IV |BRAZILIAN FOOTBALL
Imagine a world-famous football league that is so poorly managed that it has to sell its best players to foreign leagues in order to survive. This is thesituation in Brazil, a country where football is part of the nation’s soul. Brazil’s football is in deep financial trouble. The only way Brazilian clubs have made money lately is by selling their topplayers to foreign teams – 849 of them since 2004 alone. As a result, skilled athletes are one of Brazil’s leading exports. The football players who have remained in the country earn little and usuallyperform in empty arenas.
But there is one exception. In São Paulo’s Pacaembu Stadium, 35,000 fans are on their feet. They are pounding samba drums and cheering for Corinthians, their beloved team.Above them, in the director’s box, sits the man who has made it his goal to save the team: Kia Joorabchian, an Iranian-born British citizen. Since Joorabchian took control of Corinthians in January2005, attendance at games has tripled and money is pouring in, in larger and larger amounts.
However, not long ago Corinthians were in a desperate situation. Despite millions of loyal fans, the clubwas attracting fewer than 10,000 people at most games and was more than $20 million in debt. But then Joorabchian invested $14 million to bring three top players back home to Brazil. The investmenthas already paid off. In 2006, Corinthians won Brazil’s professional football league championship for the first time in six years. Yet Joorabchian has produced more than just a trophy. He has alsoestablished a new business model that could rescue professional football in Brazil from sinking under corruption, violence, mismanagement and a loss of talent to European and Asian clubs.
Ironically,Joorabchian, who is a banker, was not even interested in football. He arrived in Brazil in 2004 looking for an investment. He watched Corinthians and fell in love. “You pick a company because you...