Last Tuesday, the 1st November, was a monumental date for the development of women’s football in Brazil.
In the morning reports surfaced that the CBF, Brazil’s national football federation, had decided to expand the women’s the national league championship to include two divisions, with sixteen teams in each.
The Brasileirão, as the tournament is known, will also receive more substantial funding from the governing body, with each first division team getting 15 thousand Brazilian Reais (about US$5000) upon entry and the eventual champions pocketing 120 thousand Reais. The second tier will not be so well rewarded, with participants receiving only 10 thousand Reais to cover costs.
The sums involved are still paltry compared to the men’s game but any increase will be very welcome for women’s clubs, most of which are woefully under-funded.
This expansion follows the news from Conmenbol, South American football’s governing body, that from 2019 all men’s clubs that want to compete in the Copa Libertadores will have to have a women’s team playing in one of their country’s leagues.
The combination of the new two-tier Brasileirão and the fact that the biggest clubs will now be forced to partake in women’s football should see a much needed influx of investment in the Brazilian (and South American) women’s club game.
In the afternoon yet more excellent news emerged from the federation’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. The CBF revealed it had taken the step of appointing the first female head coach of the women’s Seleção to replace the outgoing Vadão, who led the team to fourth place at August’s Rio Olympics. The person to take the reins is Emily Lima, ex-head coach of São José Esporte Clube, one of the most successful women’s teams in the history of Brazilian football.
Lima had a successful career as a central midfielder, taking in spells in Brazil, Italy and Spain as well as appearing for the Portuguese national team. Her time on the pitch was unfortunately cut short, however, owing to a series of knee injuries that saw her retire aged just 29.
Since then she has made extremely rapid progress up the ladder of professional coaching. Lima’s career in management has already seen her take charge of the U-15 and U-17 Brazilian women’s teams as well as Brazilian club sides Juventus-SP, São Caetano do Sul and the aforementioned São José, who she led to the runners-up spot in the recent Copa do Brasil and the semi-final of this year’s Brasileirão. An impressive CV for someone still aged just 36.
She also recently completed her coaching B licence with the Brazilian federation. She told the CBF website that, “I could keep talking about the course for a long time, but I will sum it up in one word: ‘perfect’. I felt privileged to be the only woman on the course, and I came out with a huge amount of information”. Hopefully this will have prepared her well for the mammoth task ahead.
Her first game in charge of the Seleção will come in December at the Torneio Internacional, an annual tournament organised by and held in Brazil, which this year will take place in the Amazonian capital of Manaus.
It will be a tough introduction to the job as the Seleção take on Costa Rica, Russia and Italy, but if her past achievements are anything to go by Lima will be more than up to the challenge. After the disappointment of the Olympics Lima will have to introduce new blood into the team, with veterans midfielder Formiga retiring and stars Marta and Cristiane no longer in the primes of their careers.
The changes to the league and Lima’s appointment may have ushered in a new era for women’s football in Brazil. The game has long suffered from gross under-investment and a disappointing lack of attention but these changes could be the kick-start it really needs to take it to the next level.