Pitacodogringo’s quick guide to the Campeonato Paulista 2009
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The 2008 Campeonato Brasileiro came to an end a mere six weeks ago. But professional football has returned to Brazil with the start of the 27 state championships. The Capixaba, Cearense and Pernambucano Campeonatos got underway on the 10th January. Competitions such as the Carioca (Rio), Gaúcho (Rio Grande do Sul), and Mineiro (Minas Gerias) start this week. But as ever, we on Brazilian football will be focusing on the oldest and most competitive tournament: São Paulo’s Campeonato Paulista.
From past experience, I know that many non-Brazilians find the domestic season in Brazil a little baffling. So, if you’re new to the Paulistão and don’t know your Guaranis from your Guaratinguetás read on.
The football year in Brazil Brazil’s rather packed footballing calendar includes the Campeonato Brasileiro, the Libertadores, the Copa do Brasil, the Copa Sul Americana, the Recopa and of course the state championships. To accommodate so many tournaments, football in the country runs from around the third week in January to the first week in December without a break. If you count the Copa São Paulo de Juniores (Brazil’s biggest junior side competition, which is televised nationwide) then football can be seen from the first week of January until the first week of December.
The state competitions have been around since the start of the 20th century. The Carioca, for example, was set up in 1906 and the Gaúcho in 1919. Arguably, the state tournaments had their heyday before the arrival of Brazil’s first truly national league – the Campeonato Brasileiro – in 1971. The reason it took so long to establish the Brasileiro was largely a matter of economics and distances. Brazil is a huge country. For example, Porto Alegre clubs, Grêmio and Internacional, have occasionally had to travel 3852 km (2393 miles) north to Belém for a fixture against Paysandu. Covering these distances by bus was never going to happen but cheaper air travel made the national league a viable proposition.
A brief history of the Campeonato Paulista When you take a look at the statistics, it’s easy to see why a championship such as the Paulista could thrive. The state of São Paulo has a land mass of approximately 248209 km2 and that’s larger than the UK. Of course, this is bad news for some of the teams. In this year’s Paulista, poor old Guaratinguetá face a midweek 1192 km (740 miles) round trip to Marilia. Quite a journey for a local fixture!
An estimated 41 million people live within the state borders. The city of São Paulo itself has approximately 11 million citizens – a potential audience more than adequate to sustain the competition.
The Paulista was established in December 1901 and is Brazil’s oldest competition. São Paulo Athletic were the first winners in 1902. Charles Miller – the man credited with bringing football to Brazil – was top scorer with ten goals. The tournament was run by various organizations until it came under the control of the current administrators; the Federação Paulista de Futebol, in 1941. It will come as no surprise that the big four have won the tournament more than any other sides. Corinthians have 25 titles to their name, Palmeiras 22, São Paulo 20 and Santos 17.
This year, twenty clubs will complete from 21st January to 3rd May. The first part of the competition is run on a league basis and then the top four sides go into the knockout phase. League position is based on points, number of wins and then goal difference.
There is also the somewhat farcical Campeão do Interior (a mini championship that features the sides that finish in 5th to 8th place but excludes the big four). The current holders of the Paulista are Palmeiras. Ponte Preta finished runner up. Juventus, Rio Preto, Sertãozinho, and Rio Claro went down and were replaced by Santo André, Oeste, Mogi Mirim, and Botafogo. Alex Mineiro (ex Palmeiras now Grêmio) was top scorer with 15. Santos’ Kléber Pereira grabbed 13.
Background to 2009 São Paulo’s Adriano was the main attraction last year. Adriano had a relatively good campaign, regained his fitness and confidence and even forced his way back into Brazil’s national squad. It goes without saying that another player hoping to repeat this kind of success is 2009’s biggest draw. Ronaldo’s presence at Corinthians has increased interest in the competition not just in Brazil but also throughout the world. The former Brazil man has been big news. Whether Ronaldo’s arrival turns out to be no more than a marketing ploy remains to be seen. To say that the forward is out of shape is something of an understatement. To give you an idea, he’s even bigger than he was during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. And though Ronaldo claims to be shedding weight it’s unlikely that he’ll be fit enough to play until February or more probably March.
This season, there’s also an added financial incentive for the clubs with prize money at around US$736,000 (£500,000) for the winner and the big four get to share around US$3 million (£2 million) in TV money. This may be chicken feed by English Premier League standards but it is a much-needed source of income for many of the clubs in the competition.
The state championships act as shop windows for players trying to make a name for themselves and many are picked up by the bigger teams in time for the Brasileiro. The tournaments are also important for the smaller sides as a good finish could earn them a place in the detestable Copa do Brasil.
Naturally, the local competitions have their detractors. In the age when so much football is played, many ask if these tournaments still deserve a place in the football calendar.
Brazil suffers from an excess of the sport. So much so, that there’s hardly a chance for the fans to have a proper break and then get really excited about upcoming fixtures. Many of the players from the big sides are not 100% match ready as clubs plan for their athletes to reach full fitness to coincide with the start of the more important national and international tournaments.
The state competitions are often far too long. 23 games are required to win the Paulista. The Brasileiro is 38 rounds. So, many teams are playing a championship and a half per year plus a possible involvement in the Copa do Brasil, Libertadores or the Copa Sul-Americana.
Critics also argue the local leagues are anachronistic now that a proper national league is in place. The Série A outfits are forced to compete against poor teams with poor facilities in empty, dilapidated grounds. This season, the Campeonato Alagoano was postponed because none of the stadiums were up to scratch. The same can be said of the Copa do Brasil were only 15 of the 64 stadiums that are scheduled to be used are in a fit condition to host games regularly.
Apart from local pride, the state championships have become meaningless. They do, however, offer the incompetent clubs that are never going to get near to winning a national title a way of appeasing their fans.
The Paulista also has a serious problem in the knockout phase because there is no provision for penalties or extra time. Bragantino were dumped out of the competition at the semi-final stage in 2007. The Paulista’s ridiculous rules state that in the event of the scores being level on aggregate, the team that finished higher in the league phase goes through. So, Marcelo Vegas’ side went out to Santos despite drawing both games 0x0. If it ever happens to one of the big four, I suspect that rule will change.
Another problem is the predictability. The big fish in the small ponds are expected to win – and nearly always do. The last time a club other than Flamengo, Vasco, Fluminense, and Botafogo won the Carioca was Bangu in 1966. Since Renner triumphed in the Gaúcho in 1954, only Juventude in 1998 and Caxias in 2000 have taken the honours. Every other year, the competition has been won by either Grêmio or Internacional. The Paulista has also been dominated by just four clubs (see below).
The favourites If you’re the betting type and are eyeing up a potential winner, then you should look no further than the big four. Since 1941 when the Federation Paulista de Futebol took control of the competition, there have only been five upsets. Portuguesa shared it with Santos in 1973, Inter de Limeira won it in 1986, then came Bragantino coached by Vanderlei Luxemburgo in 1990, Ituano were kings in 2002 (but the majorsides were taking part in the Torneio Rio-São Paulo), and São Caetano who were then coached by Muricy Ramalho, were champs in 2004.
So, on to this year’s contenders. Palmeiras are not a byword for stability or long-term planning. Once again the current holders have dismantled their squad. Since December, there’s been a flurry of activity at the Palestra Itália. Washington, Thiago Gomes, and William have been loaned out to Vitória. Maicosuel, Léo Lima, Elder Granja, Leandro, Martinez, Roque Júnior, Denílson, Gladstone (loaned to Náutico) and Jorge Preá (loaned to Atlético Paranaense) have all gone. Alex Mineiro, who scored 37 goals for the club last year, was allowed to leave for Grêmio. His strike partner, Kléber, has returned to Dynamo Kiev.
Willians and Marquinhos (ex Vitória), Cleiton Xavier (ex Figueirense), Maurício (ex Coritiba) Eudes (ex Grêmio Pinheiros), Pablo Armero, (ex América de Cali), and Danilo (ex Atlético Paranaense) have come in. One of Brazil’s most promising players, Keirrison, was finally signed up from Coritiba in mid January. Keirrison, though, is still owned by Traffic and Coritiba.
Vanderlei Luxemburgo has brought in some decent players. The arrival of Marquinhos and Keirrison could make Palmeiras one of the most watchable sides in the country. But the coach remains at the mercy of Palmeiras’ backers, Traffic, who will sell any of the players if they can make a quick profit (Henrique went within six months in 2008). Traffic’s unwillingness to fund the purchase of Kléber from Dynamo Kiev annoyed many Palmeiras fans and there will be more trouble if the Palestra Itália side struggle in the Paulista. Palmeiras will have the Libertadores on their minds but still should make the playoffs.
Sao Paulo have made it clear that the Libertadores is their priority. So, we’ll be seeing a lot of the fringe players in action for the Morumbi side. Already out are: Jancarlos, Júnior, Éder Luís, and Juninho. Centreback Ânderson will also be on his way when he can find a club. In this season are: Junior Cesar, Washington, Arouca (all ex Fluminense), Wagner Diniz (ex Vasco), Renato Silva (ex Botafogo), Eduardo Costa (ex Espanyol) and importantly, São Paulo have managed to extend centreback Rodrigo’s loan spell from Dynamo Kiev. Once again the Tricolor have made some solid signings but only Arouca catches the imagination. Surprisingly, rising star, Hernanes, is still on the books. As result of increased attention by the media early last year, the midfielder’s form suffered a little. But if he can conjure up some more magic in the Paulista and Libertadores, Hernanes will surely be on his way to Europe before June.
What we can expect from São Paulo is more effective football but it’s not going to be pretty. After making a token effort to play the ball on the floor in the second half of the Brasileiro – a style that in the end paid dividends – coach Muricy Ramalho (who this week should etend his contract to the end of 2010) has decided to revert to form with the signing of another big target man, Washington. The striker is one more in a line of tall, muscular frontmen (Christian, Lima, Marcel, Aloísio, and Adriano) that have been trained to crumble in or around the area. This means we’ll be seeing lots of balls hoofed down field and high crosses in to the box. And who said direct football was dead?
A season in Série B of the Brasileiro seems to have done the trick for Corinthians. The Parque São Jorge outfit coasted to the second division title and now look like being a threat once again. Coach Mano Menezes has trimmed his squad for 2009 but an unwanted departure was Argentine frontman, Herrera, who was not held on to after his successful loan spell from Gimnasia La Plata. The signing of Ronaldo made all the headlines but Corinthians have done a good all-round job of strengthening their team. Souza (ex Panathinaikos), Sérgio Escudero, (ex Argentinos Juniors), Túlio and Jorge Henrique (both ex Botafogo) and Jean (ex Grêmio) have been brought in. Corinthians, though, want to get back in to the Libertadores and that means prioritizing the Copa do Brasil.
Santos were glad to see the back of 2008. After winning the Paulista in 2006 and 2007, they finished 7th last year and then went on to struggle in the Brasileiro. The relatively inexperienced Márcio Fernandes has kept his job and the rebuilding has begun. The only notable absence is Brazil leftback, Kléber, who is on his way to Internacional. Old boy Leo has returned from Benfica, Paulo Henrique (ex Goiás), André Astorga (ex Cluj, Romania), Roni (ex Gamba Osaka), Luizinho (ex Cruzeiro), Germano (ex Cerezo Osaka), Lúcio Flávio and Triguinho (both ex Botafogo), Madson (ex Vasco) and Bolaños (ex LDU) are the other new faces. The latter four especially bring with them qualities that Santos lacked last season.
As for outsiders, well, the last three seasons have seen the likes of Ponte Preta, Guaratinguetá, São Caetano, Bragantino and Noroeste all finish in the top four.
Santo André enjoyed a double promotion year in 2008 and have made some decent signings so look out for them. There’ll also be a good deal of interest in Mogi Mirim were Rivaldo has become club president and Giovanni (ex Santos and Barcelona) will be out on the pitch.
I’m not the greatest fan of the Paulista or any of the state championships and I’ve always viewed them as a prelude to the Brasileiro. But all in all, there’s been some great signings and everything is in place for what should be the best Paulistão in years.
We start our coverage of the Campeonato Paulista 2009 on Saturday 24th January (2nd round) as holders Palmeiras take on Mogi Mirim. Sunday we have Bragantino against Ronaldo’s Corinthians.
See the opening day fixtures here
Our broadcast schedule (provisional) – all game times Brasilia
31/01 – 17h00 – Corinthians x Oeste – Pacaembu (São Paulo)
01/02 – 17h00 – Ponte Preta x Palmeiras – Moisés Lucarelli (Campinas)
07/02 – 17h00 – Corinthians x Portuguesa – Pacaembu (São Paulo)
08/02 – 17h00 – Palmeiras x Santos – Palestra Itália (São Paulo)
14/02 – 17h00 – Palmeiras x Paulista – Palestra Itália (São Paulo)
15/02 – 16h00 – (clocks change in Brazil) São Paulo x Corinthians – Morumbi (São Paulo)
21/02 – 16h00 – Guaratinguetá x Corinthians – Dário Rodriguês Leite (Guaratinguetá)
22/02 – 17h00 – (Carnaval) Santos x Botafogo – Vila Belmiro (Santos)
28/02 – 16h00 – Palmeiras x Guarani – Palestra Itália (São Paulo)
01/03 – 16h00 – Santos x São Paulo – Vila Belmiro (Santos)
The clubs – full names followed by cities
Associação Atlética Ponte Preta – Campinas
Associação Desportiva São Caetano – São Caetano do Sul
Associação Portuguesa de Desportos – São Paulo
Botafogo Futebol Clube – Ribeirão Preto
Clube Atlético Bragantino – Bragança Paulista
Esporte Clube Noroeste – Bauru
Esporte Clube Santo André – Santo André
Grêmio Recreativo Barueri – Barueri
Guarani Futebol Clube – Campinas
Guaratinguetá Futebol Ltda – Guaratinguetá
Ituano Futebol Clube – Itú
Marília Atlético Clube – Marília
Mirassol Futebol Clube – Mirassol
Mogi Mirim Esporte Clube – Mogi Mirim
Oeste Futebol Clube – Itápolis
Paulista Futebol Clube Ltda. – Jundiaí
Santos Futebol Clube – Santos
São Paulo Futebol Clube – São Paulo
Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras – São Paulo
Sport Club Corinthians Paulista – São Paulo
Entry filed under: Campeonato Paulista 2009, Championship guides. Tags: Adriano, Brazil football season, Brazil state championships, Brazilian football, Campeonato Paulista, Campeonato Paulista fixtures, Campeonato Paulista on TV, copa do brasil, Corinthians, Hernanes, Keirrison, Marquinhos, Marquinhos Palmeiras, muricy ramalho, Palmeiras, Ronaldo, Ronaldo Corinthians, Santos, São Paulo.