Brazilian season opens after five-week break

January 10, 2006

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Brazil's marathon season kicks off on Wednesday after a break which lasted just over five weeks and with the country's sweltering summer only just beginning.

Most players would probably rather stay on the beach and skip the plethora of state competitions which open the season, with the national championship not due to kick off until the end of April.

Argentina forward Carlos Tevez, who inspired the Corinthians team which last year's Brazilian championship, has already announced that intends to sit out the opening games.

'I'd rather not play and work on my physical conditioning,' said Tevez, who was signed from Boca Juniors in December 2004 for $18 million, a record between two South American clubs.

Corinthians are the first team in action as they travel to Bauru to face Noroeste in the Paulista - Sao Paulo state championship - the largest and most illustrious of the regional contests.

The match kicks off at 3.30pm local time, when summer temperatures routinely pass 30 Celsius, and promises to be a torrid experience for both players and supporters.

Vanderlei Luxemburgo's return to Brazilian football after his ill-fated 11 months with Real Madrid begins the following day when Santos visit Sao Bento.

Luxemburgo has gone straight back to Santos, the club he led to the Brazilian championship title in 2004 before being selected to coach Real. Pele's former club employed four different coaches in his absence.

World club champions Sao Paulo do not enter the fray until January 18, when they are away to Santo Andre.

Like Santos, they will also be under a new coach with Muricy Ramalho replacing Paulo Autuori, who was made an offer he said he could not refuse by Japan's Kashima Antlers.

Sao Paulo have also lost right back Cicinho, who has joined Real Madrid.

Palmeiras, the other Paulista favourites under former Brazil coach Emerson Leao, have brought back 34-year-old striker Edmundo for what should be a swansong.

Edmundo, as well known for his volatile temper as his footballing gifts, inspired Palmeiras as they won successive Brazilian championship titles in 1993 and 1994.

He also received half a dozen red cards during the same period and was eventually fired for complaining that the grass at the Parque Antartica stadium was too long.

As usual, there have been a bewildering number of transfers in the close season and many fans may have trouble recognising their new teams.

Typically, the wheeling and dealing carries on for several weeks into the season while the coaching casualties usually begin after only three or four matches.

Santos have made no fewer than 12 new signings including Paraguayan international defender Julio Manzur, Chilean international midfielder Claudio Maldonado and former Paris St Germain striker Reinaldo.

At the other extreme, Cruzeiro, who play in the Mineiro - Minas Gerais championship - have offloaded 20 players since the end of last season.

In Rio de Janeiro, the Carioca championship starts at the weekend with veteran striker Romario among the players in action.

Brazil's 1994 World Cup forward, who was top scorer in last year's Brazilian championship, will be 40 at the end of the month and has signed a deal to stay with Vasco for another year.