European clubs seek deeper Brazilian connect

  • Dhiman Sarkar, Hindustan Times, Rio De Janeiro
  • Updated: Jul 03, 2014 11:34 IST

It fits Brazil’s two-club supporters’ theory that Paris St Germain’s football school sits almost next to the headquarters of Botafogo FC here. Even the land of five-time world champions and clubs rich in history and tradition can’t stay away from the pull of televised European club football.

Like they are doing in different parts of the world --- India included --- European clubs are reaching out to Brazil. Set up last January, the PSG school here has 130 children spread over four age-groups between six and 15 and a waiting list, said Igor Vaz, the head coach. Top European clubs are using the social media to form a relationship with their Brazilian supporters and last year, Manchester United came on a trophy tour after winning the English Premier League.

Vaz has a simple explanation why children from a city that has clubs such as Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco want to be trained at PSG’s school. “Television makes them come. Our good players play in Europe. Children see Brazil captain Thiago Silva playing for PSG and they want to be part of that,” he said.

The other reason is that Brazilian clubs are not in sync with modern methods of training. “They usually get the children to play and let them be. I would like to think that the children come here for the name and stay for the training,” said Vaz.

Opened by PSG’s Brazilian star Lucas, this is one of the four schools across the world. Barring a three-tier set-up in Paris linked to the club now bankrolled by Qatari billions; the other schools are in Doha, New York and near Marrakesh in Morocco. India is the next developing football market on the radar with a school likely to start this month.

“The plan is to have two schools in Delhi-Gurgaon by year-end and then move to other cities,” said Thomas Lavenant, a co-investor in both the Rio and India projects. PSG academy coach, Sacha Lizambard, who has set up the other schools, has relocated to New Delhi and will be there for the next three years, he said.

Brazil has come a long way from when Pele refused to move out of Santos and Socrates hated his stint in France. With an economy growing at a healthy pace, it seemed Neymar would buck the trend of moving to Europe and stay with Santos but even though he had a contract till 2014 and told Time magazine in February 2013 that he intended to honour it, Barcelona made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

In a squad of 23, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Selecao has 18 players based in Europe whose million-dollar pay packets are difficult to ignore for players who see football as a passport to a better life and a greater chance to wear the country’s shirt. It’s no coincidence that no Brazilian club features in the top 20 of the Deloitte’s annual list of football’s richest. Not just that, a Reuters report last January highlighted clubs being unable to pay players on time. Alexander Pato, who joined Atletico Mineiro from AC Milan, was one of those named.

Brazil don’t play “like an extremely hot jazz band” as Italian journalist Thomas Mazonni once wrote, but the talent pool never shrinks because football continues to be an integral part of the social narrative of this country. No harm then looking for the next Nicolas Anelka or Mamadou Sakho here.

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