Thanks to globalization, Brazilian soccer in recent years has become an increasingly "vague" term, says BBC's Tim Vickery, a concept that's underscored by events in Brazil last week.
On Wednesday, the Brazilian national team returned home to play a match in front of its own people for the first time in two years, during which time the star-studded team was on tour in Asia and Europe. Wednesday's game was an understandably grand occasion, generating a huge audience, massive TV ratings and relentless media attention. The audience, too, was decidedly mainstream: families could be spotted at the newly reopened Maracana stadium watching their heroes -- themselves global brands -- dismantle Ecuador, 5-0.
The following evening, Vickery says, a very different audience showed up at the same stadium, this time to watch Vasco da Gama play Flamengo, a game which usually draws gang members and drug dealers. Part of the reason the domestic game gets nothing like the same attention from mainstream fans is because those who play in the Brazilian league either aren't good enough to go abroad, have already been abroad and are now too old to stay there, or are as yet undiscovered youngsters. Meanwhile, mainstream soccer fans are wearing Manchester United and Real Madrid jerseys -- just as you'd find anywhere in Europe, Asia, or North America. So what does "Brazilian soccer" mean? Good enough to make it abroad.