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visao_bancada_allianz_parque.
When there is little to win but much to lose, think twice. Think thrice. Then discard the line of action you were contemplating.

With the team fighting against relegation – and only two home games remaining this season – going through with the inauguration of the Allianz Parque was a highly questionable decision. Sure, the opening was a celebration supporters had been looking forward to for the last four years and a bit. The over the top ticket prices, combined with a sold-out venue, brought in close to US$ 2.5 million to the club. And a victory against Sport would have effectively lifted Palmeiras out of harm’s way with three remaining rounds of the Brasileirão.

Well yes, Palmeiras could have won. Could have. Felipe Menezes’ header in the middle of the first half was a turning point, a lost opportunity that, in my opinion, ended up sealing Palmeiras’ fate. Sport played tight, retracted, knowing that Palmeiras would create few opportunities – as always when Valdivia is absent – and become more and more anxious as time progressed. Menezes blew his opportunity. Former Palmeiras striker Ananias did not. In the end, 0-2 was a fair result.

Palmeiras are a weak team. Weaker still under pressure. The task of a mandatory victory – in order to escape relegation and not ruin the celebration of a 39.000 strong crowd – proved overwhelming. Unsurprisingly.

On one side of the balance, revenues and initial euphoria. On the other, despair, tears and rage. The night was unforgettable. But not in the way it should have been.

It’s not about foreseeing the future, but about weighting cost vs. benefit, risk vs. payout. The prospect of opening the Arena under current circumstances was surrounded by uncertainties and split decisions anyway you look at it. I defended postponing the whole thing to 2015. Too late now.

With elections at Palmeiras only nine days away, certainly the decision to go through with the inauguration was influenced by the current administration’s desire to be associated with a grand celebration. The totality of damage done by the backfired plan goes well beyond lost pride, goes beyond the risk of relegation. It threatens the core of some important structural change that Palmeiras are undergoing and that, in my opinion, are crucial in order to elevate Palmeiras from the modus operandi seen at Corinthians, Flamengo, Botafogo and a majority of Brazilian clubs. Mr. Hyde’s disastrous management of football has come to overshadow Dr. Jekyll’s good work in terms of implementing sound financial management at Palmeiras: a positive balance sheet by the end of the month has become a subject of mockery and a symbol of “those who care nothing about football”.

Today, we are all hanging our heads in shame. Nevertheless, I believe Palmeiras will find strength somehow and remain in the first division, if not by merit, by incapability of other teams to capitalize on our fragility.

Also, within 2-3 years, I truly believe we’ll be experiencing change. Palmeiras have the most important ingredients: a solid history, a strong identity, a passionate and large supporter base, a stadium to call our own, and a growing range of national and, in particular, international partners. Maintaining and improving sound administrational and financial practices, combined with increasing revenues, should allow for the hiring of great professionals and the steady forming of a new squad, a new team. Palmeiras’ president for the coming two years – whoever that might be – will have all the tools available and no excuses.

Turning our attention back to the immediate needs: on Sunday Palmeiras face direct contender for relegation Coritiba, at the Couto Pereira stadium – needless to say, a crucial game. I will be at the stadium. The Mané Garrincha, in Brasilia, trying to enjoy Paul McCartney. Talk about timing.

bom_filho.
Jack Bauer’s sitting this one out. After all, it’s a domestic affair. In exactly 24 hours, Palmeiras are returning home. The opening game, against Sport, will be a feast for the eyes. For the soul. Not an empty seat in the Allianz Parque. The squad will be wearing a special jersey, with the well-known Brazilian phrase “o bom filho a casa torna” (the good son returns home) circling the badge. A light cannon, projecting the Italian tricolore in homage of the club’s origins, will be announcing – tomorrow and every time from now on – when Palmeiras are on the pitch.
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canhao_luzes.
Tickets were made available firstly based on Avanti rating, secondly based on the level of Avanti, and then released to club members. Most were sold online, but some also physically. Some people waited as long as 7-8 hours in line in order to guarantee their seat at the event of the year.

But it’s not all roses. Far from it. After Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to São Paulo, Palmeiras need the three points desperately. The inauguration of the Allianz Parque will be forever remembered either as the game that propelled Palmeiras out of harms’ way, or as one of the most humiliating moments in the club’s history. No telling how our youngish squad will handle the pressure, especially without the reference of experienced Valdivia on the pitch: the Chilean is on tonight for his national team in a friendly against Uruguay. It was speculated that he would take a flight straight to São Paulo after the game, being available against Sport in case Dorival needed to pull an ace out of the sleeve in the second half. No such luck: the list just came out and our playmaker is not on it.

No, this did not turn out the way it was planned. Or rather: this is what you get when planning is lacking.

39.000 at the Allianz Parque must be one tomorrow. 15 million supporters idem. Harsh words, but tomorrow is not about celebration, not about gaping in awe at South Americas’ most modern multipurpose stadium. It’s about carrying eleven men towards victory at absolutely any cost.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

One of the worst features of Brazilian society – and consequently reflected in Brazilian football – is the lack of predictability. Rules changes constantly. And when they don’t, the share number of them and their fuzziness lead to uncertainty. In addition, there’s a chronic disregard for rules, in part due to a lack of harmonization of existing ones. Any businessman will tell you about state and federal rules that are incompatible: follow one and, automatically, break the other.

Every so often, rules of the Brazilian championship, the Brazil cup or, especially, any of the state championships change. A little more than a decade ago, this was an effective measure to ensure that the “right” clubs were kept in the competition: if any of the major clubs are relegated, change the name of the competition and tweak a rule or two, then invite them right back in.

The lack of predictability at club level is symptomatic, Palmeiras being no exception. Lately, most of the turbulence has been generated around the Allianz Parque, now 97% completed. It’s of course normal with constructions suffering delays, but it will be almost five years before we see the Allianz Parque completed. Now, once an opening date is picked, you’d better be damn sure nothing will get in your way. The massive expectations surrounding the game against Atlético Mineiro last Saturday – turned to dust by the lack of a complete set of operating licenses – was another indicator of how desperately Palmeiras need directors who can trace an objective and execute, step by step, in an orderly fashion. Blame the constructor WTorre if you want, it doesn’t matter: ultimately, it’s the Palmeiras supporter who takes the wrap. Being so, the responsibility is Palmeiras’.
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Pretty, yes. But unfinished. And wrongly timed.

Pretty, yes. But unfinished. And wrongly timed.

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Same logic applies to the recent removal of rows of seats and the hastily erected dividing structures – both measures imposed by the police to increase partition between home and away supporters – taking away an astonishing 4.000 seats, almost ten per cent of the total capacity of the stadium, in addition to creating blind spots. How come this was not foreseen? WTorre is clearly not delivering, but Palmeiras have not done their homework either. Where’s all the talk about “FIFA standards” now?

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dividers_allianz
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New problems pop up on a daily basis. Palmeiras supporters have been questioning for months why no institutional symbols are to be found on the outside walls of the stadium, as featured on all drawings and models presented by WTorre throughout the years. Only today, an explanation was offered: the size of the Palmeiras badge – or any other badge for that matter – violates municipal laws, falling under the city of São Paulo “visual pollution” act. Couldn’t this have been solved through the obtaining of an exception? Shouldn’t have to take four years and a bit, should it?

With so many problems arising, attention is effectively diverted from the celebration that the inauguration of the Allianz Parque deserves. The problem is further aggravated by a sudden change in the rating of the Avanti supporter programme, a rating that is crucial in determining who will have ticket priority ahead of big games; the Allianz Parque opening game against Sport on 19 October obviously being one of these. It’s almost criminal.

I say drop the whole thing, use the stadium for shows and whatever, but have Palmeiras use it only as of 2015.

Last Saturday, Palmeiras lost 2-0 at home to the Atlético Mineiro bench. With five rounds to go, Palmeiras are no more than five point above the relegation zone. That’s where our focus should be. Starting with Sunday’s derby against The Eternal Enemy SPFC.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Enzo na Allianz.
- Palmeiras are finished.

- No-one respects us.

- Thinking small, acting small, our DNA is raped.

- The damage done is irreversible.

The last two years the few lines above at large reflect the sentiment of a considerable part of Palmeiras supporters. Especially, but not exclusively, those who claim not giving a rat’s ass about administration and finances, only wanting a strong team on the pitch and trophies in the cabinet.  

Palmeirenses go through hell more often than we care to count, the common denominator being one dreadful administration after the other. The last few years have seen Belluzzo’s reckless optimism, Tirone’s muppet show and Nobre’s pig-headed Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality.

Nothing lasts forever. Empires crumble, civilizations disappear, species are extinct. Institutions, idem. We can never treat Palmeiras as eternal if we truly want her to survive the test of time. Nothing comes for free or can be taken for granted. We need directors who understand the responsibility and are ready to respond, personally, for whatever happens to the institution.

While we must always remember ourselves that even a centenary club like Palmeiras can implode (vide recent developments at traditional club Portuguesa), we must never dismiss our greatness, our history and our continuous ability to enchant. Take another look at the picture opening this post. Take a good look at five-year-old Enzo de Martino. Now tell me that Palmeiras are finished and the damage is irreversible.

The other day, Palmeiras’ supporter programme Avanti reached 50.000 members. With the eminent opening of the Allianz Parque, a further surge is expected.

With last Sunday’s important 1-0 away victory against Bahia, the feeling of relief is evident, the threat of relegation almost vanished. Palmeiras should be able to give Atlético some heat this coming Saturday, not least due to the mineiros’ tough game tomorrow against Flamengo in the Brazil Cup (while Palmeiras spend the week resting and training).

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Expectations were high Palmeiras would officially open up the Allianz Parque on Saturday 8 October against Atlético Mineiro, but the police earlier this week claimed they are unable to give the stadium its operating license in due time. Palmeiras have two other home games this season: 20 November against Sport and 7 December, the very last round of the championship, against Atlético Paranaense,. The former date is the most likely, although Paul McCartney will be Out There on the 25th.

Anyway, yesterday, the Palmeiras squad conducted a first training session at the Allianz Parque. Check out the short clip below.
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It’s been almost four and a half years of waiting. It’s worth repeating: four and a half years. For most of that period, devoted palmeirense Bruno Caracciolo has snapped pictures of the construction site, week by week, collecting and posting some 8.200 pictures in total. I asked Bruno to select a few of his favourites and here they are, for your enjoyment: 12 in total, in chronological order. Bruno, thank you for your spectacular effort!
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11 - 15.03.2014.
12 - 17.05.2014.
13 - 30.08.2014.
UPDATE: I guess we can’t expect Bruno to take aerial shots of the Allianz Parque, so here goes one uploaded today at the official website of the stadium.
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allianzOct

Taboos are taboos for a reason. They prevail against odds and reason. They evoke something special, defy logic, take shapes beyond their importance. That’s where their magic lies. And that’s why breaking taboos is so satisfying.

Three years without victory against Corinthians. 19 years without beating Corinthians at the Pacaembu stadium. That’s one hell of a taboo. Within minutes to be broken yesterday. But he magic – black magic in this case – allowed the taboo to prevail as our opponent, just like Cruzeiro earlier this week, found the equaliser on stoppage time.

The only difference between conceding a goal at 9 or 90 minutes is the “we were so close” bucket of cold water. It hurts more. But that’s just feelings. Looking at our last two games, the draws were not unfair results (if there is anything to be called fairness in football). That says it all. Unfortunately, this particular taboo will last for eternity because – as mentioned in the previous post – Palmeiras and Corinthians will not play another derby at the Pacaembu. Deep breath, refocus, turn the page.
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With seven rounds to go, Palmeiras sum 36 points at 14th place, three points above the relegation zone. With more victories than the current last four (Criciúma, Bahia, Coritiba, Botafogo), Palmeiras’ advantage increases to two rounds. Next opponent are Bahia, away. Needless to say, a victory is fundamentally important. With the game happening only on Sunday night, Palmeiras have enough time to prepare.

After Bahia, the sequence is Atlético Mineiro, São Paulo, Sport, Coritiba, Internacional and Atlético Paranaense. Mixed bag.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Out of the last nine points, Palmeiras have pocketed four. Time for panic? On the contrary. Palmeiras are rapidly evolving, game by game showing maturity, meshing and tactical disposition. The squad seems in harmony and coach Dorival in control. It’s actually only Wesley who’s in a league of his own, but unfortunately it’s not a good league.

We’ve already dealt with the 2-1 against Grêmio. The following game, against Santos, Palmeiras played brilliantly until the end of the first half, when two mistakes led to rapid counter-attacks and 0-2 on the scorecard. Santos were allowed an offside goal early in the second half, with Palmeiras finding the net with Henrique, always Henrique, close to the final whistle. A painful 1-3 defeat, but Palmeiras actually played well for most of the game, and especially in the first half.

crupal2014Last Wednesday, away against leader of the pack Cruzeiro, anything but defeat would be reason for celebration. Cruzeiro did have the upper hand during most of the game, forcing Prass to show all his tricks between the posts, before Mouche opened up the scorecard at 43 minutes of the second half and went bananas: a miracle was materialising before our very eyes! A miracle to be shattered when Dagoberto equalised on stoppage time. Oh well, drawing against Cruzeiro, at the Mineirão, is a terrific result under current circumstances. And again: Palmeiras went in there heart and soul. If the team keeps it up for the remainder of the championship, forget relegation.

Tomorrow, the biggest derby in the city of São Paulo: Palmeiras vs. Corinthians. It will most likely be the last time the clash takes place at the Pacaembu stadium: Corinthians already have the butt-ugly HP printer-designed “Itaqueirão” to call home, and Palmeiras will start using the Allianz Parque as of next month. Palmeiras haven’t beaten Corinthians in the last three years, and haven’t beaten them at the Pacaembu for an astonishing 19 years. What better day to break these taboos than tomorrow?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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