Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brazil Exports Soccer Talent into 2010 Qualifying*

(* -- I found one more! See below.)

Call them The Boys from Brazil.

What happens when you play for the greatest soccer nation on the planet, and you're good ... but not good enough to join the national team and play the joga bonito for Brasil in the World Cup?

Then you, a Brazilian soccer player, go play somewhere else and become (among others) a German, an Azeri, a Spaniard, a Belgian, a Croatian, a Mexican, a Pole ...

A few decades ago, national soccer teams were almost uniformly made up of players born within the borders of that nation. There were fairly tough rules about foreign-born players gaining acceptance on another nation's teams.

But those barriers seem to have crumbled. And no one has benefited from it as have Brazilian expatriates -- and the soccer nations that take them in.

Here is a list of Brazilians I found today while poring over rosters of World Cup-contending teams.

(Remember, every single one of these guys was born in Brazil.)

Cacau, Germany. A forward with Stuttgart, and (since February) a German citizen -- and one of the first naturalized players to have an impact on the Mannschaft.

Deco, Portugal. No it's not as weird when Brazilians go play for the mother country. Maybe that's why Portugal has three Brazilians on its current national team, including this veteran midfielder.

Pepe, Portugal. A forward who has been "Portuguese" since 2007, just in time to help with Euro Cup qualifying.

Liedson, Portugal. A defender who has just been called up for the first time.

Leandro Gomes, Azerbaijan. Like most of the guys on this list, Gomes went overseas to play (in his case, at Baku, capital of Azerbaijan), stayed long enough to pick up a passport and has been an Azeri regular of late.

Marcos Senna, Spain. He bucked the trend of going to Portugal, if a Brazilian is going to go to Iberia, and went to Spain, instead, and was naturalized in 2006. He has been an integral midfield presence for Spain for the past few years. He was outstanding in the 2008 Euro Cup.

Igor De Camargo, Belgium. Not quite as Belgian as Hercule Poirot, and got his passport just this year, so let the ink dry a bit more. A midfielder.

Eduardo da Silva, Croatia. A striker who wound up at Dinamo Zagreb, got his papers, now is a striker for the Croats. The only Brazilian I found among any of the Balkan teams.

Emerson, Qatar. A striker who played in Qatar long enough to get a passport, and was part of the (narrowly) failed campaign to get out of the Asia Group 1.

Junior Marcone, Qatar. Another Brazilian who went to Qatar, got his papers, played for the Qataris. A defender.

Sinha, Mexico. Also known as Zinha (by FIFA) and by his birth name, Antonio Naelson Matias. A tiny midfielder who was playing in Mexico and got his passport in 2006 -- in time to become the first non-Mexico-native to score for Mexico in the World Cup. A major breakthrough in a country that seemed uncomfortable with the idea of non-native Mexicans in its side.

Roger Guerreiro, Poland. A midfielder from Sao Paolo, Guerreiro played in Warsaw for three seasons -- or long enough for the Poles to decide he was one of them. He got his passport in the spring of 2008, in time to play for Poland in Euro 2008. And he scored Poland's goal in a 1-1 tie with Austria.

In every case here, the Brazilian player left the country for, we must assume, more money than he could get in the domestic league, stayed long enough (and played well enough) to impress the locals, got a passport (in some cases, we imagine, through preferential treatment) ... and bang, you've got a guy with one name playing for Germany or Mexico or Portugal. Countries with real players of their own.

An interesting concept, and a trend as well. Most common in countries that have professional leagues strong enough to afford a Brazilian mercenary. If your country has a weak league ... sorry, no Brazilians for you.

But that could change, as Brazilians cast ever further afield in search of jobs. If a guy already is in Azerbaijan ...

Maybe in another 20 years, every "nation" in the world will have its own Brazilian-born citizen-footballer. At which point the "national team" underpinnings of the World Cup become a bit ridiculous.

1 comment:

  1. I believe Benny Feilhaber - USA - was also born in Brazil. He has been a US citizen for ages, but I thought I'd add him to the list. It's amazing that Brazil could probably field 3 teams for international tournaments, and they would all be ranked in the top 20.