34-Year Old Brazilian Soccer Championship Finally Decided by Supreme Court


Peter Sloniewsky and Adam Bear, Staff Writer

Most soccer games are decided within 90 minutes, but the Brazilian championship of 1987 was only recently decided, 34 years later. 

The controversy arose throughout the 1987 season, as the declining CBF (Brazilian soccer’s governing body at the time) put together a hastily organized bracket of 48 mediocre teams amid intense controversy and political interference. This move was intended to compete with the Clube dos 13, a group of the 13 largest clubs, who had organized to compete with the CBF, and were able to put together a much more structured tournament. Flamengo, a well-respected Rio de Janeiro’s club, won the title in a league formed by Brazil’s soccer clubs. In contrast, the CBF’s tournament was won by a generally considered second-rate club, Sport Recife. 

To fix the dispute between the CBF and Clube dos 13, both teams were asked to play each other for the title, but Flamengo refused. The issue then transformed into a legal battle, with lawsuits erupting between the teams. These lawsuits add to the already polarizing debate over the future of Brazilian soccer, which is currently marred with political maneuvering and corruption from both sides. 

After moving through lower courts, the case reached the Brazilian Supreme Court, despite the court’s corruption controversies at the time. A panel of four judges on the court ruled that Sport Recife was, in fact, the rightful Brazilian champions of 1987. 

The reaction from the public was indifferent, with Flamengo keeping their claim of victory up on their website, but with Sport Recife saying that “In court, once more, Sport beat those who ran away.”  

Regardless of the decision, the judges’ thoughts on the entire controversy were clear and best summarized in the words of Justice Luis Barroso: “There is no place worse than the judicial system to discuss sports.”