Manuachu Mayor Cici Magalhaes and Boston City owner Renato Valentim (Boston City FC Photo)
BOSTON — Promotion. Relegation. Two words that stir arguably the fiercest of debates among soccer fans in North America. The rest of the world lives and dies by a system that rewards the successful and unceremoniously punishes those who falter.
Now, Boston City F.C., in its second year in the National Premier Soccer League, has its sights set on promotion, no matter what the United States thinks.
Boston City is adding a new team – in Brazil.
The club’s connection with the world’s traditional kings of soccer is strong, with its owner, several members of their coaching staff and several players either natives of or descendants of the Land of the Palms.
Now, the connection is to be cemented with the formation of a second Boston City FC – a Brazilian sister club that will kick off in state leagues in two years. It aims to gain promotion through the divisions to the national stage.
Boston City is focused on building from the ground up in Brazil, establishing an academy, training center and an opportunity for players to play for the North and South American clubs to enhance their profiles and individual careers. It is an initiative that is unique across soccer in the U.S.
“Quite simply, nobody else is doing this,” Boston City FC owner Renato Valentim said. “There are relationships and joint initiatives and of course there was Chivas USA a few years ago, but nobody has done this, with the emphasis on building a club, developing players and intimately linking the two teams.
“Boston City will also introduce something new for Brazil. We will be creating the academy first, not the professional team, and building a core group of 13-to-18-year-olds who will become our future.”
This past month, Valentim, who owns 12 Boston-area Tavern In The Square restaurants and is a real estate developer, signed the first document crucial to the birth of his project. He committed to take over the lease of an existing sports center in his home city of Manhuaçu in the state of Minas Gerais, which will host the club’s academy.
But that is just scratching the surface.
The facility is a placeholder while a multi-million-dollar complex is built on approximately 100 acres of land Valentim purchased in Manhuaçu to become a state-of-the-art permanent Brazilian home to Boston City FC Brazil. The venue will be a facility young Brazilian players in Manhuaçu – which is almost 200 miles from the nearest national professional club, Cruzeiro – dream about.
“The mayor of Manhuaçu, Cici Magalhaes, has been fantastic in helping us to pull this project together,” Valentim said. “She made the land purchase go very smoothly, recognizing immediately the many benefits this will bring to the region.”
The complex will boast three top-class soccer fields, an on-site doctor, physiotherapists, a hotel for visiting families as well as domestic and international teams, a restaurant and a café. Dedicated living quarters will house the academy teenagers, who will attend a local school in between training twice a day.
“This set up would be difficult to do in America or even in Europe, but it is fairly common in Brazil for players as young as 13 years of age to leave their families, so they can pursue their dream of playing professional soccer,” Valentim said. “They will live and breathe soccer at this new facility.”
Valentim admits the purpose of establishing an academy in Brazil extends beyond winning matches once the cream of the older players is old enough to compete in the state’s third division in 2019. Soccer is a booming global business and transfer fees are an essential form of revenue.
“Our goal is to develop and then transfer players, but we will effectively have a farm team in both Brazil and the United States,” he said. “Our coach Palhinha has already told his current squad of NPSL players that they can have an opportunity to play in Brazil to further their careers. We expect to send players to Brazil from the U.S. and vice versa as we look to improve our team here in Boston.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for players in the United States. We will have a new sports complex in Brazil, a team that is being constantly evaluated and scouted that will provide the opportunity to showcase our players for the big teams in Brazil. The state leagues have a high standard and are scouted by many of the top clubs from around the world.”
Last week, Boston City coach Palhinha, who played with the Brazilian national team, promoted tryouts for the new academy in Brazil via a video on social media. More than a thousand young hopefuls replied within a few days via Facebook and some will be assessed in September when the academy becomes a reality.
Boston City technical director Thomas Pashoarelli, who earlier this year completed a Masters Program at the MPB School of Coaches in Barcelona, will establish the teams at age ranges from 13 to 18, creating an instant connection with the American club. Coaches for each age group have been recruited and the professional team will begin play in 2019, when the first generation of new players will turn 20.
“There is a real buzz in Manhuaçu and we have high hopes for those who join the academy,” Valentim said. “We hope they will be joined by some of the best players we have here in Boston. We will open that door for our players to follow their dream in Brazil, if they wish. The goal is to progress from division three at state level to the national ranks. It has been done before, by Chapecoense most famously, and you only have to look at the sport in England or Germany to know that small clubs can become bigger and be promoted.”
Valentim laughed off the suggestion that public money might be required to build the training complex that is likely to cost in the region of $10,000,000.
“No, this is all a private investment,” said, Valentim, who was born in Manhuaçu and left for the United States in the 1990s. “While there will be a residual benefit throughout the region, this will be our facility, our stadium and we will profit, along with the players who grasp this opportunity.”
So, once the academy has kicked off this fall and the plans are in place for the professional team to emerge, how might the Boston City FC landscape look a decade down the line?
“I would hope we will have grown and are playing at a higher level and have helped to develop players who go on to be stars of the sport,” Valentim said.
But in Brazil or the United States?
“Both!” he replied with a smile.