In the traditional heartlands of football, the game has passed down from generation to generation, as a ritual of socialisation where the local club is the focus of community. But this, of course, is not the only possible relationship with the game, especially as football spreads its global popularity.
In the United States, for example, Major League Soccer has little more than a quarter of a century behind it, and has to compete with the European league for viewers. For many in the U.S., then, the entry point has not been the kickabout in the park or the exploits of the modest local team -- their love for and relationship with the game, and this is in no way a criticism, has been nurtured by exposure to the world's top players and teams. Their reference points are the outstanding players and the cutting edge ideas of the coaches. And fascinating times are ahead now that one such individual has taken control of a traditional Brazilian club.
With new legislation making it easier for Brazil's clubs to have owners, U.S. technology entrepreneur John Textor is taking a 90% stake in Botafogo -- a Rio de Janeiro club with a glorious history who have run into financial difficulties. It is already clear that a new regime has taken over. At the end of last year Botafogo won promotion back to the first division, winning the second division championship on the way. Even so, coach Enderson Moreira has been sacked. In an illuminating interview with Globo Esporte, Textor explained why he made the change.
"What I saw," he said, "was not a brand of football that I envisioned for Botafogo in the future." And this vision -- "the Botafogo Way" as Textor has branded it -- is very clear in its reference points.
Textor, 56, clearly has a deep love for and firm appreciation of the game. . He has an 80% stake in Molenbeek in the Belgian second division, he owns 40% of Crystal Palace in the Premier League, and he has been linked with buying a stake in Portuguese giants Benfica.
"Bayern dominated them passing the ball around,"he recalls. "The [Benfica] press gets tired, the press stops, Bayern waits and waits and waits and then they pick you apart."
A Textor-style team will "advance the entire formation up the field, and we do our best to retain possession at all costs, to dominate the opponent with possession, with pace. We want to demoralise them."
It is a vision very different from the norms of contemporary Brazilian football. In their defence, Brazil's coaching fraternity will argue that Pep Guardiola's style of play is very hard to introduce -- that the country's pitches are not good enough for a possession-based game, and that the sheer number of matches obliges a conservative, counter attacking approach -- like that of Copa Libertadores champs Palmeiras in the recent Club World Cup.
And even if the playing surfaces were better and the calendar more organised, there is still the question of raw material. As Textor acknowledges, his preferred model of play needs "highly skilled centre backs... who need to be fast... lightning quick" -- because they have to cover so much space behind them.
But this is emphatically not the blueprint for the modern Brazilian centre-back. Flamengo's all-conquering side of 2019 was constructed on the ability of Spanish centre-back Pablo Mari to organise a high defensive line. Two years after his transfer to Arsenal, Flamengo have still not worked out how to replace him.
In the case of Botafogo, the rock of their defence is Argentine centre-back Joel Carli -- a leader, who rallies the troops and operates very deep, clearing the ball from the team's penalty area. But he is slow, and it is impossible to see how he could fit into Textor's plans.
"I want it to be clear three to five years from now," emphasised Textor, "that there is a Botafogo Way."
But it could be a rocky road between here and there. "Sometimes it's good that I don't speak Portuguese," said the new boss. These are wise words. It is hard for him to gauge the level of cultural resistance to his project. This is a positive. It leaves him intact in the optimism of a can-do culture , a touch of naivety which is probably necessary to his plans. If he was aware of the height of the obstacles he may neer have got involved. Over and again he stresses the need for "calm" -- on the pitch and in the boardroom.
But calm is a commodity in very short supply in the Brazilian game. Everything is frenetic and immediate -- from the way decisions are taken by directors to the options chosen by players on the field. A pair of vastly experienced foreign coaches -- Colombia's Juan Carlos Osorio and Argentina's Jorge Sampaoli -- spent time in Brazil and both were both struck by the lack of calm of the players, hounded by their own fans to get the ball forward quickly. Patient, possession based football is not widely appreciated in Brazil.
Results, though, change everything. But here, too, there is a pitfall. Defending with a high line has risks. It can go horrendously wrong. Last weekend, for example, Bayern conceded four goals in 45 minutes against Bundesliga minnows Bochum. And recall Liverpool's shock 7-2 loss to Aston Villa in 2020.
In Brazilian footballing culture, where fear of humiliation is such a potent force, a defeat such as this is likely to set off a massive and possibly violent crisis.
"Failure is the best teacher," Textor said, reflecting on the highs and lows of his own business career. There are going to be failures en route to the implantation of "The Botafogo Way." The success of this intriguing project will surely depend on whether all those involved -- players, fans, coaches and the owner -- can hold the course amid fierce tropical winds.