Football: Two worlds collide as Brazil players push for reform

Brazil's old guard may hold sway with 73-year-old Marco Polo del Nero confirmed as the man to succeed octagenarian Jose Maria Marin as head of the Brazilian football Confederation.

But if the game's hierarchy remains in place pressure to reform the domestic game is mounting from the bottom up via player pressure group Bom Senso (Common sense) FC.

The group is pushing hard for a congested fixture list, comprising a packed national and state league program, to be reduced and for financial fair-play of the kind being proposed in Europe to be brought in along with a fixed pre-season break.

- Subtle protest -

Signs of subtle protest have been deployed, ranging from players standing with arms crossed for 30 seconds after kickoff or staging a mini-sit down or else simply spending the opening minute passing the ball from one half to the other back and forth.

The group's determination to be heard has earned them some modest victories to date.

They include a promise by the CBF to limit as from next year the number of matches per month and per year as well as a guaranteed month-long pre-season break.

Even so, the players are conscious much more remains to be done.

"Sometimes when people talk about Bom Senso, they say it's all about those who earn the most, Flamengo's Brazil international Elano told AFP.

"When the state championships finish a lot of (smaller clubs competing outside the national league structure) close the door. Bom Senso's goal is to put an end to this disorganization".

Of Brazil's 20,000 professional players, some 16,000 receive less than twice the minimum wage of some $400 a month and are effectively out of work at least half the year.

- Critics -

Although former stars including world champion Ronaldo have lent their backing to the movement, Bom Senso have their critics.

"So I take my 500,000 reais ($225,000) and call for 60 days holiday," said a sarcastic Vampeta, one time bit-part player with Paris Saint Germain, a member of the 2002 Brazilian World Cup-winning squad and now chairman of modest outfit Audax.

Vampeta dubbed the protest actions of December "daft," a view shared by a number of club chairmen as well as the CBF. Player unions are also wary of Bom Senso as they see the group as a mix of 30-somethings looking to encroach on their own territory.

Shocked by around 100 disgruntled fans invading the Corinthians training center in February, Bom Senso called for a player strike.

But with internal disagreement over what action to take and also after receiving security guarantees from local and Sao Paulo state football federation officials they agreed to back down.

Andre then left the movement following a transfer to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, and Bom Senso had to regroup for a March conference in Sao Paulo, where it drafted concrete proposals for a reform of the match calendar and introducing financial fair play provision.

The CBF was invited -- but did not show.

Bom Senso had banners on hand to publicize their demands still further at last weekend's state championship finals as they strive to have their voice heard.