Lonnie Hursey, head coach of the Vila Velha Tritoes who play in the BFA, Brazil’s top American football league, has been around.
He has been coaching internationally for the past 11 years. He thought he had seen and heard it all. But in his most recent stop, in Vila Velha , a coastal town about about 320 miles north of Rio De Janeiro, with a population of 400,000, he was stunned last week.
The city of Vila Velha is located in the state of Espírito Santo and the State Sports Ministry made the decision to move the local team’s soccer game to accommodate American football. In the most soccer crazy country in the world.
“In my 11 years outside the US coaching football, soccer teams, no matter how bad, have always gotten priority over football – until now!!! Our management and players do such a good job organizing the games that the nice big stadium was double booked for our next two home games and the soccer team was told to move.”
A soccer team in Brazil was asked to move their game?
“Yep. This would never happen in Europe. I have had our games moved because of soccer practice for 8 year olds.”
The Tritoes will be playing the Sao Paulo Storm this Saturday at Estádio Kléber Andrade. Hursey’s team has opened the season with a loss but is looking to rebound against the Storm. And with a crowd of upwards of 5,000 expected he know he will have fan support.
“I am not sure what the stadium holds but I think it is around 20,000. It was built for the World Cup as a practice field. “
American football is undergoing unprecedented growth in Brazil. In fact, one of the top teams, the Corinthians Steamrollers, boast a Facebook following that would put many NFL teams to shame. The team has 1.45 million Facebook followers (more than the entire CFL and eight NFL teams.
No matter what the outcome of the Tritoes game this Saturday, Hursey already knows he has one victory under his belt this week. Over soccer.