On Sundays, from 8 a.m., Gabriel Chucre State Park, located in the center of Carapicuíba, the greater city of São Paulo, welcomes about 30 American football athletes.
The weekly meeting revolves around the training of the Carapicuíba Strong Bears, the first and only team in the municipality, which returned to the dispute for the Paulista Flag of Fefasp (São Paulo American Football Federation), at the end of April, after five years away from competition.
The 2022 season of Paulista de Flag – the way to enter the sport, which does not require protective equipment – is the first since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in March 2020.
The tournament brings together 14 teams from the state of Sao Paulo, such as Diadema Diamond and Guarulhos Royals Football, divided into two conferences: North and South. The game schedule, results and rankings are published on social networks.
Challenges off the field
In addition to the difficulties inherent in organizing a team, such as managing athletes and attracting sponsors, the Bears also face a lack of institutional support from Carrapaquipa City Council, says Adelson Jr. Almeida, 38, team manager and resident of Cohab 2.
He explains that in 2017, at the direction of Osasco Soldier, a team from the neighboring city, the Bears got a job to use the local Carapicuíba stadium. But on match day, Almeida reported that the office was suspended by the city council so the space could be used for a lowland soccer match.
We have been hurt a lot. As lowland football brings in more audience, the trend is that they have benefited at the expense of other methods,” he lamented.
The director also compares the lack of support from the municipal administration to what is happening in municipalities in the area. “The Osasco and Barware teams have the support of their respective city councils, but that’s not happening here,” he says.
For Kaio Souza, 22, the offensive coordinator, another challenge common to all teams in the sport is overcoming the stigma of the violent sport that American football carries.
“The sport is very tactical, with very clear rules about the use of force and physical contact,” he quotes.
According to the directors of Strong Bears, the recent promotion of the sport in Brazil contributed to overcoming this obstacle. The latest version of the Super Bowl, for example, was broadcast on Open TV. The event is the final match of the NLF (National Football League), the major Major League Soccer in the United States.
“When everyone knows exactly what American football is and how it works, things will get better,” Almeida says.
A winning team born
Strong Bears coach Fernando Gudetti, 28, says the team was born in late 2014 from a group of friends passionate about the sport.
“We all loved football, but there was no team in the city. At the same time, we didn’t want to play for Osasco – that’s when we decided to build the first team in Carrapequepa, he says, referring to the rivalry between the two cities.
Guedetti, one of the few remaining members of the original squad, recalls that the Bears’ first game was specifically against the Osasco Soldiers, founded in 2008 and current runner-up at Campeonato Paulista de Flag.
“We didn’t have a uniform,” he recalls. We wear white hand-numbered T-shirts with red ink. It was a tough match, but we won.”
Since then, the soldier has been the biggest competitor to the mighty bears. Despite the rivalry on the field, the direction of the two teams is close and helps each other in activities aimed at promoting the sport.
In addition to debuting with a win, the Bears also take pride in winning two Bowls, a minor tournament with four teams, unbeaten and without taking any points.
The last edition that Carapicuíba won was held in Grajaú, south of São Paulo, in 2018.
City Hall says fields are available to the team
Sot, the Carrapequipa City Council claimed that it did not receive a letter from the team requesting the use of the local stadium at the time of the match against Osasco Soldier.
But he stressed that he is there to help the team as he does in other sports. “In our city there are several fields, with natural and artificial grass, which are provided by the Sports Department,” he highlights.
Join Strong Bears
If you live in Carapicuíba and are interested in playing American football, take part in the Strong Bears open training. For more information, follow the team at social networks.