My first experience at a professional club
Updated: Aug 3, 2018
Brazilian soccer clubs have a much different set up than American clubs, and recently I've been able to learn some of the ins and outs of the professional club system here in Brazil. I've been training with an under 20 team at the club Ferroviarias, and it's been a great experience so far.
A background of Brazilian soccer clubs
One of the major differences between clubs in Brazil and the US, is that the professional teams here have teams of all ages. So the club will have U15, U17, U20, and professional levels. Most young players will grow up through the youth system and eventually try to join the professional team. So no matter what level the professional team is, whether they are amazing or terrible, they will all have multiple levels of youth teams. The only time you have a situation where a club is not linked to a professional team is in the case of a soccer school. A soccer school is more similar to clubs in the United States. They will have younger age groups for kids 6 to 16, and employ coaches and private trainers. The soccer schools have no professional teams, however, and eventually when a kid graduates their U16 level they either stop playing or move to another club that is directly linked to a pro team.
The situation of the youth teams is also completely different, as the youth players are almost treated as professionals. Because the club is a professional club that has an income, there is no cost to join for the youth players. If you are good enough to join the team, then you don't have to pay anything. The housing, food, and clothing is all provided for by the club. There is a constant staff in charge of all the food, clothing, and housing situations, so they are completely taken care of for the players. A youth player's schedule is then similar to a professional's, with training every day and strength and conditioning sessions. The life of a youth player is very nice, though it does come with its drawbacks. Players aren't able to spend a ton of time with their family because they live on the club's campus, unless their families live so close to the club that they are able to commute every day. Usually players don't focus on education as much, and though some will attend afternoon schooling or have tutors, a lot of them aren't exposed to a normal education. Of course the athletes have lots of down time, so if they have the discipline and the drive they can study independently.
The facilities vary widely between clubs and completely depend on the level of the clubs and how much money they have. Generally, only the top Brazilian clubs have truly nice facilities and the others fall into the average category. No matter the condition of the facilities, however, it's still nice to have free housing, clothing, and food. Most clubs have strength and conditioning coaches, physical therapists, and other resources available to them for free as well. Some of this is hard to visualize because it is much different than the United States, so I will add in some comparisons. The very top Brazilian clubs that play in the first league would have better facilities and resources than a division one university in the United States. They have plenty of exercise rooms, medical trainers, supplies, and gear available to all the players and coaches at all times. Similar to college, athletes live on campus, in dorms or houses. This is available for many different age groups, usually starting at around 13 years old. A medium level club has the same type of facilities, only less resources. Meaning usually the rooms are smaller, the staff isn't as full, and the facilities aren't quite as impressive. The smaller the club, the less resources they have. Clubs at the very bottom may not be able to provide medical facilities and housing among other things. The league that the club plays in is a good indication of the level of their facilities, with the top 2 Brazilian leagues providing excellent facilities, the 3rd league providing good facilities, and the 4th league providing average facilities. Below the 4th league, I would expect the level of resources and money to drop rapidly. The club I am training at plays in the 1st league of the state of Sao Paulo, and the 4th league in all of Brazil.
Ferroviarias is a club located close to my city of Sao Carlos. They play in the first league in Sao Paulo state, and the 4th league in the entirety of Brazil. They are set up the same way as all the other professional clubs, and I have been training with their U20 team, which is right under the professional team. I've had a great time over the past couple days, and have explored the facilities and the stadium immensely. The club is located in the city of Araraquara, and all of the youth teams live in houses very close to the stadium and facilities. Each youth team has a large house that they live in together. Depending on their training schedules, they will walk over to the stadium to have breakfast and then head to their locker room to change into their gear and prepare for practice. There is a large building built into the stadium where all the meals take place. It has large glass windows that look out into the stadium which is pretty awesome. At the back of the stadium there's a long building that contains the exercise rooms, medical rooms, and locker rooms. This long house type facility is shared with the professionals, but the pros have their own locker rooms. The youth teams have to share one big locker room. The locker room is fairly standard, and is complete with bathrooms and showers.
Because the club is fairly small, the training rooms are nothing spectacular and aren't overly spacious. However, this doesn't diminish from the fact that they do indeed provide all of these rooms for the players. By comparison, A division 1 college team in the US would expect to have nicer facilities. The stadium however, is super amazing and far above anything a college soccer team would ever have. Over half a century old, it has a rich history and is impressive to the eyes. It actually has a capacity of around 25,000 people, which is huge for a smaller club. The game field is beautiful and well maintained.
The team possesses the technology that you would expect out of a professional club, just on a smaller scale. All the players wear heart rate monitors and have to fill out evaluations relating information such as sleep, recovery, and pain scales. All of their games are taped and held for video analysis, and they have medical care whenever they need it. Ultimately they have what they need, only their resources aren't quite as good as the higher level clubs. If you are interested in learning more about the club, you can access their website here.
Training with the under 20 team has been very good for me, as the team plays very physical and fast paced. It's definitely a more intense environment than in the United States. It has been good for my fitness coming off an injury, and helps with my mental quickness as well. I've only practiced with the team for 3 days, but they like me and I fit in well with their playing style. I am still unsure of my plans for the future, but I'm glad to have experienced the Brazilian style of soccer and seen what the clubs are like. Whatever option I choose to pursue next, I know that this experience has been great for my growth as a person and a player. All of the staff have been amazing to me, and I really appreciate all that they have done. I have been especially impressed with the medical team and physical therapists, as I have worked with them on my ankle recovery. They are prepared to help with any problems at any time, and go out of their way to provide the utmost care. I have been working with Flavio, a physical therapist at the club, and he went out of his way to take me to get x rays and ultra sound scans on my ankle. He works with me every day on recovering and strengthening, and I am impressed with his devotion to his club and players.
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In conclusion, I've enjoyed learning about the differences in clubs in Brazil and how they compare to the United States. Though known as a smaller club, I have been very impressed with the level of play at Ferroviarias. I look forward to spending more time at the club and furthering my soccer knowledge. I have yet to decide concrete plans for the future, but will be making decisions soon. Make sure to stay tuned for the coming posts! Tchau from Araraquara, Brazil.
"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." - Hebrews 12:1