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Friday, May 9, 2014

Sports

Football: Great stadium, shame about the team in Brazil capital

Friday, May 9, 2014

An aerial view of Mane Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia.

BRASILIA - In moving its capital from Rio to Brasilia in 1960, Brazil made a statement of modernization. In building a spectacular new stadium in the city for the World Cup it made another.

All that is missing is a top team to play in it once the World Cup circus has moved on.

Brasilia, population 2.7 million, has the most expensive stadium of the 12 hosting the tournament.

Yet Brasilia FC ply their trade in the fourth division and their fans are unlikely to come close to filling its 72,000 capacity.

The city's raison d'etre is to be the place where politicians and civil servants concentrate on running the country and most are not locals.

Brasilia therefore lacks the generations of fan support that exists among clubs such as Sao Paulo-based Corinthians or Palmeiras or Rio sides Flamengo and Botafogo.

"Brasilia is a new city. The population always cheers for clubs from elsewhere and that holds back growth of a local fan base," Regis Carvalho, manager of Brasilia FC, told AFP.

His team have landed eight city championships - and hope to add another in the coming weeks.

If they manage it, the club will move one win ahead of Brasiliense FC, another fourth tier outfit who count Romarinho, son of world champion Romario, on their books.

Where is the driver? 

The modest status of teams in the division does not mean a lack of drama.

On the opening day of the state championship, Formosa arrived in town to face Brasilia.

Something was missing, however - the team's boots, without which they would lose the game on a walkover.

The night before the game the driver had not unloaded all the team equipment before disappearing. Two days later he and his bus re-emerged.

The driver said he had been assaulted and abducted -- media reports claimed he had sold the gear in order to help feed a drugs habit.

"These clubs don't lack for fans. What they need is help, marketing, infrastructure," says Carvalho.

That view is shared by the chairman of another local side Gama, who in 2002 were in the top flight but who are now outside the league pyramid.

"We have infrastructure, a training centre, a state-provided stadium - but we don't have capital. We are operating at an amateur level owing to lack of funds," Antonio Alves, the chairman of Gama, told AFP.

Gama's "Bezerrao" stadium can hold 20,000 people - "in proportion to those who like our football," asserts Alves.

Even if the top flight is beyond them these smaller clubs do not lack for competitive action at their own level.

Brasilia FC recently triumphed in the Copa Verde tournament to earn a berth in the South American Cup, equivalent of the Europa League.

The game attracted a 40,000 crowd to the Mane Garrincha World Cup stadium - though admittedly some tickets were going for as little as one real (44 cents).

The new $600 million (S$748 million) venue is the most expensive at the World Cup. But many observers fear it could turn into a "white elephant" after the circus leaves town.

The government view is it can earn its future keep as a concert venue or hosting other major events.

After Brasilia was created as the capital the workers who built the city set up home in the suburbs of the new city, thereby creating new satellite cities, where new football clubs quickly formed.

"It's in these satellite cities away from the centre where football sprang up" in the area, Alves notes, even if the sport is not, yet, ingrained in the local culture.

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