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Dribbling becomes a sin in Brazil

By Brian Homewood
March 16, 2007 14:21 IST
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One of the most abiding moments of the 2002 World Cup was Brazilian winger Denilson taking the ball into the corner and dribbling around in a circle chased by half the Turkey team.

Brazil were leading 1-0 in the semi-final with seconds left and commentators and fans went wild with delight, hailing Denilson's irreverence and cheeky skills as a classic piece of Brazilian play.

Yet when Brazilian players are on the wrong end of similar trickery, they fail to see the funny side.

Had Denilson tried a similar trick in his homeland, there is a good chance his antics would have provoked a brawl and it is even possible the game would not have finished.

Incredibly, for a country that produced players such as Garrincha and Pele, dribbling is often considered a provocative humiliation of an opponent, a breach of fair play and even an insult to the victim's manhood.

Ten days ago, Corinthians players bitterly criticised Palmeiras midfielder Jorge Valdivia for dribbling too much during a derby against them.

Valdivia, a Chilean international, inspired Palmeiras to a 3-0 win and afterwards received a thinly-veiled warning from Corinthians coach Emerson Leao.

"I'm worried about what might happen to him in the future because he has technique but he exaggerates," said Leao after his team had taken it in turns to kick the Chilean.

"I worried that something more serious might happen to him in the future."


Corinthians and Palmeiras share a bitter rivalry -- it can only take a few "Oles" from the crowd to spark trouble -- and have already provided an extreme example of what can happen.

Back in 1999, the sides met to decide the Paulista championship in a two-leg final.

With Corinthians enjoying a three-goal aggregate lead and only a few minutes to play, forward Edilson decided it was time for some famed Brazilian trickery and nonchalantly began playing keepy-uppy in midfield.

The gesture incensed the Palmeiras players, who chased him off the field. A vicious brawl ensued, with players exchanging punches and karate kicks, and the referee abandoned the match.

Edilson did nothing outside the laws of the game, yet he was punished rather than the brawlers.

The following day, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, then Brazil coach, dropped him from the squad for the Copa America.

Since then, the dividing line between what is considered a legitimate dribble and an attempt to belittle the opposition has become ever thinner.

Another startling incident happened in 2002 when Coritiba striker Jaba performed a couple of cheeky stepovers against Santos -- and in doing so gave away a free kick.

"The rule says that a player cannot endanger an opponent or himself," said referee Leonardo Gaciba.

"He wasn't being objective so I awarded a free kick to protect him. If somebody had broken his leg, they will say that I was not clamping down on violence."

The same year, the second division match between Sport Recife and Botafogo-Ribeirao Preto was abandoned in the last minute when a Sport player was chased off the pitch by opponents for more ball-juggling.


That was the year in which Robinho, now with Real Madrid, burst on to the scene and he also had to cope with threats and bullying.

"Players get angry when they get dribbled all the time," said Gremio goalkeeper Danrlei after his side lost 3-0 to a Robinho-inspired performance. "He could end up having his leg broken."

Former winger Edu, who could send the crowd into raptures when he played for Santos in the 1970s, is baffled by current attitudes.

"The dribble is a tool which makes the team more offensive," he told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.

"The intelligent the essence of football. And now, even this they want to take away," he said.

"The problem is that in modern football, there are few players who can do it. When one appears, everybody jumps on top of him. During my career, I never heard anyone complaining about my dribbling."

Sao Paulo were the latest victims of the war on dribbling when striker Leandro was criticised by rivals Santos following Sunday's 1-1 draw.

"That's his way of playing," said coach Muricy Ramalho. "He likes to attack and in today's football, with so little space, the dribble is a way of taking someone out of the game."

"But it seems that today, you can't do a nice dribble any more."

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