Brazil waiting for change
Meet the new boss ... same as the old boss. It seems "The Who's Greatest Hits" does not often get an airing at CBF (the Brazilian football association) barbecues. And by Tuesday lunchtime, millions of Brazilian football fans may be feeling that they've very much been fooled again.
For when the curtain goes back to reveal the new coach of the Seleção next week, the signs currently suggest that it will be the familiar craggy features of Dunga, who managed Brazil between 2006 and 2010, glaring grouchily back at the assembled journalists and cameras.
Not that Dunga is the worst boss in the world -- indeed Brazil's recent World Cup meltdown makes the 2010 campaign, when he was manager, look like a kind of pre-lapsarian golden age, and his abrasive, disciplinarian style may help tackle the histrionic egoism and sentimentality that was such a concern this summer. But those hoping for a bold choice capable of leading Brazil forward in a brave new footballing world are likely to be left feeling underwhelmed.
The man behind the decision appears to be the CBF's new director of football, Gilmar Rinaldi. Rinaldi played with Dunga at Internacional, and both were part of the 1994 World Cup-winning squad -- Dunga as captain and midfield ankle biter, Rinaldi as third-choice goalkeeper. The two have remained close ever since.
Rinaldi's first significant statement in his new role was that, "At the moment, a foreign coach doesn't fit with our reality. We have to look for someone at home, with all our defects, and with all our qualities." The statement came amid reports that the CBF had already approached, and been rebuffed by, Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini and Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli, and suggested that Brazilian football's purported post-World Cup revolution might turn out to be something of a damp squib.
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The calls for sweeping change have been deafening ever since that harrowing 7-1 capitulation against Germany. "The CBF (Brazilian soccer's governing body) talked about going to hell if Brazil lost. Let's hope they go there and never come back, and that those who stay here use this defeat as a well-deserved lesson on which to base a better future, like the Germans did after the 2006 World Cup, by cleaning up the finances of the clubs, getting the fans back into the stadium, and creating a clean, beautiful game by punishing the corrupt," wrote Juca Kfouri, one of the country's most respected sportswriters, in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper after the match, leading a chorus of criticism of not just the Brazil team, but everything about the way the game is organised in the country.
Even Brazil president Dilma Rousseff joined in, saying, "Our players shouldn't be exported abroad. If we're the sixth or seven biggest economy in the world, we should be able to keep them here."
The appointment of Rinaldi, until recently a player agent, threw cold water on the flames of footballing revolution, however, and with hindsight, it is hard to see why anyone expected much from the CBF in the first place.
The organisation, run by 82-year-old Jose Maria Marin (who is most famous for having pocketed, on camera, a winner's medal at a youth tournament he was presiding over, leaving one player without a medal) and his sidekick and president elect, Marco Polo Del Nero, is rooted in cronyism and complacency. Del Nero, for example, seemingly oblivious to the anger felt by Brazilian football fans, was originally in favour of keeping Luiz Felipe Scolari on as coach after the Germany debacle, while Marin remarkably toasted the manager on his departure for having "made the Brazilian people fall in love with the national team again."
With such men in charge, the possibility of real change was always going to be unlikely, as was the prospect of hiring a foreign coach who might bring some new ideas to the Brazilian game. It was not the first time the subject of appointing an outsider had been raised -- in 2012, following the departure of Mano Menezes, the country's leading football daily Lance! ran a vigorous campaign calling for Pep Guardiola to be installed as manager. The CBF, needless to say, barely stirred from its slumbers.
Once the threat of a foreign invasion was removed, the pickings among local coaches suddenly looked slim. The hire 'em and fire 'em, win at all costs culture in Brazilian football has resulted in a paucity of new coaching talent, with young managers turned into burnt out husks by the time they're 40 after being sacked a dozen (or more) times in as many years. The same impatience among fans and club directors also means there is no room for tactical creativity or experimentation, leaving the Brazilian coaching scene looking a little like a footballing Jurassic Park, the landscape dominated by a few big beasts.
Before Rinaldi's appointment and the subsequent sudden emergence of Dunga as front-runner, the main candidate was former Corinthians manager Tite, whose finest moment came when he led Timão ("the Big Team") to victory over Chelsea in the Club World Cup final in Japan in 2012. It was the culmination of a remarkable 12 months in which Corinthians won the Brazilian league and Copa Libertadores titles, although the team were rarely pleasing on the eye. And other than that memorable night in Tokyo, and a couple of spells managing in the UAE, Tite has little experience outside Brazilian football. In any case, whatever the reason, it seems now that Tite has been overlooked. "It's not my brother. It's someone else," the coach's youngest brother, Ademir Bachi, said this Saturday.
A survey last week by the research group Datafolha had made Tite the favourite for the job, with 24 percent of respondents naming the former Corinthians man as their first choice. Behind him came Zico, who arguably has the broadest experience of all the candidates, having managed Japan at the 2006 World Cup and worked in Greece, Turkey and Russia, among other countries, with 19 percent. Zico represents the romantic choice, symbolising as he does that great Brazilian side from the 1982 World Cup, perhaps the last time the jogo bonito was played with genuine élan, and also perhaps the most forward-thinking option.
After Zico came notoriously grouchy São Paulo manager Muricy Ramalho, a proven winner in the Brazilian club game, with four league-title triumphs under his belt in a lengthy career. But Ramalho has a prickly relationship with the CBF and perhaps a rather narrow view of the global game -- "Guardiola will only deserve top marks once he wins some trophies in Brazil," he said of the then-Barcelona coach in 2011. He is also known for favouring a gloomily pragmatic style of play, at odds with the flowing, attacking football played by recent dominant international forces such as Spain and Germany.
Which, in all probability, makes Dunga the obvious choice, if only in the surreal "Alice Through The Looking Glass" world of the CBF. Which is not to say that the identity of Scolari's successor is a foregone conclusion. Marin and pals are partial to throwing the press the odd curveball here and there, not least with the appointment of Rinaldi as technical director, when many had been expecting Leonardo or Paulo Roberto Falcão to be given the job.
If it is confirmed, Dunga's appointment is unlikely to be met with much enthusiasm in Brazil. "Accepting Dunga shows that even leftovers look like a banquet when you're starving," wrote ESPN's Mauro Cezar on Saturday. Brazilian football's revolution, it seems, will have to wait.