Brazil's New Player

An unlikely sports mogul is making soccer profitable again in Pelé's homeland

Mauricio Lima / AFP / Getty

Gustavo Morinigo (L), of Colombia's Deportivo Cali, fights for the ball with Argentina's Javier Mascherano (R), of Brazil's Corinthians.

Imagine that major league baseball had been so poorly managed that its team owners had to sell their best players to the Mexican or Japanese leagues just to stay solvent. Welcome to Brazil. In the home of the world champions--a good bet to defend their title in Germany--where the beautiful game is part of the nation's soul, the professional league is a money-losing shambles, with poorly paid players performing in mostly empty arenas. Except for one team. In São Paulo, at Pacaembu Stadium, 35,000 fans are on their feet, pounding samba drums. Legions of shirtless young men are cheering, "Corinthians, my...

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