Brazilian football’s most prestigious domestic competition, the Campeonato Brasileiro, began last month – and much to the delight of fans in the UK, there was a new television deal to boot as ESPN picked up the exclusivity rights for the fast-improving championship.
In adding the Brasileirão to a brimming portfolio of football which includes the Premier League (for now), the Bundesliga, Série A, and Major League Soccer, ESPN could arguably be considered the true home of football – for UK based viewers at least.
Live Brazilian football coverage is nothing new in UK with the rights previously being held by the subscription-only Premier Sports, resulting in restricted exposure to a league which is grossly under-estimated.
With a format not dissimilar to that of the Premier League, Brazilian clubs desperately clamber to finish in the top four, thus securing continental qualification in the form of South American football’s golden chalice, the Copa Libertadores.
The twenty competing sides provide one of the most intense competitions in world football. And by the CBF (Brazilian football’s governing body) indulging in a football calendar which runs (from May to December) against that of the FIFA calendar, teams are built, plundered by clubs from Europe and increasingly Asia, and then rebuild again during the summer and winter global transfer windows, whilst political in-fighting amongst club officials is often rife.
The accumulation of the above makes predicting the outcome of the Brasileirão a somewhat difficult task. At the start of any given campaign, there is no ‘team to beat’ but a flurry of sides all shaping up as title-contenders. As many as half the league’s teams have a realistic chance of being in contention for the championship, exposing the over-hyped Premier League as a relatively predictable contest. At the other end of the table, it’s hard to think of another league in football where the adage’ the bigger they are, the harder they fall’ fervently applies. Major clubs will often flaunt amongst the upper reaches of the championship one season, before becoming embroiled in a humiliating battle against relegation the next. Several big clubs have even gone a step further, Palmeiras, Botafogo, Grêmio, Atlético Mineiro, Corinthians and Vasco have all suffered the embarrassment of demotion before regaining their status in the top-flight.
Until now, ESPN have featured a live game on Sunday evenings but on this weekend’s evidence ESPN will be doubling their coverage, showing games on both nights.
Two live games each weekend on a mainstream sports broadcaster seems too good to be true for fans living in the UK. Newcomers will be introduced to the latest crop of talent such as Neymar (Santos) and Leandro Damião (Internacional) and the hidden gems of the Brasileirão like Walter Montillo (Cruzeiro) and Thiago Neves (Fluminense).
ESPN’s decision to screen the Brasileirão will give the championship a new wave of fans in the UK but one seriously wonders, whether ESPN will have the same commitment when the European season fully kicks in.
Losing interest in autumn – when the Brasileirão reaches the more serious, second-half of the season – would be a real blow and once again leave the competition with a level of coverage that it simply doesn’t deserve.
In the meantime, make the most of it!
Here’s twenty of the best goals from last year’s competition.