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Be there from the beginning

Canuck Oranje

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Some may have read some of my earlier posts about soccer in Brazil.

For those who may not remember or haven't read, I had written some posts on a small club in the Sao Paulo suburb of Barueri that went professional in 2001. Gremio Recreativo Barueri began on the bottom rung that year and promoted all but the first year to now play in the Paulista A1 (top level) of the state championships and as well, will play in the Serie B (2nd Division) of the Brazilian League beginning in May of this year. Again, this is not a fly-by-night operation as they are also building a FIFA standard 40,000 seat stadium that should be completed sometime in 2008.

Another story and the one that I wanted add some more news about is the story of Pao de Acucar Esporte Clube. Before, I had mentioned that this was a club that was owned by Abilio Diniz, the owner of the grocery store and distribution company CBD (Pao de Acucar is one of the grocery banners). Pao de Acucar EC also has one of the best youth systems in Brazil. In fact, its U-17 team had entered a premium U-17 tournament that included top European U-17 teams from Ajax Amsterdam, Feyenoord Rotterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia, Anderlecht and Ipswich. They won that tournament last year. The interesting thing for me was that this team was not affiliated with a professional team.

Then last year they signed an alliance agreement with an old and failing traditional club called, CA Juventus in Sao Paulo. While following the Paulista A1 over the past few months, I began to wonder what had happened because CA Juventus simply was not performing as I would have expected. After doing some research, I learned that Pao de Acucar EC was going it alone and announced that it planned to field its own professional team being this April. Like GR Barueri in 2001, it will play beginning in the bottom league at the state level.

This by itself is not really significant except that Abilio Diniz has a net worth of almost $2 billion US (according to Forbes Magazine). When they first established soccer side of the club, they also hired some of the top coaches and marketing people in Brazil. They also have developed a training centre in Brazil that would be better than that of most professional clubs. For those who might enjoy this little but well-funded club’s foray into professional soccer in Brazil from the beginning, you can try(readable but in Portuguese):


For some who may still be unconvinced that this club could climb to the top level of Brazilian soccer, I point to the fact that this club also has taken distance running seriously. The club is so serious, in fact, that the winners of the New York Marathon in November 2006 and the Disney Marathon (Orlando) in January 2007 are two different Pao de Acucar EC runners.

Also forgot to mention that most of the young elite athletes at the club were sourced from the slums (favelas) primarily in Sao Paulo but also elsewhere in Brazil as a charity initiative.

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