By Tim Cowman
Since arriving in Brazil it has struck me as to how little we Brits generally know about the make up of the domestic game here, which now seems a crime baring in mind this nation's global dominance. It has taken me a few months to get to grips with the complexities of the seasonal set up here. This vast country and its many fans are fed on a neverending and inter-twisted diet of various competitions.
For most people Brazil means São Paulo, Rio, Favelas and the Amazon but my home is Teresina, a city in the North East of the country. The state, Piaui, is dominated by a desert based ecosystem (sertao) that produces temperatures touching forty degrees for long parts of the year with the coolness of the nearest beach nearly six hours away. The heat is not the only oppressive element to life in Teresina though, as with much of this region it is a forgotten part of Brazil and suffers from massive problems relating to poverty, a poor education system, underemployment and a lack of essential services. The heat coupled with the hard fight for survival prompts the majority of the almost one million inhabitants to lovingly refer to Teresina as "the arsehole of the World".
When I arrived in this country I was expecting lavish creative football skills and a social life to match. In Teresina the latter has been ever present but the city has produced about as much football talent as that found in the Dorset countryside. Dont get me wrong the players here are blessed with "ginga" but the infrastructure just isnt in place.
This was proven to me early on in my days here as during a drunken night out at a street bar I was invited to the local derby by Garrincha, the top radio personality in the state. The game took place in what can be politely described as a "decent standard" league 2 stadium with a crowd to match. We made our way to the press box where I was introduced to everyone and everybody. With my limited Portuguese I was busy meeting people, shaking hands and nodding blindly with a foolish grin on my face, blissfully unaware that I was being presented as a scout from an English football club. This gross misunderstanding escalated throughout the game and after the final whistle I was hurried out onto the pitch where I found myself in front of the TV cameras conducting a post match interview for local television.
Finally last week the big time hit Teresina when the "Copa do Brazil" (Brazilian cup) came to town. Brazils FA cup which sets the big against the small, in this case between Piaui (the state champions) and Gremio, winners on four previous occasions.
The gates of the city's colossal concrete stadium were opened for what is only one of a handful of occasions in each season. The arena was built in the 70s as a vote gaining exercise by the military regime and seats about 70,000. It is a construction with a sad history as on its opening day 50 people lost their lives. With the stadium packed just before kick-off a plane flew over and as the noise reverberated around the ground many fans rushed to the exits fearing a collapse. The years and lack of investment have made a disaster appear much more likely and I have to admit my heart was slightly in my mouth when the pre-match fireworks sent amplified explosions echoing across the pitch.
Part 2 next week...
(This article was originally published at http://www.futebolthebrazilianwayoflife.com)
Tim is based in São Paulo and is presently searching for employment opportunities in the areas of environmental business, journalism or education. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com.
Previous articles by Tim:
Brazil: On the Road in the North East
Brazil: Teresina Part 3
Brazil: Teresina Part 2
Brazil: Teresina Part 1