SAO PAULO - Brazilian players stood still with their arms crossed for several moments after the start of league matches Wednesday to protest against a congested soccer calendar in the country.
Players in all Brazilian league matches staged the protest. Some refused to kick off after the referee's whistle, while others put the ball in play before stopping and staying motionless to show their discontent with the Brazilian federation.
In at least one match the protest happened before the whistle because of threats that every player on the field would be shown a yellow card. To keep from being punished, players in the match between Sao Paulo and Flamengo started kicking the ball back and forth from one team to the other. They exchanged passes for almost a minute as the referee ran from one side to the other.
Players in the match between Botafogo and Portuguesa didn't take chances, but players in the match between Criciuma and Atletico Paranaense still waited for the initial whistle before crossing their arms and nobody was shown a card. In the match between Coritiba and Corinthians, players put the ball in play before crossing their arms, but no cards were shown.
The players contend the federation, known locally as CBF, hasn't properly responded to their demands for a more organized calendar with fewer games.
The protest is part of the "Common Sense Football Club" movement created by some of the country's top players earlier this year. The movement debuted a few weeks ago with players from both teams huddling at midfield before every match that day.
"We want the CBF to know that we want more answers and more action to improve our football," said Corinthians defender Paulo Andre, one of the movement's leaders, along with former Brazil and Fenerbahce midfielder Alex and veteran Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni.
On Wednesday, players entered the field carrying a banner reading "For a better football for everyone." Another read: "CBF friends, where's the common sense?"
"It's important we have better championships, better football in general," Vasco da Gama right back Fagner said.
The players have joined forces to try to improve a football calendar that has been notoriously long and unforgiving. Their demands include adequate vacation time, increased preseason periods and more player participation in major decisions. They also want punishment for teams that don't play salaries on time.
The Brazilian league is one of the few leagues in the world which doesn't stop every time the national team plays. This weekend, for example, league matches will be played even though Brazil will be playing Honduras in a friendly at Miami.
Players met with the Brazilian federation a few weeks ago and were initially told that officials would pay attention to their demands, but decided to keep protesting after little was done after the meeting.
Officials say changes won't likely happen until 2015, blaming the World Cup for a shorter season next year.
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