• AFP-Jiji


Freshly infused with cash from energy drink giant Red Bull, Brazilian club Bragantino is seeking to follow in the footsteps of the beverage brand’s most famous franchise, Champions League semifinalist Leipzig.

Bragantino returned to the Brazilian first division this season after a 22-year absence, thanks largely to an $11.5-million investment from the Austrian company, whose soccer stable now includes the New York Red Bulls and Austria’s Salzburg, as well as Leipzig.

Based in Braganca Paulista, about 100 km outside of Sao Paulo, Bragantino had just clawed their way back into the Brazilian second division when they announced a deal with Red Bull in March last year.

The deal merged the club with Red Bull Brasil, a franchise founded by the company in 2007 that was playing in a state-level league in Sao Paulo.

Now known as Red Bull Bragantino, the club has been on a roll ever since.

“We were looking for a club with a good story, devoted fans and a strong connection with their home city. We were lucky to find all that and more in Bragantino,” said the club’s executive director, Thiago Scuro.

Flush with Red Bull cash, Bragantino built a team that easily won the second division.

The changes do not stop there. They are renovating their stadium and overhauling the club’s internal machinery.

“Red Bull took on Bragantino with the intention of raising the club’s level across the board,” Scuro told AFP.

“We’ve had good results on the pitch. At the same time, we’re also working hard on management, on improving the club’s infrastructure.”

Founded in 1987 by Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull launched its caffeine-loaded drink on the international market in 1994, and has been charging into new business areas at a fearsome pace ever since.

The firm built unique name recognition with extreme sports competitions such as the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and Red Bull Air Race, before branching out into the more traditional brand-building business of soccer.

Red Bull-affiliated clubs “are independently managed in their home countries, but we have a lot of contact with each other — we share knowledge, methods and best practices,” Scuro said.

Red Bull Bragantino brought in top-line reinforcements this year from Leipzig (Luan Candido) and Salzburg (Luis Phelipe).

They assembled a team of young talent for their return to top-flight soccer this season, led by former player turned coach Felipe Conceicao.

In their first two matches, they battled two league giants to draws: Santos and Botafogo.

They will be looking for their first win against Bahia on Sunday — two days before Leipzig, fresh off their quarterfinal upset of Atletico Madrid, faces Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League semis.

“We want to play aggressive attacking football, with a lot of intensity and technical quality,” said Scuro.

“Brazil is a great country to sign young talent.”

Bragantino spent more signing players this season than any first-division club in Brazil except reigning champions Flamengo.

But Scuro said it is not just a matter of money, or of overnight success.

“Our main goal for 2020 is just to stabilize the club in the first division,” he said.

“It will be a medium-term process. I think in three years we’ll have the technical capacity to play at the same level as the major clubs, not because of money, but because of technical excellence, an established style of play and because we’re investing in young players who will improve every year.”

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