The YouTube Kid kicks off Brazil's season

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Dear friends, 2010 has arrived... Finally!

Of course, since we’re entering a World Cup year, I can’t wish you plenty of luck.

But except for that June/July bit in South Africa, please accept The Noise from Brazil’s best greetings for the year!

And, without any delay, let’s get busy – after all, the Brazilian football season has already kicked off.

While the pros are still to resume practising, it’s time for the youngsters to take centre stage: welcome to the Copa São Paulo of junior football, the country’s main youth competition.

The 41st edition of the traditional tournament has started on Saturday and features 91 clubs from all around Brazil (plus Saudi Arabian guests Al-Hilal), who’ll battle till January 25’s grand finale.

This year, the rules were changed: only players under the age of 18 are now allowed – to stop 18 or 19-year-old 'veterans', who already play professionally, to join the kids’ party.

Since 1969, the Copa São Paulo has been where big clubs – or, of late, agents – window-shop for unknown faces from smaller clubs.

The list of players first spotted in the Copa São Paulo includes Rivaldo, Falcão, Djalminha and Casagrande, among others. It was their first step from anonymity toward stardom.

Things have changed, though. Wiser clubs and agents don’t wait for well-known competitions to snap up fresh talent.

From Messi to Manchester United twins Fabio and Rafael, the examples are there.

And the Internet has come in handy to advertise early bloomers.

Fabio and Rafael. Or Rafael and Fabio

Take, for instance, 17-year-old Maycon Santana, aka “The YouTube Kid.”

Three years ago, a homemade clip in which a humble boy from a small city in Bahia showed his amazing skills swept the web.

Before you could say “binding contract,” a group of Flamengo fans started a massive campaign to convince club directors to take the boy to Rio de Janeiro.

Flamengo’s emails were jammed with fans’ requests, and it paid off: the club invited the player to join its youth sides, and the following season, Flamengo secured the YouTube Kid by handing him his first professional contract.

This year, Maycon Santana will play in his first Copa São Paulo.

He’s still a long way from stardom, as are all of his team-mates, but anonymity is history for him.

All the eyes are already on him to see if he lives up to the hype – at 17 years old.

It's a sign of the times.

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