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Brazil’s Football in Crisis: The End of ‘The Beautiful Game’

Brazil’s Football in Crisis

In recent years, Brazilian football has been grappling with a crisis of identity as hundreds of talented young players leave the country each year to pursue careers in Europe. This exodus of football talent has had a profound impact on the national team, known as the “Selecao,” which has struggled to maintain its status as a global powerhouse.

The Selecao’s recent struggles have been well-documented. The Olympic team failed to qualify for the Paris 2024 Games, while the full men’s national team currently sits in a disappointing sixth place in the South American World Cup qualifying standings. For a nation that has won a record five World Cups, this is simply unacceptable.

Former Brazilian striker Grafite, who led Wolfsburg to their only Bundesliga title in 2009, believes that the “jogo bonito” style of play that made Brazil famous is no longer recognizable. “Today there is no longer this Brazilian football,” he told DW.

The root of the problem, according to historian David ‘Dere’ Gomes, is the mass exodus of young talent to Europe. A change in European law around 20 years ago made it easier for non-EU citizens to play in Europe, triggering a wave of transfers that continues to this day. Brazil now loses hundreds of footballers to the rest of the world every year, depriving the country’s domestic league of its most talented players.

This has had a profound impact on the development of Brazil’s football identity. The most talented players, those capable of deciding a game with the spectacular dribbling skills that are a hallmark of the Brazilian style, are not given enough time to develop their talent in their home country before being snapped up by European clubs.

The result is a clash of identities within the national team, as players who have adapted to the faster, more physical style of European football struggle to coordinate with those who have remained in Brazil. This was evident at the last World Cup in Qatar, where Brazil were eliminated by Croatia in the quarterfinals.

Gomes believes that building a strong domestic league in Brazil is the key to reversing this trend, but this would require significant changes in club management, financial fair play, and legislation to protect the clubs that develop young talent. Until then, it seems likely that Brazil’s football identity crisis will continue, with the Selecao struggling to recapture the magic of the “jogo bonito” that once made them the envy of the footballing world.


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