It is common for Brazilians to say that the country has 12 clubs with actual chances to win the national title at the start of every season. A small club, however, is slowly breaking this logic and has a real shot at becoming 2016’s most successful Brazilian club at the international level.
The little-known Chapecoense will decide the Copa Sudamericana against Atletico (Colombia) in two matches, the first in Medellin on November 30, and the final in Brazil on December 7. The last leg won’t be played in its hometown of Chapecó, or even in its state of Santa Catarina. The club decided to instead take the match to Curitiba, where the Couto Pereira stadium can accommodate the over 40,000 people required by the Conmebol.
“The financial aspect is not a worry. We will do every possible action to help our fans attend the match,” says Mauro Stumpf, the club’s vice president of football.
Let’s take a closer look at what he said. The lack of financial worry is already something enough to put Chapecoense in a league of its own when compared to other Brazilian clubs, which are mostly insolvent and beg the government to pardon their financial errors. It is true, though – the little team has no debt, and since 2010 has been following a steady and firm path.
Since then, the club has won the Santa Catarina state championship twice and gained national promotion from Serie C to B, and then A. The club has played with elite Brazilian teams since 2014, and has not been relegated since, another rare feat as novice teams are likely to head back to Serie B in the blink of an eye. In 2015, Chapecoense played its first international match in the Copa Sudamericana, and this season, they managed to eliminate traditional clubs in the competition, including Argentina’s Independiente and the current Libertadores champions, San Lorenzo. Not so bad for a club founded in only 1973.
Chapecoense officials like to say that their secret is good management and a strategic vision. They also avoid trying to jump ahead too much. As a result, the squad has achieved stability with over 50 percent of its players, as they have contracts until next year. The choice of a coach with proven competence, Caio Junior, was another correct move. No international title could serve as an example for other Brazilian clubs, so desperate in need of good administrative models to follow.