Brazilian sending-off shows FIFA is more concerned with relegating shirt numbers than weeding out corruption

Mogi Mirim is rapidly becoming Brazil’s most interesting club, even without taking into account that its name sounds like it should be a Romanian porn star.

As if being owned by Rivaldo, who’s still playing and scoring, alongside his son, for them at the age of 43, isn’t enough, the Serie B struggler has now joined the pantheon of all-time great sendings-off.

There are red cards for violent tackles. For egregious cheating. For rabid dissent. But how often do we see them given out for a bureaucratic error?

So congrats to future Brazilian Trivial Pursuit question, Paulao. In the first half he wore the number 4 jersey. In the second, for reasons best known to himself and the equipment manager, he switched to a fresh jersey. Fine. It’s a sweaty sport. Except that this new shirt had the number 3 on the back.

The sharp-eyed officials spotted this and the referee gave him a yellow card. Numerical incompetence is a bookable offense. Who knew? Since Paulao had already been carded in the first half for a much less interesting infraction, he was off.

Presumably the referee decided the number change was unsporting behavior on the basis that it might have caused him not to realize he’d previously booked the player. Or prompt some sort of psychological crisis, as he wonders if there are two Paulaos on the field and fears he may be hallucinating.

But maybe it won’t surprise you to learn that FIFA’s regulations – while appearing relatively flexible in certain ways related to transparency, money and voting, as you might have noticed – are incredibly anal regarding equipment, to the extent of being detailed in a 92-page document with clauses like “Subject to the restrictions set out in art. 43 par. 1-3, Member Associations may display up to two types of the Manufacturer’s Identifications registered with FIFA pursuant to art. 38 par. 2 above on each sock.”

Anyway, at the time, according to reports, Mogi was 1-0 down. Even though they twice equalized, they ended up losing to Bragantino courtesy of a 93rd-minute winner. Or a 94th-minute winner, probably, if Paulao’s doing the counting.

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