Tite heads to Saudi for Argentine and South Korean friendlies with no Brazil-based players

October 28 – Brazil coach Tite has refrained from calling up home-based players for November friendlies against Saudi Arabia and South Korea, avoiding another club versus country row.

In October, Tite had been criticised for calling up seven home-based players, including players from league leaders Flamengo. The Rio giants will also contest the final of the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of the Champions League final, against River Plate in November after demolishing Brazilian rivals Gremio 5-0 in the second leg of the semi-finals.

This time the Brazil boss left out players who ply their trade at home, despite admitting he’d like to call up Flamengo’s Gerson. The midfielder has been the metronome in his team and part of Flamengo’s renaissance this season. The Rio outfit disclosed that they submitted a formal request to the CBF (Brazilian FA), asking that no player from the club would be called up. Tite, however, denied that the request had reached his ears.

Tite’s decision means the 33rd match day of the domestic calendar will not be affected. Brazil’s convoluted calendar ignores FIFA dates. The topflight simply plays on, often resulting in conflicts between the CBF and the clubs, that become exacerbated in the business end of the season.

The discussion between club and country boils down to Brazil’s dysfunctionally organised calendar. The current organisation of the calendar appears to suit no one, except the local state federations, who hold the balance of power inside the CBF. Each season from January to March, state championships are played out across Brazil. The structure forces big clubs into a calendar and commercial model that doesn’t help their interests, playing small and meaningless games that in turn kill of the appetite for the national top flight.

The issue has been further exacerbated by the perception that Brazil friendlies are played far away from home and in recent times against opposition ill befitting the five-time world champions. In October, the CBF were criticised for lining up Nigeria and Senegal as opponents after talks with both Germany and Denmark had broken down.

That criticism is bound to increase in November when Brazil travel to Riyadh for a friendly against Argentina. In 2018, the South American giants already met in a friendly in Jeddah. A late goal from Miranda was enough to separate the two teams in front of a near sellout crowd at the King Abdullah Sports City in a game marketed as the Super Classico and the Saudis will host a repeat friendly between the five-times world champions and Argentina in November in the country’s capital Riyadh.

The match will be a feature of the ‘Riyadh Seasons,’ an annual festival that will bring Bruno Mars, Pitbull, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopes and a slate of other pop stars to Saudi Arabia. The festival is part of Saudi Arabia’s bid to become a tourist destination and provide the local population with entertainment. The South American friendly was announced by the General Entertainment Authority, which is led by Turki Al-Sheikh, a confident of the controversial crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.

Three days later, Brazil play South Korea in Abu Dhabi. The trip will be a chance for Real Betis’ Emerson, Aston Villa’s Dougla Luiz, Real Madrid’s Rodrygo and AS Roma goalkeeper Daniel Fuzato, all debutants, to impress Tite. Star player Neymar has been left out of the squad over injury concerns.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1582513961labto1582513961ofdlr1582513961owedi1582513961sni@o1582513961fni1582513961