The YouTube Kid kicks off Brazil's season
Dear friends, 2010 has arrived... Finally!
Of course, since weÃ¢ÂÂre entering a World Cup year, I canÃ¢ÂÂt wish you plenty of luck.
But except for that June/July bit in South Africa, please accept The Noise from BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs best greetings for the year!
And, without any delay, letÃ¢ÂÂs get busy Ã¢ÂÂ after all, the Brazilian football season has already kicked off.
While the pros are still to resume practising, itÃ¢ÂÂs time for the youngsters to take centre stage: welcome to the Copa SÃÂ£o Paulo of junior football, the countryÃ¢ÂÂs 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), whoÃ¢ÂÂll battle till January 25Ã¢ÂÂs grand finale.
This year, the rules were changed: only players under the age of 18 are now allowed Ã¢ÂÂ to stop 18 or 19-year-old 'veterans', who already play professionally, to join the kidsÃ¢ÂÂ party.
Since 1969, the Copa SÃÂ£o Paulo has been where big clubs Ã¢ÂÂ or, of late, agents Ã¢ÂÂ window-shop for unknown faces from smaller clubs.
The list of players first spotted in the Copa SÃÂ£o Paulo includes Rivaldo, FalcÃÂ£o, Djalminha and Casagrande, among others. It was their first step from anonymity toward stardom.
Things have changed, though. Wiser clubs and agents donÃ¢ÂÂt 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 Ã¢ÂÂThe YouTube Kid.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 Ã¢ÂÂbinding contract,Ã¢ÂÂ a group of Flamengo fans started a massive campaign to convince club directors to take the boy to Rio de Janeiro.
FlamengoÃ¢ÂÂs emails were jammed with fansÃ¢ÂÂ 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 SÃÂ£o Paulo.
HeÃ¢ÂÂs 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 Ã¢ÂÂ at 17 years old.
It's a sign of the times.
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