Spreading the Yellow fever

Jose Ramirez Barreto has taken up a new challenge.-PTI

Jose Ramirez Barreto came from Brazil to Kolkata in 1999 and put his Indian fans into a trance with his skills. He was most successful wearing the maroon-and-green of Mohun Bagan and retired only last year after playing two seasons for Bhawanipore FC. Barreto is now trying to introduce budding Indian footballers to the Brazilian style through Brasil Futebol Academia (BFA), a football school he co-founded with fellow countryman Beto. By Nandakumar Marar.

Football is more than a sport in Brazil. It is a way of life out there, linking families in a way that is tough to comprehend for those admiring the show from far. Jose Ramirez Barreto, a Brazilian, who has made India his second home, helps us to understand the football dynamics of the South American nation.

“My father gave me a football-field shaped cake on my first birthday,” says the player from Porto Alegre. Barreto, like almost every Brazilian, grew up dreaming about a football career, and learned his tricks at Gremio FC, which was also the early home of playmaker Ronaldinho, before signing for the senior squad when he was 18.

“Football is just not a game for us. It helps us to achieve our dreams and in the process spread happiness. The joy of playing is the core of football learning for us,” he says.

The player came from that blessed land to Kolkata in 1999 and put his Indian fans into a trance with his skills. He was most successful wearing the maroon-and-green of Mohun Bagan and retired only last year after playing two seasons for Bhawanipore FC. Barreto is now trying to introduce budding Indian footballers to the Brazilian style through Brasil Futebol Academia (BFA), a football school he co-founded with fellow countryman Beto. The day-to-day activities there are handled by Gremio youth team coaches Paulo Tamiozzo and Glauco Moraes, who is the Technical Director of the project.

“We try to pass on the joy of playing football and want the kids to have early professionalised training. But we have to ensure that they are able to receive what we are trying to impart,” says Barreto.

BFA was set up in Goa in 2009 and the Siliguri centre came up in 2013, with Mumbai being the latest addition from June 2014. BFA runs two centres at the Cooperage Stadium and the Andheri Sports Complex in the ‘Maximum City’.

PAULO TAMIOZZO with budding footballers at BFA's Cooperage Stadium training centre.-VIVEK BENDRE

The Indian Football School (IFS) has teamed up as technical partner for Mumbai, charging students Rs 14,000 for a three-month module. Glauco shuttles between Goa, Mumbai and Siliguri. Barreto and Beto, now well-versed with the Indian way of life, supplies specific inputs on handling Indian kids.

But the Brazilian style we see and admire comes from instinct and established players have the ball almost glued to their feet, always trying to trick opponents. How can this be taught?

Paulo tries to explain the reasons behind this distinctive Brazilian flair. “A kid in Brazil goes to school in the morning, plays football in the afternoon and watches football with family later. We are involved with the game always. When lots of kids are exposed to a lot of football, they keep trying out new things to get noticed,” reveals Paulo, who is equipped with a Post Graduate degree in Professional Football Management from the University of Santa Cruz do Sul and a Bachelor’s Degree in the Science of Sport from Porto Alegre’s Methodist University.

These experiments with tricks, allied with ball control, learnt in futsal arenas and street football events, gives Brazilian kids a headstart. Paulo, who was also a supervisor for Gremio’s under-13 and under-15 squads, reveals that Brazilian kids between 10-11 years play “adaptation football” in smaller playing areas with shorter match durations. “The width is less than normal, so that balls kicked from the corners reach the goalmouth. Games last 25 minutes each half, only increasing for 18+ players, who play full 90 minutes game.”

The focus of the BFA in Mumbai is on creating a feel for the ball. Trainees are assessed via periodic tests on aspects like receiving, passing etc. Training is intensive and involves pitting individual players against each other. Kids are expected to clear different levels in each aspect before being rated for competitive play. Mukul Chaudhari, IFS head, informs that the age groups are 4-6 years, 6-9, 10-14, 15+ and that 80 children have already signed up for the three-month July module.

Paulo is happy with the eagerness of the trainees and the interest from parents, but points to a difference in culture. “In Brazil, parents tell children football, football, football… Dealing with parents here has made me realise that football comes after studies and music lessons. I guess that is why Indians are travelling the world for higher studies while Brazil has won five World Cups,” he says.

However, the humiliating defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup was a bad advertisement for Brazilian football. But Glauco is undeterred. “BFA was not playing, it was Brazil in the World Cup. We will show them the defensive errors committed by Brazilian players, the seven goals against Germany. We will show them exactly what they should be doing in similar situations, so that unlike the World Cup team, mistakes are not repeated,” he says.