Although far from TV broadcasts, Brazilians are embracing American football in Brazil.
Sunday and sports are related all over the world.
In Brazil, Sunday is the soccer day. But from a quick view of Brazilian social media, you can see that they’re falling in love with another sport.
With increasing broadcasts on cable television, American football is becoming one of passions of Brazilians. Mentions on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook about NFL games grow every day. Brazilian teams use that to increase their athlete and fans numbers.
The emergence of new teams is not something new. For instance, the Carioca Bowl has existed since 2000. This is a tournament where football teams play on the beaches, and it was at beaches that most Brazilian teams were created, but a bigger step was needed.
Equipment was needed, so the sport could really be played. It was a slow process, due to a variety of factors, but it’s happening faster than expected. Thanks to this evolution, Brazil has played it first unified national championship this year; there were two national leagues until last year.
The path wasn’t easy, see the Top 10 Greatest Moments in Brazil American football below.
1. First fully padded game
On October 25th of 2008, the Brown Spiders and Barigui Crocodiles (now Coritiba Crocodiles) made history. In front of 2,500 people, the Paranaense teams played the first ever fully padded American football game in Brazil. The Spiders won 33–10. This match was talked all over the country and was an example and inspiration for other Brazilian teams.
2. State team Brazilian tournament
In 2009, lots of teams had equipped themselves and this fact changed the landscape of national football, but they still weren’t a lot of equipped teams. Buying a helmet and shoulder pads was expensive and not many could afford it. With no perspective of a national league , it was decided that a tournament between the best players from each state would happen. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Paraíba, Mato Grosso and Santa Catarina were the states that traveled all the way to Sorocaba for this tournament, won by the São Paulo squad.
That was the starting point for Torneio Touchdown, a tournament that had it first edition in 2009. In 2010, another State Brazilian tournament was held, this time in the city of Curitiba. Rio de Janeiro won it, defeating the Paraná squad with a 20–7 score.
3. The first National Championship
After the excitement of the State tournaments, the organizers decided to take the first steps towards a true national league. Organized by the late André Adler, an ESPN commentator for several years, with eight teams, Torneio Touchdown was born.
The first edition was won by Rio de Janeiro Imperadores, who defeated São Paulo Storm at the final game with a 14–7 score.
In the following year, after internal affairs, the Liga Brasileira de Futebol Americano (LBFA) was created. The name remained the same until 2012, when it changed to Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol Americano (CBFA).
In 2014, the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol Americano (CBFA), created Superliga Nacional (1st Division) and Liga Nacional (2nd Division).
4. The first big crowd
Any sport needs not only the passion from players and coaches, they also need organization and fan support.
The evidence that football was on the right way came in 2011, when the Fluminense Imperadores (formerly Rio de Janeiro Imperadores) won their second national championship (the first one was the 2009 Torneio Touchdown) at estádio Couto Pereira, in front of 6,500 fans, with a score of 14 – 7. That big crowd showed that there were no obstacles for the growth of football in Brazil.
5. NFL players visit Brazil
In 2014 Brazilian football was closely watched by NFL players, through American Football Without Barriers (AFWB), an organization founded by Breno Giacomini, offensive lineman for the New York Jets and son of Brazilians, and Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge. They came to Brazil for some camps with athletes from 8 to 22 years old.
The organization has been to Turkey, China and Egypt, and aims to help develop football all over the world. In Brazil, players like Marshawn Lynch, former Seattle Seahawks running back, Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons center and Barkevious Mingo, linebacker for the New England Patriots were part of the group of NFL players that came to Brazil.
6. Cairo Santos in the NFL
You’ll read a lot of stories about Brazilians in the NFL, but only two really had that chance.
The first was Maikon Bonan, Tennessee Titans kicker. He was signed for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but played only in pre-season games. In 2014, Bonani was joined by Cairo Santos, a University of Tulane alumni, voted the best NCAA kicker in the 2012 season. The Kansas City Chiefs invited him to their pre-season squad after he went undrafted and he got the starting job, something unexpected that made him the first Brazilian player to play in a regular season game. Now, three years later, he’s an established kicker and Brazilian NFL ambassador.
7. Football at World Cup Arenas
Many Brazilian soccer stadiums, like Couto Pereira (Paraná), Almeidão (Paraíba) and Aflitos (Pernambuco) have already hosted football games.
With the construction of Arenas for the 2014 World Cup, it was expected that some of them would host American football games. Arena Pernambuco was the first one to do so, where a crowd of 7.056 people watched the final game of the Superliga Nordeste between the Recife Mariners and João Pessoa Espectros. After that, several other arenas like Arena Pantanal, Beira-Rio and Mineirão have hosted football games.
The best attendance so far was of 15,000 people at the Arena Pantanal for a Cuiaba Arsenal versus Coritiba Crocodiles game.
8. Onças at the World Cup
The Brazilian national squad has existed since 2007. The long distances, lack of financial support and organization were in the way of its growth, but nevertheless the national squad still managed to play some games. But it was clear that they needed to show the world that football exists in Brazil.
That happened in 2015, when the Onças, the name of the Brazilian national squad, won a game against Panama by a score of 26–14 and earned a spot at the American Football World Cup at Ohio in the same year. They played three games, losing two (to France and Australia) and earning one victory against South Korea. A historical result that brought more attention to the sport.
9. Girls also play
They don’t use helmets or shoulder pads, but they play something really similar to football, flag football. The rules are different and instead of tackling, they remove one of the two flags that each player uses attached to a belt, avoiding hits. Playing flag football, the Onças played their third World Cup in 2016 and for the first time ever, they got past the first round and went to the knockout phase, finishing 6th in the tournament held in Miami.
10. Brazilian National Championship
It took seven years for the first Campeonato Brasileiro of American football to be held.
In 2016, the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol Americano organized a 30-team tournament, with teams from 16 states and the Federal District. Playoffs started on October 22 and the Brasil Bowl, the final game of the season, will be on December 17 or 18.
Translated from the original article in Portuguese on redbull.com.br.