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Barueri promotes to Serie A in Brazil

Canuck Oranje

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While this isn't exactly a Hoffenheim story, there are some similarities.

Barueri is a city within the metropolitan area of the city of Sao Paulo. Many Paulistas would know it better by the name, Alphaville (a gated edge-city mostly within Barueri). While the city itself only has a population of about 250,000, it is surrounded by suburban cities that would have a combined population approaching 2 million and it is only about 30-35km from downtown Sao Paulo. The city of Barueri itself is an economic powerhouse with an total municipal GDP that is ranked 8th overall in Brazil and head of many cities will 10 times its population.

Gremio Recreativo Barueri first came into existence as an amateur athletic club in 1989. At that time, it could almost have been considered the recreation department of the city as it offered a number of children programs that subsidized by the city. The professional soccer-side of the club only came into existence in 2001. That year in conjuction with Roma Esporte Club, it won the Copa Sao Paulo de Juniores (U21 at the time) over the biggest clubs in Brazil and at the same time, entered the professional ranks at the B3 level (6th level) of the Sao Paulo state leagues. In 2002, it promoted to B2 and continued to promote one level per year until 2006. In 2006, it was crowned champion of the Sao Paulo A2 and promoted to the top level. At the same time, the club was selected by the state federation to enter the Serie C national tournament and was successful in acheiving promotion in its first try. After two seasons at Serie B, Barueri, yesterday, guaranteed promotion to Serie A of the Brazilian National Leagues. That is in just seven years of professional existence. This success is considered historical because it is the fastest any club in Brazil has reached the top level after entering the professional ranks.

While none have climbed as quickly as Barueri, Ipatinga and Sao Caetano were clubs that also rose quickly. Both found it a challenge to hold that level. In Barueri's case, time will tell if they can become a regular. Barueri does however, have have some things that might allow it to remain strong. Aside from being considered to have strong management, it has money, an excellent youth academy, and some of the most modern facilities (stadium and training facilities) in Brazil.

As for money, the club has appeared on the annual top 20 list of Brazilian clubs revenues since 2005 without having the revenue streams that go with playing at the top level. On top of that, the club turns a profit and has the money of Alphaville and Aldeia da Serra (nearby) for further support. Unlike many clubs in Brazil, Barueri also does not have any debts on their books. There are even reports of the club from time to time of flying prospective players to their training ground by helicopter.

The City of Sao Paulo is still primarily the battleground of Palmeiras, Corinthians, and Sao Paulo FC and will likely continue to be. It will be interesting to see if Barueri can create a regular place among those. This may become the first serious challenge to that dominance since Sao Caetano and Barueri seems to be better positioned to make its presence long term. Time will tell.

As a first step, a story surfaced yesterday that the club expects to have Cafu playing for them in the State Championships that begin in January. At his age, it probably has as much to do with publicity as it does to do with Cafu's ability to be a regular starter.

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I don't know but it wouldn't be much. The Brazilian soccer environment is a true ecosystem with teams regularly dropping in and out of the bottom pro level.

I should mention that the Sao Paulo State federation has consolidated the B levels into a second division and no doubt they have tightened up the financial requirements. While I'm sure there is some sort of performance bond to ensure that the team can complete the season, the season (at that level) itself is really a series of group rounds so that the geographic footprint is minimized. That means that the administrative costs are the same as an amateur league. And in some cases, the wage is about equal to room and board so the definition of professional at that level could be questioned. In the first phase of the tournament, scores like 8-1, 8-0, and 6-0 are not that uncommon.

It's also the reason that I don't necessarily see the development of a Serie D at the national level as a good move because it adds travel costs for small teams who still don't have the profile to attract sponsorship dollars. There are at least 3/4 teams at Serie B with serious financial difficulties (this year, the first level with a national table format).

In the State of Sao Paulo, it is also big challenge to get promoted from that lowest level, especially under the current system. There are always a group of well-funded teams that outnumber the promotion spots. Occasionally, you do get a Gremio Recreativo Barueri (or a Pao de Acucar EC just promoted to A3 this year) that you know intend and will promote immediately, but even both of them took two years to move up from that level.

Incidentally, the finalists of Sao Paulo's top U15 and U17 levels were set last weekend. At the U15 level, the finalists are Sao Paulo FC and Gremio Recreativo Barueri. At the U17 level, the finalists are Pao de Acucar EC and Gremio Recreativo Barueri. The U20 level is still at the final group stages. Barueri did not make it to that level but when you look at their team, it was mostly comprised of 18 year olds which would suggest the Copa Sao Paulo (for players born in 1990 or younger) was more their focus. As I mentioned before, this club's foray into professional soccer began with a win over Sao Paulo FC in the final of the Copa Sao Paulo (U-20 at that time) in 2001. So the youth infrstructure is in place. Incidentally, their academy director was once named Arizona's top soccer coach (sometime in 1990s)and their U-17 coach also has some US soccer coaching experience. Mo might want to link up with these guys.

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