The organisers of the Copa América had insisted that the opening match between Brazil and Bolivia would sell out, as South America’s biggest tournament got underway in São Paulo.
However, just 46,342 fans paid for tickets to enter the 67,000-capacity Morumbi Stadium. Two goals from Philippe Coutinho and a superb strike from Everton Soares gave Brazil a 3-0 win, but not before boos met the teams as they left the pitch at half-time with the game tied at 0-0.
Despite an eventual win, much of the debate after the game was about the crowd’s hostility towards their own team after a poor display.
Dani Alves sparked further disunity by blaming the poor reception and lack of ticket sales on São Paulo’s clubismo tribalism and a lack of harmony between fans of its three main teams. He said that whenever Brazil play in Sao Paulo, fans cannot separate their clubs from the Brazilian national team.
However, Alves teammate, Thiago Silva, put the smaller crowd numbers down to the cost of ticket prices, saying they should be lower.
Just 11,107 fans paid to attend the second match of the tournament, a goalless draw between Venezuela and Peru, leaving the Arena do Grêmio in Porto Alegre just 20% full. With tickets for the game costing an average of R$216 (£44.30), it is little surprise that so few people attended.
The prices may not appear too excessive to people outside Brazil, but it is worth noting that the currency has almost halved in value since the start of a recession in 2015. Brazil games are the most expensive of all with the average cost of a ticket for the opening match being R$485 (£100), which is half a month’s wages for some fans.
The organisers of the tournament have been criticised for showing ‘poor common sense’ and ‘excessive greed’, especially in a country currently experiencing serious socioeconomic problems.
A home Copa América should have brought the Brazilian people together, but the high-ticket prices are making the disconnect between the fans and their national team even worse.
The Seleção was once a source of huge national pride on the global stage, but it is now full of players who leave Brazil at a young age, which means that Brasileiro Série A supporters are unable to develop an affinity for them.
Add to this that most of Brazil’s fixtures, apart from World Cup qualifiers, are played in other continents close to where most of their players are based, the gap between team and supporters is growing.
Since their exit from the World Cup last summer, Brazil have played two friendlies in the USA, two in Saudi Arabia, two in England, one in Portugal and one in the Czech Republic. Native Brazil fans are now rarely considered when friendlies are organised.
Seemingly, nothing is being done to bring the Seleção closer to the average Brazilian fan. It is sad to see some of the most passionate and colourful fans in world football falling out of love with the game, but it is no surprise considering the expense that surrounds the sport these days.