By Daniel Levy
Facebook: Coach Dan Levy
Futebol Americano no Brasil (American Football in Brazil)
The best word to describe the common perception of American football in Brazil would probably be “enigma.” Compared to Europe, where football has more or less existed since the end of World War II, football in Brazil is still in its infancy. Most of the established teams have existed for around 10 years, with the majority of those years being played on the beach or on grass without pads.
In 2010 my team, the Vila Velha Tritões, won their first and only national championship during their premier season of fully-padded football. And while I don’t encourage this (unless you have a strong stomach), if you roll back the film from those days, you will see what I can only describe as the “stone age” of American football in Brazil. Seriously, I half-expected to see players throwing rocks and beating each other with sticks. It was sloppy, disorganized, and frankly, painful to watch.
Yet in just the four years since, the progress has been truly astounding. The level of play and technical detail, while still in dire need of development, has traveled light years from those grainy images of 2010 where a proper 3-point stance was a novelty and the forward pass was at best a luxury and at worst a secret yet to be uncovered.
But the progress has been uneven to say the least. In Brazil, the growth of football has truly been a force of nature. NFL viewership on ESPN Brasil has increased exponentially, with the ratings spiking nearly 150% each year over the past two years. New teams pop up seemingly every day, with the current number of fully padded teams in Brazil numbering around 100 (this does not include beach and flag football teams). Game attendance for many teams regularly numbers in the thousands, and the passion of the Brazilian people really cannot be measured in words.
While such yields would seem overwhelmingly positive, the problem lies in that the growth of futebol Americano continues to outpace the development. Yes, the teams at the top (my team among them) have reaped the benefits of sponsorship, and with it the influx of American players and coaches. But there is still exists no safety net for developing teams. No organized grass roots programs to lift them up and teach them to organize and play the sport properly so they may develop into a competitive program and reap the same rewards.
In short, development of football in Brazil continues to be a top-down process—in a word, “backwards.” While there are individuals in Brazil who are working hard to change this (such as Daniel Condessa, who I will mention again later), the leadership of the two primary leagues—the CBFA and Torneio Touchdown—continue to be divided by political differences and short-sightedness. If these two institutions ever decide to put their issues aside and combine resources, the rest of the world better watch out because the level of football in Brazil will be a force to behold.