It was a long time in coming but, eventually, history was made on Wednesday night in the Southern Brazilian state of Paraná. The derby between Atlético Paranaense and Coritiba was broadcast live and for free on YouTube and Facebook, by a media team contracted directly by the clubs themselves. I say eventually because the game, as I reported previously, should have taken place ten days before.
Atlético and Coritiba had taken the joint decision to reject an offer from the powerful broadcaster Globo to show their derby matches in the state championship over the next three years, saying that the money on the table was “absurd”. Instead they would broadcast the games live, and for free, on YouTube and Facebook.
The match day arrived, the stadium was full (well, sort of, this is Brazil), and the players were ready to go. But the referee refused to blow his whistle. Under instruction from his superiors at the Paraná State Football Federation (FPF) he was told not to start the game whilst the transmission team contracted by the clubs was in the stadium.
The federation said it was because they had not sought the proper accreditation required to be there. Others speculated that the decision may have had more to do with the financial support the FPF receives from the Globo group.
The clubs refused to eject the transmission team and so the game, after a delay of forty minutes, was cancelled. As the players came out onto the pitch to applaud the fans who had turned up and waited patiently, the country applauded the decision of the clubs to stand firm in the face of pressure from above.
The Atlético coach Paulo Autuori said after the game; “We have to congratulate the two clubs for taking a courageous decision. Courage is what’s needed to change the movement of events in Brazilian football.” It was a sentiment shared by many.
So the game was rescheduled for Wednesday, 2nd March. This time the journalists in place to report and commentate on the game were sure to get the right accreditation beforehand. This time the federation had no excuse to stop it going ahead.
And go ahead it did, kicking off at 8:00 pm. A far more civilised time than the 9:45 pm slot usually enforced on clubs for midweek games by Globo so that they kick-off after the end of Globo’s most popular telenovela (a type of Brazilian soap opera that draws huge audiences).
The game itself, after a slow first twenty minutes, really came to life and was well worth tuning into. This was despite the fact that Atlético fielded a team of youth and reserve players, as they have done throughout their campaign in the Paraná State Championship. They have also been competing in the Copa Libertadores qualifiers and the Copa da Primeira Liga, so have only used the first-team players in those competitions, a sign of the dwindling prestige of the state tournaments in Brazil.
After 23 minutes Coritiba created the first real chance as Kleber fed Thiago Lopes through the middle. Lopes stumbled past two challenges before digging a shot out from under his feet on the edge of the area, forcing Adebar Santos in the Atlético goal into a decent save.
After 30 minutes a graphic appeared on the screen informing the viewing public that, between Facebook and YouTube, 140,352 people were tuned in, with viewers as far afield as Canada and Portugal. Later Facebook reported that they alone had had 2.85 million views, a number which sounds beyond all probability. In this they were most probably counting auto-plays and recounting those who switched between tabs on numerous occasions. Nevertheless, 140,000 is a reasonably impressive number for a b-list game and the first broadcast in this way in Brazil.
Coritiba were on top at this point and three minutes later they won a penalty, Rildo, the summer signing from Corinthians, going down under an over-enthusiastic and poorly timed challenge from Zé Ivaldo. The experienced Kleber stepped up but crashed the ball against the upright. The crowd inside Atlético’s Arena da Baixada erupted as if they had just scored themselves and with regard to its impact on the game’s momentum the miss was equal to a goal.
From this point until half-time Altético took control and their opening goal came just five minutes before the break. The build-up was messy and replete with defensive errors but Crysan arrived just at the right time to slot an urbane side-footed finish into the bottom corner. He celebrated with the same hand gesture as Ronaldinho used to make after scoring, seemingly a deliberate provocation of the Coritiba fans. Their club had tried but failed to sign fading legend over the summer break.
At the beginning of the second period Rildo’s pace once more caused problems for Atlético down the right-hand-side of their defence and Coritiba created a couple of good chances to score. Zé Ivaldo had to clear off the line after a shot from Matheus Galdezani who had beaten the keeper and had the goal at his mercy.
Moments later a slight altercation broke out between several players, Atlético feeling the Coritiba players should have put the ball out of play to allow the apparently stricken Matheus Rosetto to receive treatment. Miraculously Rosetto was able to get to his feet to participate in the scuffle and continued playing as if nothing was wrong. The state competition may not be a particularly valuable one but a derby is always a derby.
Coritiba continued to apply pressure but the longer the game went on the more it appeared to be one of those nights for the men in green and white. That was confirmed three minutes before the end when Atlético tucked in their second. A poor free-kick bounced off the wall but fell to Douglas Coutinho whose weak shot defelcted off the ‘keepers outstretched left leg and bounced almost apologetically into the back of the net.
The game was over and it was those clad in red and black who left the Arena da Baixada the happier. The victory on the pitch was, however, almost an irrelevance. This was a victory for Brazilian football.
It is a small step towards modernity in a country that is often so far behind when it comes to the organisation surrounding the beautiful game. This fixture marked a break with tradition and might just encourage more clubs to stand up to Globo, the CBF and their respective state federations. That can only be good for game in Brazil.