Soccer Players Protest By Not Playing Soccer

Brazilian journalist Juca Kfouri has a maxim he repeats frequently: “God gave us the best players and, to even things up, the worst directors.”

Now, the players are trying their hands at administration as well.

A few months ago, two aging players swapped shirts after a game. Fenerbahce legend Alex, now with Coritiba, started chatting with Internacional defender Juan (you know him from Bayer Leverkusen and Roma). They had the same complaints: games every three days and infrequent payment.

They stayed in contact via WhatsApp. Other veterans, like Paulo Andre, Dida, Juninho Pernambucano, Alex, Gilberto Silva, and Rogerio Ceni joined in the conversation. They decided to band together as Bom Senso FC and present a player view to the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

Call it Common Sense FC. They even have a club crest and a Facebook page.

A meeting with the CBF and club presidents went pleasantly enough at the end of October. The players’ complaints are relatively straightforward.

One, they want to get paid on time.

Two, they want to alleviate the fixture congestion. Currently, the main league – the Brasileirao – is crammed into six months to leave room for the 27 state championships. That means all the big teams spend about half a year playing barely-professional sides from the region.

Usually, the Brazilian calendar ignores days FIFA has designated for international matches, plugging straight ahead. But it had to stop of the Brazil-hosted Confederations Cup this year, and will break for 45 days during the 2014 World Cup.

That will leave the players with a full five-day offseason in 2014. And you thought your company’s vacation package sucked.

This past week, Bom Senso FC began protests. Teams carried a banner reading “Bom Senso FC — for a better football for everyone” onto the field for the Gremio vs Santos and Goias vs Ponte Preta games. After the opening whistle, the teams stood around, arms crossed, staring at each other for half a minute.

The CBF quickly ruled that any repeats would result in yellow cards for all 22 players involved. So Sao Paulo and Flamengo booted the ball around harmlessly while the poor referee shuttled back and forth. Notably, the crowd cheered.

Bom Senso FC says protests will continue to escalate. The CBF released a statement literally one sentence long saying it had met with all the involved parties “in search of reasonableness.”

Only very rarely does the CBF operate in the realm of reasonableness. ESPN writer James Young, delightfully, described CBF president Jose Maria Marin as “cadaverous.” The Brazil national team gathered in Miami last week for an international friendly. Notably, the players declined to discuss it, even though two – Jo and Victor – are members of Bom Senso FC. Coach Phil Scolari, when asked, gruffly told the reporter to go look up his quotes from a month prior.

The thinking went that Jose Maria Marin’s presence in town kept heads down. It’s a pity. Brazil has a deep history of philosophical players. Socrates, the captain in the 1982 World Cup, was a medical doctor and activist. Romario is now a politician in Brazil, and one of the few to speak convincingly about the protests that engulfed the country during the recent Confederations Cup.

(Pele, Brazil’s best ever player and now a joke as a talking head, might also be one of its dumbest.)

This current protest is unearthing Brazil’s next generation of footballer-thinkers. All they’re asking for is a little bit of common sense.

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