Brazil's Olympic women’s football team was showered with joyous attention until their heart-breaking semifinal elimination on Tuesday which brought forward a key question: Was the interest the start o
Brazil's Olympic women’s football team was showered with joyous attention until their heart-breaking semifinal elimination on Tuesday which brought forward a key question: Was the interest the start of something big or another false dawn
Brazil does not have a season-long women's league, forcing 13 of those in the 18-strong squad to ply their trade overseas.
But the Rio Games team had been grabbing the headlines and outshining the men’s side since kicking off on August 3, prompting many observers to ask whether that focus will die out with the Olympic flame or broadcasters and sponsors will finally invest.
“When we got to the Olympic final in 2004... we thought that it would take off, that it would get sponsorship, that a league would be created,” said Carlos Alberto Parreira, Brazil coach at the time and the manager who led the men’s team to their 1994 World Cup triumph. “But nothing happened.”
The reason there was no interest then, or since, Parreira said, has everything to do with the chaotic administration of Brazil’s heavily indebted football clubs.
“Even the big clubs have financial difficulties,” he said. “So there isn’t enough money to invest in women’s football.
“The Olympics and the participation of the women who have always done so well, I hope it awakens the interest of the tv broadcasters and companies. What you are seeing here is that Brazilians also like women’s football.”
The Brazilian Football Confederation pays for some players and a coach and that enables them to keep the national side going, no mean feat in a nation where women’s football was banned from 1941 to 1979 for being unladylike.
But history is against the women players, as perhaps, is culture.
“It’s all about machismo,” said Adir Fernandes, a middle-aged Vasco da Gama fan who came to the Maracana to see her first women's game.
“In Brazil, only men’s football gets money and attention.”