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Feature: Brazilian soccer fans vote with feet

05-17-2012 14:03 BJT

By Michael Place

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 16 (Xinhua) -- After the sleep-inducing five-month state league season, Brazil's national Serie A competition will kick off this weekend.

Much has been made about the demise of the country's once-mighty regional competitions, which many say are in need of an overhaul, or even scrapped altogether.

They were once the theatres where legendary figures such as Pele and Garrincha etched their names into Brazilian football lore.

But with diminished crowd numbers, lop-sided matches and the often-deplorable state of stadiums, state tournaments are clinging to past glories by their fingernails.

"For the smaller clubs these competitions are huge," said Flamengo fan Joao Ribeiro Silva who, despite being a member of the club, only attended two Campeonato Carioca (Rio state league) games this season.

"It's their main source of income. The bigger clubs want to break away but if they do, that could mean the end for the other clubs who rely on the matches against the big teams to stay alive."

Rio's big four clubs - Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama - have lobbied hard for the state's football federation to shorten the championship.

But the federation's agreement with TV broadcaster Globo does not end until 2016 meaning any major short-term changes are unlikely.

Rio federation president Rubens Lopes offered them some hope in March when he announced an inquiry into the competition's format.

"There is no doubt that something has to change," Lopes said, "but only after a full study is done."

Figures revealed this week showed average attendances at Rio's state league matches this season were just 2,976.

Of equal concern was the 20,544 crowd figure for last Sunday's championship decider between Fluminense and Botafogo.

It seems Brazilian football fans are voting with their feet.

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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