to what’s going to happen next. We should all have picked this one up in 1953, when England’s undefeated home record was surrendered – thankfully, not to e.g. Belgium, but to the greatest international side of the 1950s and perhaps the greatest still of all time. Spain, I sense, hoped somehow that their years of apparent “underachievement” gave them a mysterious wind at their backs this time, and their early form reinforced the sense within the press that here was a side – unlike England! – that had really arrived meaning business.

It was all too easy for France, once Vieira decided to involve himself. So poor were France in their first two matches that their excellence since has gone almost unnoticed. And now they face Brazil, riding a different wind from Spain’s, one made up of hype and luck and the dearest hopes of commentators who think nothing’s changed since 1970 if only we stare at Brazil long enough and hard enough.

Do they have a defence capable of stopping Thierry Henry? Do they have one capable of stopping Sylvain Wiltord, for that reason.. and who wil come out on top, Ronaldinho, who is having to carry his team at present, or Zidane, who, unexpectedly, turns out after all to have capable lieutenants on all sides?

A semi-final against France would suit England very well. England have the mentality to take on the French. If they get past Portugal, it will have been the ugliest game of the tournament, and the last thing they deserve, after a tournament spent facing ten men behind the ball in every game, is the Valhalla of Brazil. France represent a chance to cut free and play..

But that’s all football history talk, and football history is bunk. So, Portugal beat England messily and with controversy and ill feeling. Brazil beat France with the help of the referee, just as such help handed them past Ghana. And win the World Cup, in a one-sided Final against Germany, because football history dictates that few South American sides win in the Northern Hemisphere and it also insists that the host nation lift the trophy more often than not. And England’s four years of mediocrity begin, and begin as ever, trophyless.

Comments (7)

Tags: , , , ,

World Cup 2006: The Secrets of Brazil’s Success – Correctly, For Once

Posted on 13 June 2006 by JamesHamilton

The actual commentary on Brazil’s game with Croatia tonight will be the usual “samba” rubbish, I’m sure, but this magnificent BBC article on the background to Brazilian football adds some balance at least.

So, what lies behind the Brazilian brilliance?

1. Priority:

Journalist Alex Bellos, author of Futebol – A Brazilian Way of Life, believes it was also due to the relatively late abolition of slavery at the end of the 19th century, and a lack of positive symbols.

Whatever the reason, Brazil very early “recognised football in our future and tradition and (as) our opportunity to communicate to the world that we are powerful,” says 1994 World Cup winner Leonardo.

“In the 1930s, we started to organise a team to be competitive in the World Cup, and the 1950s were the beginning of this big dream to make Brazil the best international team in the world,” he added.

2. Detailed Planning and Preparation:

Losing the final to Uruguay in 1950 was viewed as a national tragedy, but it only heightened the desire to win.

And it led to a little-known aspect of Brazilian football. Believing they had let themselves down through personal weakness and a lack of research, the national side came to see comprehensive preparation and innovative tactics as crucial to success. Contrary to the popular belief that Brazilian teams are defensively naive, the idea of the modern back four originated in the 1958 World Cup-winning team.

Through a careful evolution of the way they played, Brazil continued to have a tactical lead until 1970.

3. Unique Training

In Brazil children learn football in a very different way from their European counterparts.

There are no leagues or competitive matches for young children – such a concept is seen as likely to hinder a player’s creative impulses.

“The children play a lot but it’s always very free,” says Leonardo. Parreira agrees: “We don’t put them in a cage, say ‘you have to be like this’. We give them some freedom until they are ready to be coached.”

4. Sheer Hard Work:

Brazil’s success, though, stems from more than talent and the freedom to express it – behind Ronaldinho’s gleaming smile lies hours of hard work.

“The English academy system is one where players are training for just four hours a week,” says Brazilian football expert Simon Clifford.

“Compare that to Ronaldinho when he was a 16-year-old with Gremio, where he would have been training for up to 20 hours a week. ”

Parreira adds: “In Brazil players are fabricated, they are produced. “They come to the clubs when they are 10-12 and then they start in categories according to age.

“There are no more players from the beach or from the street. This is a myth, a legend. They are built, grown in the clubs.”

More on Simon Clifford here.

One of the reasons why many people believe than an African nation will win the World Cup in the near future is the fact that “street football”, from where they think the natural creative players come, is still predominant there. I’ve seen two African sides so far at this World Cup – Ivory Coast, and Ghana – and rather than remind me of Brazil, their physical strength, bravery, endeavour and fair play have reminded me far more of British sides from the 1950s. The Brazilians are in no danger of losing their preeminence, if only for the thoroughly bad reason that the Europeans are keen to hold on to their Copecobana fantasies, to hug football’s version of Orientalism to their chest and keep it there.

I’d keep one eye on Simon Clifford, if only for the short while until he really takes over British footballing consciousness. Which he will.

Comments (1)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here