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Anti-European feeling grows in Brazil

December 11, 2003 11:19 IST
A wave of anti-European sentiment has swept through Brazilian football over Milan's treatment of Rivaldo, FIFA's Player of the Year award and a row over the release of Kaka for next month's Olympic qualifiers.

Brazil's normally diplomatic national team coach Carlos Alberto Parreira led the attack during a conference in Sao Paulo.

"FIFA is getting weaker and weaker against the European clubs," he said. "And they're doing it so that Brazil loses out. They don't want Brazil to go to a fourth consecutive (World Cup) final.

"When Brazil won the World Cup for a second time (in 1962), football changed. In 1966, the Europeans created football based on strength and speed. It was a way to defeat Brazilian football.

"Imagine what it will be like if we win a sixth World Cup title in Germany...They're going to do everything so that we don't achieve it."

Parreira's anger centered on the reluctance of Italy's AC Milan to release midfielder Kaka, one of the Serie A sensations this year, for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile in January.

Brazil under-23 coach Ricardo Gomes named 17 of his 20 players for the tournament on Monday but left three places vacant in the hope of working out agreements with European clubs, including Milan.


Parreira said four European clubs had written to the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) saying they did not want to release players for the competition which decides which two South American teams qualify for the Olympic soccer tournament in Athens in August.

"There have to be strong rules," said Parreira.

"I understand their side but when you buy a player like Kaka you must know that he plays for his country. It should be written into his contract."

But it is not just the Kaka situation that has upset Brazilians.

Many cannot understand why Milan splashed out millions of euros on 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo, only to consign him to the reserve team.

Rivaldo was released from his contract last week and is now looking for a new club.

"Why do they buy Brazilian players if they don't like them?" asked Mario Zagallo, who coached Brazil in three World Cups.

To add insult to injury, Rivaldo won the "Golden Dustbin" award when he was voted the worst player in Italy by more than 5,000 listeners who took part in a poll conducted by RAI radio's Catersport programme.

"Yes, it made me sad," said Parreira. "It was an act of disrespect to a world champion."

"But Rivaldo shouldn't be worried about this because he knows how valuable and important he is."

The poll prompted Fernando Calazans, football columnist in the Rio de Janeiro O Globo, to say what many Brazilians feel about Serie A, which is shown live on cable television in Brazil.

"Italian football, in general, is a huge bore," he wrote, pointing out that in the last 50 years, Brazil had won five World Cups to Italy's one.

"Making little jokes at the expense of Brazilian players can only be the result of jealousy."


The announcement that two Real Madrid players -- Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane -- and one from Arsenal -- Thierry Henry -- had been nominated for this year's FIFA Player of the Year award has also caused exasperation, even though Ronaldo is Brazilian.

Many felt that midfielder Alex should have been nominated for the award, which will be announced on Monday, after guiding Cruzeiro to their first Brazilian championship title this year.

"If it was a serious election, a player like Alex would not be forgotten," wrote veteran commentator Armando Nogueira.

"I've been a frequent viewer of the European leagues this year. And, quite sincerely, nothing has excited me as much as the exhibitions of Alex.

"The jury is made up of coaches who ignore, completely, teams beyond European frontiers. Nobody sees games from our championships. For them, Brazil and Argentina are nothing more than suppliers of players."

Former Brazil striker Tostao, who played alongside Pele in the 1970 World Cup team, added: "Pele was perfect. But if the King played with a Brazilian club today, somebody would say he wasn't so spectacular because he doesn't play with one of the big European clubs.

"He wouldn't even be elected the best in the world. Maybe he'd lose out to Henry."

Brian Homewood
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