Many people are not familiar with the Copa do Brasil or Brazil Cup.
Even though the world enjoys the excitement of the World Cup, Brazil is just as passionate about the Brazil Cup.
It is a national competition played by sixty-four teams that represent the twenty-six states of Brazil and the Federal District. It is played in two knockout stages. The away team automatically advances if they beat the home team by two or more goals in the first two rounds. This is an unusual rule not used in many other South American competitions.
No team can win two years in a row, because the winner automatically qualifies for the Copa Libertadores. Due to the time line of the two competitions, a team cannot play in both of them in the same year. This allows smaller teams a chance to win the Copa do Brasil.
The two most successful teams are Gremio and Cruzeiro, each taking the trophy four times. The first time Cruzeiro won was in 1993 against Gremio. Gremio has made it to the final round seven times, more than any other team.
One of the exciting things about Copa do Brasil is the ability for the underdog to be the winner. Several unknown teams have taken the trophy in an upset. Several star teams in Brazil football have never won the trophy, like Botafogo and Sao Paulo.
The teams who play in the Brazil Cup are the ten highest ranking according to CBF and the fifty-four clubs who placed highest in the state championships.
The Copa do Brasil began back in 1989. It was created by the CBF to integrate the smaller clubs with the larger ones. 2006 saw two teams from the same state compete for the title. Flamengo beat Vasco de Gama to win their second title. They had won their first title in 1990 after suffering their worst defeat still to this date in the first Copa do Brasil tournament against Gremio. They lost 6-1.
Football is more than a sport in Brazil; it is a way of life. Kids grow up playing the game in the streets and hoping to be good at it. It is a seen as a way out of the poverty that controls much of the country; boys look at it as a way to make a living and to provide for their family.
Football has been a major part of its culture ever since the sport was brought to Brazil in 1894 by two British visitors. A common saying is that the English created football but Brazil perfected it. They changed the way the game was played and who played it. Whereas before it was a game for the upper class whites, in Brazil it was played by the black population and the people from the lower classes. It became a game for all of the people.
The new style was more flamboyant and focused on speed more than tactical moves. The change represented the difference in the countries as much as the difference in the sport.
Brazil's style of football playing is compared to a dance. Their relaxed, playful, casual way of competing is representative of their attitude towards everything. Many people wonder how they can produce such excellent talent year after year. The answer is seen in how the Brazilian people view football.
Football unites the country, regardless of other issues surrounding them. This was seen during the political unrest of the 1960s and 1970s. The Presidential election of 1960 was highly contested and started a period of division within the country. At the same time, Brazil's football team became the greatest of its history. Brazilians all over the country celebrated the wins with each other, no matter what their political beliefs were.
Football is part of the country's culture. The colors of the national football team is the same as the Brazil flag, demonstrating how intertwined the two are. The wide appeal is partially due to the fact that it is a game that anyone can play. No special equipment is needed and the rules are simple to learn. The fast pace keeps it entertaining to watch.
You will find amateur games being played all over Brazil and it is fun to watch them toss the ball over their bodies like acrobats. Anyone is welcome to join in the games even if they have never played before.
Becoming a professional football player is the dream of Brazilian kids and can be the way out of the ghettos for many of them. Numerous players have gone on to become stars all over Europe.
One of the greatest players of all time, Pele, came from a poor Brazil family with little education. His family lived in an area with poor housing, very little running water, and no electricity. It is significant that he rose as an athlete to be voted to become the Sports Person of the Century. It is stories like this one that gives other people hope of a better life in a country still held captive by poverty and illiteracy.
Brazilians from all walks of life enjoy the excitement of football games. Upper class people watch the games right along with the poor. Women as well as men will sit and cheer, the elderly are seated next to the kids as they yell for their favorite teams.
For major games, employers set up places for their employees to watch. After the games when they win, celebrations break out everywhere. Football is an equalizer among the people, and everyone is united, regardless of their politics, financial status, religion, or any other status.
The Copa do Brasil brings people together to celebrate in a country that has not always had a lot to celebrate. Even today with all the improvements that Brazil is seeing and the stable government and growing economy, the football tournament still represents the victorious side of Brazil.