Looking at the Little Ones in the Paulistao (os timinhos)
The Big Clubs Come From Big Cities
While admittedly looking at more than 100 years of accumulated history, the big four clubs fit the basic premise presented. Three of the big four are based in the city of Sao Paulo (Corinthians, Sao Paulo, and Palmeiras). Santos, of course, is based in Santos; but, many would agree that the club was greatly assisted in its development of its fan base beyond the city of Santos by being fortunate enough to have employed Pele as a player. With the exception of Bragantino and Guaratingueta, even the remaining Serie A and B teams at the national level play out of either the greater Sao Paulo area or in Campinas (Sao Paulo’s second largest metropolitan area).
In the 2012 Paulistao, the winner will most likely again be one of the big four clubs. On only a very few occasions has a club outside the big four has won the Sao Paulo state championship since the creation of the national league competitions. Sao Caetano would have been the last in 2004 (they also come from metropolitan Sao Paulo). There have also been a few excellent performances by clubs (and from small remote cities) that were not participating in the national competitions at the time. Guaratingueta in 2008 and Noroeste (Bauru) in 2006 are two that were not playing in national competitions at the time. Internacional (Limeira) also won the title in 1986 when not playing at the national level; but, that was a time when national competitions were much less the focus than they are today.
The Challenge of the Minnows in the Paulistao
Most sports fans know but try not to think about the simple fact that it takes money to compete. Of course, technical expertise in assembling and organizing a team can offset some of a financial disadvantage; but, that technical expertise also has a price. The Paulistao puts some of the biggest clubs in Brazil in terms of financial resources against clubs from remote cities with populations less than 100,000 (Lins, Mirassol, Itapolis, and Mogi Mirim). While it is true that these small clubs receive a financial sum from the state in advance of the competition related to television revenues, their share is much less than what is received by the big four.
The bottom line is that the biggest differences in financial resources are the result of where they come from and history. Some clubs also benefit from unusual levels of investment from by wealthy individuals connected to the club.
The differences can be staggering. For example, the city with the lowest GDP number per resident is Mirassol (population was approximately 52,000 in 2010). Not only is the city a small fraction of the population of the city of Sao Paulo (11 million), an average resident also generated two and half times less economic activity than one of the State capital. And if regions are compared, the differences are even greater in some cases.
Still, the relative economic wealth of the home cities of various clubs only indicate the potential long-term competitive weakness and of course, nearby cities may supply sources of revenue not accounted for here. The success of an individual club in any one season may be the result of extraordinary technical knowledge of the players available and of how to assemble them into a team that outperforms all expectations. It also may be the result of pure chance.
To achieve even some measure of competitiveness, smaller clubs are forced to search at the fringes, in remote States, and in remote parts of bigger States. They also take chances on players returning to Brazil from places that most larger clubs don’t even think about. Older players and players having had a bad year or two are also carefully considered if the wage demands are acceptable. This work has to be done discretely because all the work on a key player can be wasted if someone within the universe of another club with better resources takes an interest in that player. It is also reasonable to expect that the rosters assembled by these clubs are full of risky gambles. Sometimes they payoff, often the bad cancels out the good, and occasionally, the roster looks like a horrible mistake.
Follow the Money in the New Brazil
It would seem almost a hopeless task to even compete in this tournament for the nine clubs in the Paulistao for 2012 but not currently in national competitions. It would also be the case for the other three clubs not from one of the larger metropolitan areas (Bragantino, Guaratingueta, and Oeste). While winning this tournament may not be possible in 2012, the newspapers are full of stories about how the economies of countries like Brazil are changing rapidly. The countryside of the State of Sao Paulo has not been left behind and in fact, there are some who believe that it may be evolving more quickly than the city of Sao Paulo itself. It would seem logical if fortunes might be changing for some of these smaller clubs as well.
The likely objective for 2012 with clubs not currently involved at the national level is, first of all, to avoid relegation (like all clubs) and second, to be selected to play in Serie D at the national level. These objectives need to be achieved with enough financial resources in reserve to field a competitive team in Serie D which follows in July. The three small clubs already in national competitions will be looking to sustain their current positions in the Paulistao and have reserves for the national levels.
Presenting Ten Minnows in the Paulistao
The smaller and poorer a club; the more likely that they are to, eventually, crash. Brief descriptions of individual clubs not currently qualified to play in national competitions plus Oeste Futebol Clube are given below. The order in which they appear reflects the relative size of their home city’s economy.
1. Paulista (Jundiai): Paulista is a club that should have the potential to do much better than it is currently doing. Its home city, Jundiai, is located about half way on the 90 minute drive between the State’s two largest metropolitan areas, Sao Paulo and Campinas. Jundiai has a population itself of about 350,000 so it has the key ingredients to provide a successful environment for its club, Paulista. As a football club, Paulista has a strong record for developing young players. It also has club roots that go back more than 100 years. Unfortunately, the club itself does not have the financial resources to take advantage of its location and has struggled even during the time it spent as a regular in Serie B which ended in 2007. The club’s infrastructure is aging and in need of investment.
Chiquinho (ex-Vitoria) – Left Back
Bruno Octavio (ex-Coronthians) – Defensive Midfield
Dener (ex-Sao Paulo) – Attacking Midfield
Rychely (ex-Vitoria) – Forward
Assessment: Paulista should avoid relegation but will be challenged to qualify for Serie D. Paulista would have some long-term potential if it could get some substantial investment into the necessary infrastructure with jeopardizing club finances. For the moment, it seems destined to having satisfy itself competing in the Paulistao.
2. Botafogo & Comercial (Ribeirao Preto): Rebeirao Preto is a city in Brazil that is currently experiencing an economic renaissance. It is one of the key centres of Brazilian agribusiness and has a growing metropolitan population. The city itself has a population that exceeds 600,000 and among them, some of Brazil’s new wealthy. Both of its clubs have a long history in State competitions and has had some success in the past.
Botafogo Futebol Clube: Botafogo has the distinction of having been the initial club of Socrates. It also has one of the largest privately owned stadiums in Brazil (the Santa Cruz). Unfortunately, it needs investment and the club has yet to convince potential sources to invest. Botafogo has a history of success developing young players but not one that distinguishes it.
Marcio (ex – Clube Atletico Paranaense & ex-Gremio Barueri) – Goalkeeper
Marquinhos (ex-Istanbul – Turkey) – Centre Back
Fabinho (ex – Latvian league) - Midfield
Talles Cunha (ex – Internacional) – Forward
Assessment: Judging by the players Botafogo appears to have acquired, Botafogo looks like a candidate to offer some competition. It is likely one that should qualify for Serie D. If all bets payoff, Botafogo could be in the mix to cause some trouble in the Paulistao in 2012. Long-term this a club that should eventually rise again, once it is able to rebuild its infrastructure. The question is how high it can climb.
Comercial Futebol Clube: Comercial is the club in Ribeirao Preto that appears to have the investment, the local economic environment, and the will to succeed. It also has common ownership with its sister club, Ole Brasil. Between them, they have created a healthy and competitive youth academy that should supply players in the future. There are still some infrastructure issues to be dealt with but when your key ownership group has construction interests, it should not pose as much of a problem as for other clubs.
Fabao (ex – Santos, Real Betis, & Cordoba) – Centre Back
Carlos Magno (ex – Boa Esporte Clube) - Midfield
Sidny (ex – Nautico & Sport Recife) – Right Full Back
Elionar Bombinha (ex – Korean & Turkish leagues) – Centre Forward
Assessment: If their combination of hired-in experience and developed-at-home youth is right, Comercial could be the surprise of this competition. Long-term, this club should move up to new heights. The only question is how high and how soon.
3. XV de Piracicaba (Piracicaba): The city of Piracicaba is another of the key agribusiness centres in the State of Sao Paulo. The city itself has a population approaching 400,000. With surrounding cities including Limeira, Santa Barbara d’Oeste and Americana, regional population exceeds one million. Piracicaba also has become home to the operation of some key global companies, like Cosan, Hyundai, and Caterpillar. The city is also a college town. The city’s club XV de Piracicaba has a long history at the State level and has had some success. Its biggest success would likely be winning the Serie C championship at the national level in 1995. Like most clubs in the interior, this club has struggled financially in the past but now with the potential for major corporate sponsorship and a strong fan base (more than 18,000 attended its victory over Guarani in the A2 Championship game.). Its municipally-owned stadium has a capacity of 26,000 and I suspect with success at the club, the city will have a reasonable capability to make investments.
Alex Cazumba (ex – LA Galaxy & Sao Paulo)
Marcus Vinicius (ex – ABC & Avai) – Defensive Midfield
Anailson (ex – Atletico Goianiense) – Midfield
Gustavo Savoia (ex Chilean & Spanish Leagues) – Centre Forward
Assessment: XV de Piracicaba looks to be preparing a solid team for the 2012 Paulistao and could be one of the qualifying clubs for Serie D. While it is still unclear how much support it has from local corporate sponsors, it is evident that Caterpillar is its main shirt sponsor as well as a major sponsorship deal with Raizen (joint-venture company between Cosan and Shell). With its fan support and its corporate support, it would seem likely that this club could be a serious contender at the national level in future years and the only question would be at what level. This is a club that could climb as a result of good economics in the region.
4. Ituano (Itu): Ituano is based in the city of Itu. Itu is a city of about 150,000 people situated on the fringes of the greater metropolitan area of Sao Paulo and between the cities Sorocaba and Campinas. The city is home to Brazilian brewing company Schincariol and the club, Ituano, seems to have benefited from its sponsorship in the past. The club has had some success in the past and spent a few years in Serie B only to drop completely out of the national competitions in 2009. Ituano is a small club that appears to be challenged to avoid relegation. However, its current Chairman is Juninho Paulista and a partnership between him and Roberto Carlos is intended to invest in the club to help it regain some of its competitiveness.
Kleiton Domingues (ex – Vitoria) Midfield
Jefferson Luis (ex – Guarani) - Midfield
Tiago Bezerra (ex – Turkish Leagues) - Striker
Otacilio Neto (ex-Corinthians & Gremio Barueri) – Striker
Assessment: Ituano appears to have taken greater risks in assembling a team than teams like Piracicaba and Comercial. Ituano may survive relegation but it is unlikely to qualify for national competitions this year. As for its potential into the future, I suspect that it will continue to be challenged to remain in the Paulistao.
5. Mogi Mirim EC: Mogi Mirim EC is named after its home city. Mogi Mirim is a small city of about 90,000 people located about one hour north of Campinas. While it is another one of those cities located in the rapidly growing agricultural region, the city would not be considered to be a key centre. Mogi Mirim Esporte Clube is best known for being the club associated with Rivaldo.
Tiago Alves (ex – ASA & Icasa) – Centre Back
Baraka (ex – Cricuma & Figueirense) – Defensive Midfield
Edson Ratinho (ex – Mallorca & AEK Athens) – Right Back
Fernandinho (ex – Japanese Leagues) – Midfield
Assessment: Mogi Mirim Esporte Clube appears to be well organized. They loan out players to other teams during the national competitions and then have them return for the Paulistao. This approach gives the team some stability. The club should do well enough to avoid relegation. It could even be one who qualifies for national competitions. Long-term, it is unlikely that it could be a competitor on the national level because of its small fan base and low potential for corporate sponsorship.
6. Gremio Catanduvense (Catanduva): Catanduvense is from the city of Catanduva, located about one hour from Sao Jose do Rio Preto or about five hours northwest of the State capital. The city has a population of about 110,000 and surrounding region has a population of about 220,000. Just from those numbers, it is clear that Catanduvense is not likely to have a strong revenue base. The city’s municipal stadium, Estadio Municipal Silvio Salles is relatively new (opened in 1988) and has a capacity of about 22,000.
Sergio Rafael (ex – Salgueiro & Moldovan League) – Centre Back
Diniz (ex – Goias) – Attacking Midfield
Alemao (ex – Italian Leagues) – Striker
Assessment: It is difficult to see how this club will avoid relegation; but, then, no one should ever discount a club that has a witch on its crest. Long-term prospects are weak.
7. C.A. Linense (Lins): Linense is from the city of Lins. Lins may be the most remote city currently represented in the Paulistao. Lins is a small city of about 70,000 located more than five hours from city of Sao Paulo. Its stadium has a capacity of about 15,000.
Andrade (ex – Coritiba & Sport Recife) – Defensive Midfield
Makelelê (ex – Gremio & Palmeiras) – Defensive Midfield
Diego Macedo (ex – Atletico Mineiro) – Right Fullback
Andre Luiz (ex – Guaratingueta) – Striker
Assessment: Linense appears to have put some interesting players into their side. However, they will be challenged to keep from relegating. Their local revenue base is weak and as a consequence, their prospects cannot be much more than what they have already achieved.
8. Mirassol Futebol Clube: The city of Mirassol is just a short distance from the city of Sao Jose do Rio Preto. In many ways, it is the larger city rather than its home city that gives the club greater financial strength. The city of Mirassol, by itself, only has a population of about 50,000. The city of Sao Jose do Rio Preto has over 400,000 people.
Marcio Careca (ex-Vasco) – Left Back
Acleisson (ex – Avai) – Defensive Midfield
Igor (ex – Sport Recife) – Centre Back
Xuxa (ex – Vitoria & Santo Andre) – Attacking Midfield
Assessment: Mirassol seems to have found a strategy that allows them to field a competitive team in the Paulistao but always seems to not have enough to perform well at the national level. It would seem that its long-term prospect would be about the same.
9. Oeste Futebol Clube (Itapolis): Oeste’s home city of Itapolis is located almost two hours from Sao Jose do Rio Preto and more than four hours from Sao Paulo. It has a small population of 40, 000 and may rival Catanduva as the most remote city in the Paulistao. The fact that Oeste has successfully been promoted to Serie C at the national level should be considered a major achievement for the club. It can only be assumed that maintaining its position in Serie C and avoiding relegation from the Paulistao are both equally important.
Eder Lima (ex – Santos) – Left Back
Roger (ex – Santos & SC Internacional) – Midfield
Val Baiano (ex – Flamengo & Gremio Barueri) – Striker
Tadeu (ex – Palmeiras & Turkish League) – Striker
Assessment: Oeste seems to have a knack for finding some interesting players. At the same time, it also seems as though one or two bad breaks could put this team on the ropes and back in the A2. Long-term, this is a team that is unlikely to be able to stay in the national competitions for a long period of time.