The goal behind this series is to meet and learn about various American Football clubs around the world!
AFI had the opportunity to speak with Gustavo Figueredo Casagrande, 1st Secretary of the Criciúma Slayers, an American Football club in Brazil. Criciúma is a city in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina 180 km south of Florianopolis and 900 km south of Sao Paulo and home to nearly 200,000 people.
These 14 Questions will tell us the origin of American Football in Criciúma as well as the current status and bright future for American Football in Brazil!
- How did American Football come to Criciúma?
The idea of a team started in January 2010 when we found out that there were regional leagues in our own state. Before that it was just a group of 5 friends who liked American Football. Then we started to spread the idea and disclose the sport in our city to get new guys to play it.
- How was the Criciúma Slayers team formed?
As the team grew, we gave it a name, the Criciúma Slayers, and we founded the Associação Criciumense de Futebol Americano (Criciuma American Football Association), a non-profit association with the desire to spread football across our city and region.
- What is the story behind the founding of your organization?
Like most of the teams in Brazil, it started with a little group of guys who really love American Football and had a wish to make it something bigger in Brazil. We found out that we had a regional league in our state and that a neighbor city had a team that was actually playing it, we made some tests to get in, played for 2 years, took all the experience to the Criciúma Slayers and now we march on our own feet.
- How many active athletes/players/participants are in your organization?
60 athletes, five coaches, and five cheerleaders.
- What are some of the challenges your organization has faced?
Actually, we still face the same challenges that we had in the beginning which is, prejudice. In a country where soccer is so popular it is difficult for other sports to gain traction, but people are getting more familiar with American Football after our games and events. As far as investments, it’s really hard to find companies who trust in American Football in the region enough to invest money in us.
- Do you receive any support from governmental organizations?
We’ve been working really hard to get into governmental projects to get support, but until now, we have gotten any support.
- What are some of the challenges you foresee for American Football in Brazil?
I believe it will be difficult for the insertion of American Football into all communities and levels of society. Also the lack of governmental support to invest in it to help make it a popular sport in our country.
- Are there many NFL & NCAA American Football fans in Criciuma?
We do, hahaha! In the beginning we didn’t know that we had so many people who, like us, really liked American Football. Since the founding of the Criciúma Slayers that number has increased a lot.
- Have you established a schedule? When does your season begin and end?
In Brazil, we have the regional leagues and the National League. From March to June we play in the regional league and from July to November we play in the National league. The Slayers are not currently playing the National league because it demands more structure and money from the team, which we still don’t have. Our regular season is basically from March to June and from September to November. We also have a little tournament created by the state federation to give some action to teams who are not playing the National League.
- Do your teams have access to the proper equipment and facilities?
One of our city’s colleges gives us a field to play and practice, and we have a gym sponsoring the team, the Performance Gym, which is our facility to workout. Our jerseys are made by our other sponsor the D’Porto Staping Company. Shoulder pads and other equipment are the tough ones to acquire. They are expensive and hard to get since they can only be imported, but we’ve been managing to buy used equipment for a cheaper price but still we don’t have any financial support for that.
- What are you organization’s short-term (1-3 years) and long-term (3+ years) goals?
We would like to win the our next competition, the South Cup, of which we were champions last year. Also, we would like to find sponsors to give the team better conditions and develop our current projects, especially the “Overseas Project”. This is where we would bring American players and coaches to our team for a period of time to help us develop our American Football program. We’ve already managed to bring in two Americans and the impact on the team was phenomenal.
As far as long-term goals, we would like to make American Football one the most popular sports in the city and region, as well maintain a winning program.
- How do Brazilian laws and regulations affect your ability to development the sport and league?
We have to work within the bureaucracy.
- Can you share an interesting cultural experience you’ve had in your country while trying to explain what American Football is and how it is played?
Well, firstly, explaining that American Football is not just a bunch of big guys beating each other for no apparent reason and that it is actually safer and more intelligent than most people believe. If you get over that, the rest is pretty simple.
- Are there any other things you’d like to let the world know about American Football in Criciúma?
American Football is well represented in Criciúma, no need to worry, we got this haha. But seriously, I know that Criciúma has great potential for American Football, even with all the challenges imposed on us, we’ve been growing together as a team and as an organization, and any help we can have is would be gladly welcomed.