Why do so many coaches crash and burn in Brazil?

March 18, 2009 at 09:58 4 comments


Even at the best of times, managing teams in Brazil has always been a precarious occupation and the majority of coaches are lucky if they survive for more than a couple of months. 

Naturally, some of the country’s big clubs are amongst the quickest when it comes to wielding the axe. But sometimes the statistics beggar belief. Flamengo and Fluminense who have gone through a whopping sixteen coaches each (not including caretakers) since 2003. Atlético Mineiro with 14, and Corinthians and Vasco on 13, are close behind. It may not come as a surprise to learn that Atlético, Corinthians and Vasco have all been relegated in recent years and that Flamengo have come close to the drop on more than one occasion.

São Paulo on the other hand have enjoyed great success in the Campeonato Brasileiro, the Libertadores and the World Club Championship and have had just five men at the helm during the same period. Incumbent Muricy Ramalho has been there since 2006.

The different situations would seem to suggest that there is an obvious correlation between the longevity of a coach and the success of a club.

But this message has clearly not sunk in at the majority of clubs in this year’s São Paulo’s state championship.

The coaching casualty figures have already surpassed last season when just 11 teams went through a change of management during the entire competition.   

In 2009, the only sides not to have made a swap are Palmeiras (Vanderlei Luxemburgo), Corinthians (Mano Menezes), São Paulo (Muricy Ramalho), Santo André (Sérgio Guedes) and Bragantino (Marcelo Veiga). With the exception of the latter, the rest of the teams are in the top six and vying for a playoff place.

This year’s Campeonato Paulista is breaking new ground. The competition consists of a group phase of 19 rounds with the top four making the playoffs. But in 14 rounds, 15 of the 20 clubs have changed coach at least once. If you include caretakers, seven teams have already used three coaches. Mogi Mirim (whose president is ex Brazil man, Rivaldo), and Guarani, have gone through four. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that these two clubs along with Marilia and Guaratinguetá (who have swapped their coach three times each) are in the relegation zone.

In 2008, Juventus (3 coaches), Rio Preto (2), Sertãozinho (3), and Rio Claro (2) all went down.

Clearly, trading mangers is not the solution when you are in a fix. So, why should what is essentially a local tournament, cost the jobs of so many coaches?

Regardless of what Brazilian living in other areas may say, the Paulista is the biggest and most competitive state competition in the country. The interest in the Paulista is high and this is reflected in the TV viewing figures. As such, the championship has always been a shop window for players (or coaches) looking to make a name for themselves and earn a big money move.

Historically, the Paulista’s appeal outside Brazil has been limited but that has changed recently. Adriano’s spell at São Paulo in 2008 was the start. But with Ronaldo now at Corinthians, the competition is being watched in a lot more countries around the world. And it’s not just Ronaldo that is bringing in the viewers. There’s also the attraction of seeing São Paulo’s Hernanes, Palmeiras’ Keirrison (who has an astounding 12 goals in the championship), and there’s the recent emergence of Santos’ new Robinho, Neymar.

With the Paulista now enjoying a higher profile, the chances of a player making a lucrative move within Brazil or abroad have increased. And this has had a direct effect on the shelf-life of many of the coaches.

One explanation for the high rate of dismals is that many clubs are now run by businessmen or investors who want their team to have a good campaign solely in order to sell off their players after, or even during, the Paulista. The full name of one of 2008’s finalists is the rather businesslike Guaratinguetá Futebol Ltda. Paulista Futebol Clube are also a limited company. The football management group, Traffic, own or part own, all the big names at Palmeiras. They also have a partnership with Ituano Futebol Clube. These business interests, while sometimes bringing short-term benefits, are also having a detrimental long-term effect on many of the clubs.

Bragantino coach, Marcelo Veiga, has seen it all before. “They [the investors] contract a coach and then they want to say who’s going to play. That makes it hard for a manager to work properly. Because they own the players they want to make a quick profit on them”, said Veiga.

As well as the desire to make a quick buck, many clubs are also getting the fundamentals wrong. Club directors are not taking time, or don’t have the necessary knowhow, to evaluate coaches correctly. Appointments are rushed. Coaches that have a history of failures are drafted in too quickly and then fired just as hastily.

While this may appear to be financial suicide, clubs can afford to sack the man in charge because they are very often on short-term contracts signed for a particular tournament.

A case in point is Estevam Soares (photo) who is already on his third club of the season. Soares was sacked after just one round at Portuguesa – though to their credit, the club had kept faith with him even though they were relegated to Série B of the Brasileiro at the end of 2008. The 52-year-old then joined Guaratinguetá. He was there for exactly four weeks before Barueri made him a better offer and with it the chance of leading them in Série A of the Campeonato Brasileiro for the first time in their history.

“At Guaratinguetá, I just had a little more than a month left on my contract. At Barueri I have a ten-month contract with a Série A side. So, it wasn’t just a question of money”, explained Soares.

Yesterday, Mogi Mirim signed up Givanildo de Oliveira – a coach who has 25 years of experience. Whether even he will survive Mogi’s remaining five games in the Paulista remains in some doubt. 


Entry filed under: Campeonato Paulista 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John Coyne  |  March 19, 2009 at 23:04

    Nice article. Keep up the good work.

  • 2. Colorado Matt  |  March 20, 2009 at 17:42

    Nice post!

    I still struggle to get my head around this aspect of Brazilian football culture. I also struggle to keep up with all the sackings and changes!

    I think the fact that these guys are ‘coaches’ rather than ‘managers’ plays a key role in this. If the team isn’t playing well the coach is changed. In British football, the manager pretty much directs the whole club as far as football is concerned.

  • 3. Jon at Just Football  |  March 26, 2009 at 13:03

    Good article Jon. One aspect I also feel is relevant is that of the wild expectations placed on clubs/managers by supporters. Barely one or two bad games need pass before fans are up in arms angry about the state of their club, demanding change. I think that lack of patience definitely also plays a factor, don’t you?

  • 4. pitacodogringo  |  March 26, 2009 at 23:00

    it’s certainly part of the equation. some coaches appear to be unpopular from day one. take Celso Roth at Grêmio who’s done a reasonable job with a rather limited side.


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The man who came up with: Messi carrying Argentina. Neymar carrying Brazil. British Airways carrying England. My name is Jon Cotterill. I am an English football commentator for TV Globo in São Paulo, Brazil. Currently we're broadcasting two live Campeonato Brasileiro or Campeonato Paulista games per week plus our magazine show, Footbrazil to 180 countries. + Eu trabalho como narrador na TV Globo em São Paulo, Brasil. Atualmente, nos transmitimos dois jogos ao vivo do Campeonato Brasileiro ou Campeonato Paulista por semana e nosso programa de futebol semanal, Footbrazil.

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© Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jon Cotterill and Pitacodogringo's Brazilian football site with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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