Ben's Diary: Stay Away From Steamrollers... Especially In Brazil

Photo: Ceasar Augusto Fabbri 
We don't normally publish blogs such as this one, HOWEVER, knowing Ben Jones for years now, we couldn't help but ask him to share his story on how things went down (the hill) with the Brazilian Steamrollers, as it turned out he wasn't the only one in a bad situation over there.

Ever since I was a child I had always wanted to travel to the great country of Brazil. After all, there are so many things that make that country an exotic, beautiful and a wonderful place. The Amazon Rainforest, the famous city of Rio de Janeiro, the vast swampland's of Monte Grosso De Sul and a winding list of other places that would easily be on anyone's bucket-list that has ever heard of the wonderful stories of this grand country. 

To give you an idea of my experiences in Brazil, it is important to give you a little glimpse of my history as an import player and coach. I have spent the last 5 years traveling from country to country soaking up the rich cultures and experiences all over the planet while promoting American football and making wonderful friends all over the place. 

I have been blessed to be able to help promote football in many extremely different cultures and environments from the cold crisp air of Finland, the history-rich villages of Poland, cool crystal clear Adriatic waters of Croatia to all the way down to a hot humid castle covered mountains overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Spain. 

The last 5 years have been amazing and to be quite honest I now have friends all over the planet that I will have until the day I die. I have always taken my job as an import player seriously and even though life as an import for sure has its cons, I always try my best to leave a long lasting impact on all the people I am able to invest in with my time and effort. 

In absolutely everything in life there will be adversity and at this point of life I have come to understand that - and even welcome it - because I now know that the very same adversity that challenges us as people is the very same adversity that makes us grow and shine above others that have failed to be tested. 

With that being said, I have a certain responsibility to all the American imports and coaches to hold teams and leadership accountable for the way that they treat imports and how they represent themselves in light of football and its growth. Unfortunately that is the exact reason why I feel I have to write this article...

This season I was playing football in Sao Paulo, Brazil for a well-known team called the Corinthians Steamrollers. Unfortunately something a little less known about the Steamrollers is the way they treat those whom are brought in to help them. The fans and the organization of the Corinthians were great. I always loved the fans and Corinthianos unwavering support of their players. The Corinthians Sports Club was also were very supportive and helpful whenever I needed them and always made me feel welcome and at home, but the leadership and coaching staff of the American Football Club were far from supportive and helpful. 

Prior to my arrival I had been informed from a laundry list of people that this American football club was corrupt and had constantly manipulated and took advantage of its import help, but because I had spent time skyping and communicating with one of the coaches on the team, I was under the impression that in all the prior situations it was all the Americans fault and that somehow the Steamrollers constantly brought in Americans with bad attitudes and cancer-like attributes. 

I have to say I love many of the players on the Corinthians Football Team and would vouch for many of them to play on teams all across the planet. Some standouts include a talented young Brazilian QB, a long list of skilled receivers and tight-ends and a hard-hitting long safety that hurt his neck mid-season, but was possibly the best non-import safety I have ever seen on a foreign American Football Club. To say the least, the club had a long list of talented national players and many were hard working and coachable. If you know anything about coaching that is a mixture that you do not get to see too often.

Like I said above, I was not the first American to experience such horrible experiences. There were a list of Americans before me to leave in very terrible circumstances (some even worse than mine). One example is an American that stayed for only less than a month before his contract was terminated and then repeatedly bashed publicly by the organization to me and many others. There are other stories of an American that experienced a terrible divorce-like ending to a strong career as a leader of the Corinthians, but whose absence showed up immediately when the offense was left with a dramatically noticeable hole that was nowhere close to filled by the defensive minded unqualified replacements. It was quite shocking to see such a noticeable void. 

Before going into problems I have had with team, I would like to express that I understand problems happen every year and that is never an issue. I have always been more than understanding of any clubs struggles and overlook many things as long as the management of the club is respectful, professional and makes an attempt to communicate with me or fix the situations that have arose. The management of the Steamrollers did quite the opposite. 

Problem 1- HEALTH INSURANCE 
About six months into my contract I walked into a hospital in order to get a X-ray on my neck (I had been having terrible pain because of nerve damage I had suffered from some practices and games) and the employee of the hospital looked at me with an awkward face and told me that I no longer had health insurance coverage with them and that I needed to go talk to my team. You could imagine how shocked and frustrated I was to sit in the hospital waiting room for hours just to learn that I in fact had no health insurance and I was out of luck when it came to injuries I had suffered while helping this football club. Soon I was to find out that I and the other players had not had health insurance for quite some time and that the team management was hiding it from us and just hoping nothing serious happened. The worst part is that the club claimed that if something would happen, they would reimburse the players (with a laughable amount of money given to them by a sponsor) and expected that to be sufficient. They even casted insults at me and the other import for not trusting that that was enough and for expecting actual insurance instead of just promises. I never ended up getting any help on my neck, I currently still have pain and got completely cheated in this aspect.

Problem 2 - SALARY 
Not one single month did I receive the agreed salary amount and even today have never seen any of the money that the team shaved off the top of the agreed upon salary. Import players and coaches get paid such little amount of money to do so much to help teams and I find it appalling that the management of the Steamrollers never delivered on their end of the deal and at the same time they used the tiny salary as leverage to cause division on the team and to attempt to manipulate the imports they brought in. 

Problem 3 - FLIGHTS 
This problem is single-handedly one that would have kept me from signing a contract with the club in the first place. I could never have imagined a scenario where a football club would have the audacity to bring in a player, let him help them for half a year and then leave him stranded in a foreign country with absolutely nothing and refuse to do anything but make threats on the player and his family. Yep, the Steamrollers have made a habit of not paying for return flights for some of the players they bring in. This is something unacceptable no matter what the scenario. 

Problem 4 – VISA
When first speaking with the Corinthian Steamrollers, I was assured that before signing a contract with them they would be reimbursing me for my visa expenses. As you can imagine, I assumed that they meant they were going to do it legally. Well, sorry, but that is not the case here. They brought me and all the other imports in with tourist visas and pressured us into accepting that they did not have to do it legally (by getting us working sports visas) and that we should just accept that in Brazil you do not have to follow the working laws. I understand that this is common practice when it comes to imports, but the reason I mention it is because before I left, the Steamrollers management made threats about calling the US consulate and implied they were going to call the Federal Police on me because of the working requirements. This is totally unacceptable and no import player or coach should ever have to be manipulated in this manner. 

Problem 5 – HOUSING AND TRANSPORTATION
The only thing the Steamrollers did correctly was to house me with a wonderful lady, that was the landlord of the place I stayed at. If it was not for her, the Steamrollers would have failed in absolutely every category possible. It was just unfortunate that the place that I lived at was easily an hour or two walk away from practices and training. Even with taking public transportation (that I paid for out of my pocket) it was still over an hour travel time and like you can imagine - despite promises - I never was reimbursed for the hundreds I spent on this. I will not even go into the details of the tiny apartments living conditions out of respect for the landlord that I care for dearly, but do note that 99% of imports would not have been so kind in the situation I found myself in.

Problem 6 – TRAINING AND GAME ENVIRONMENT 
One very apparent problem that I constantly had to deal with was the terrible attitudes and lack of discipline within the team that, in my opinion, was not only accepted, but also promoted by the leadership and the coaching staff. Players would commonly throw helmets to the ground, cuss out coaches, physically assault each other, back-stab and talk behind each other’s backs. Unfortunately it was just the culture of football within the Corinthians Steamrollers. When one of these problems would happen, the leadership of the team neglected to take action to prevent it from happening again and in some cases they were even directly involved with the problems. I can remember times where players screamed at the coach calling him out on his lack of offensive understanding and coaching and then the coach walked out on the team mid game…

Like I said before, I could go on and on and on with problems that I ran into while playing with the Steamrollers Football Club, but I do not have enough time and or patience to go into the details that would blow your mind. Instead, I would like to leave you with this.

I will forever love the Corinthians, most of the players and the of course the great fans…But I will forever be ashamed of the lies, deceit and manipulation of the American Football Club bearing their name.

Benjamin Jones

If you have a story to share that should be brought to the public, don't hesitate to reach out - touchdowneurope@gmail.com
TAG