Football: Corruption sparks Rio breakaway

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The Independent Online
BRAZILIAN football has been thrown into turmoil by an outbreak of corruption allegations in Rio de Janeiro.

A referee, Claudio Cerdeira, has accused the Rio football federation director, Wagner Canazaro, of instructing him and other referees to rig results in this year's state championship.

'He told us that there must not be any upsets: the results must always be the results which interest the federation,' Cerdeira told a federation tribunal on Tuesday.

Canazaro, who was the federation's refereeing director at the time but who has since been dismissed, has denied the allegations. The matches involved were not disclosed.

The claims were first made anonymously by three referees in an interview with the Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, last month. It was not clear if Cerdeira was one of the three.

Three of Rio's top clubs have responded to the allegations by announcing the formation of their own championship this year, along with three smaller clubs. Botafogo, Flamengo and Fluminense, plus three Second Division teams: Portuguesa, Bonsucesso and Canto do Rio hope that other clubs will join them, but they may find it hard to gain official recognition from the Brazilian football confederation. 'The Rio federation has lost its credibility,' Flamengo's president, Luiz Augusto Velloso, said.

Tele Santana, who managed Brazil's 1982 and 1986 World Cup teams, has added his name to those who have called for an investigation into the corruption allegations. Santana, currently the coach of the world club champions, Sao Paulo, said: 'Corruption exists in soccer all over Brazil, not just in Rio.'

The current national coach, Carlos Parreira, has also thrown his weight behind moves to investigate and punish corruption in the game. 'I support the movement to moralise football here,' Parreira said. 'All corruption suspects should be investigated.'

Eduardo Viana, the Rio federation president, is the man who has had to answer the allegations - but he has shown no signs of bowing to any pressure. He has lobbied successfully to delay the formation of an investigative panel by the state legislature.

'I detest public opinion,' Viana said. 'The people could all be shot by machine guns, for all I care. I'm the son of a factory owner, the elite, and I'm a right-winger.'

'The people are getting robbed,' the state deputy, Sergio Cabral Filho, responded. He is due to head the investigative panel and has pledged that 'justice will rule in the country's most popular sport'.

Although the national team remain a power in world football, the domestic game in Brazil has long been inadequate, with the national championship lasting only three months and often having to take second place to the regional championships - of which there are 27.