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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!

ArenaOct.
Torturous months, well years, are coming to an end. Yesterday, it was confirmed that 10.000 spectators will have the privilege to assist the first game to be played at the Allianz Parque – a veteran’s game in homage of “the Divine” Ademir da Guia. The match, taking place on Saturday 25 October, is the second test event out of three; the first event was a movie screening for a selected audience of 3.000 in late September.

Palmeiras and WTorre seem to be on speaking terms again, probably in a mutual understanding that the various pending issues regarding the contract – most importantly the right to commercialise seats – mustn’t hinder South America’s most modern multipurpose arena being put to good use as soon as possible. Last Monday, vice-president of the CBF, Mr Marco Polo del Nero, visited the Arena, for three hours, in the company of Walter Torre and Paulo Nobre. I can’t remember the last time I saw these two gentlemen together. A good sign.

Friendly games in all honour: when will Allianz Parque experience live ammo for the first time? Everything points toward 9 November, the date Palmeiras receive Atlético Mineiro for the 33th round of the Brasileirão. If – and that’s a big if – a third test event can be arranged before the 9 November, the Allianz Parque will be allowed to operate at full capacity when Palmeiras play Atlético: some 43.000 supporters. It’s speculated a training session – with 30.000 supporters on the stands – could be that third event. If no such event is carried out, only 30.000 supporters could be allowed in for the opener against Atlético. Not ideal, of course. Not bad either, but not ideal. Fingers crossed.

In any case, the stadium is 97% concluded and will be 100% ready when SIR PAUL McCARTNEY steps into the spotlights on 25 November, as now officially confirmed.
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Paul.
Of course Sir Paul has chosen the Allianz Parque as his venue. The permanent technologic installations alone are worth some US$ 20 million. That includes 500 wi-fi antennas providing free internet access to spectators and the two jumbotrons, where interaction with the audience will take place much like in the NFL. In addition, expect regular TV screens in every corridor and corner – some 700 in total – allowing fans to watch the game when standing in line or executing some other fundamentally important biological function.

ArenaOctNightAllianz Parque is not only modern, but stunningly beautiful. Aerial shots at night, like the one to your right (by Dan Albuquerque), gives you an idea. Recently, the stadium won two categories in the prestigious “Corporate Architecture Awards”, one of the most important of its kind in Latin America. No wonder WTorre has already closed deals on 75 out of the 80 available VIP cabins, their annual renting fee coming at US$80K-210K a piece.

Did we mention the acoustic experience, expected to turn the Allianz Parque into a cauldron of Bombonera magnitude?

You might be asking yourself, who will run this flagship? None other than Susan Darrington, former vice-president of the CenturyLink Field, the largest stadium in Seattle, USA.

susan_darringtonCenturyLink Field is the home of current NFL champions Seattle Seahawks. It’s also where the Sounders receive an average 44.000 spectators a game in the Major League Soccer. The arena hosts a whopping 300 events per year – large and small – and 1.5 million visitors. For ten years, Canadian-born Mrs Darrington was one of the responsible for managing the CenturyLink Field. And it’s this experience she is now deploying as General Manager at the Allianz Parque. Yes, deploying, as in present time: Mrs Darrington is working for AEG – the company contracted by WTorre to run the Arena for the coming ten years – and has been in São Paulo since the beginning of 2014. Together with Director of Operations Raj Saha (with the Madison Square Garden on his CV) and the two Brazilian executives Felipe Soalheiro and Pedro Machado, she has the mission to transform the Allianz Parque into the main multipurpose arena in the country. The aim: attract same number of events as the CenturyLink Field.

Palmeirenses should keep in mind that the club is entitled to 20% of net revenues from “non-football” events during the first five years of the contract with WTorre (all revenues from games are Palmeiras’). The club’s share of these external revenues increases by 5% every five years, meaning Palmeiras will be entitled to 50% of net revenues during the last five years of the contract. When the contract expires, in 30 years’ time, all revenues will go to Palmeiras.

Just like a good wine, for Palmeiras, the Allianz Parque will get better and better year by year. Talk about a bright future!

prass2014.
Home form has always been spoken of as a crucial element in the fight against relegation. It appears the rule applies even for giants like Palmeiras, threatened with the prospect of relegation for the last couple of months. The uneasy dip into the relegation zone a few weeks ago brought back ghosts from the past, but a run of four wins in the last five matches has propelled the Verdão closer to mid-table places. True, Brazilian betting odds from Betfair still places Palmeiras as one of the relegation candidates, but nevertheless, palmeirenses as of late sleep better at night.

Where does the transformation come from? We’ve earlier touched upon the importance of two key players performing: Fernando Prass and Valdivia. With these two in the starting eleven, Palmeiras as a whole change, the team clicks.

That being said, keeper Prass himself has laid a finger on the support from home fans as the reason for the recent turnaround: out of the four victories that the club has achieved in the last five matches, three have come at home. Indeed, anyone who saw 30.000 palmeirenses carrying Palmeiras toward victory against Grêmio last Saturday knows what Prass is talking about.

Brazilian football has been criticised in recent times for being fickle, but Prass has praised Palmeiras’ supporters for sticking with them even during tough times. There was a period when the club went ten matches without a victory, but even then, Palmeiras were capable of pulling in a regular crowd through the gates, even at more often than not abusive tickets prices.

Palmeiras may have put a four point buffer between them and the relegation zone, but the fight is not over just yet: bringing out the best for the upcoming tough games against Santos and top dog (or rather, fox) Cruzeiro is crucial. Focus and dedication is key, in addition to the continuation of striker Henrique’s good form. With ten rounds to go, an additional four victories should see Palmeiras clear of relegation. A little bit more, and we could even picture grabbing a spot in next year’s South America Cup. Who knows we might even celebrate a golden boot for Henrique at the end of it all?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Palmeiras-Maracana-Botafogo-Wagner-MeierLANCEPress_LANIMA20141009_0049_29

In a parallel universe, Palmeiras only managed a draw against Botafogo before losing 1-0 to Grêmio, finishing round 28 in the penultimate position.

However, in this universe, Henrique stretched out to reach that genius cross from Valdivia, turned on the spot and slammed it into the net, declaring victory against the unhappy cariocas.
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Barcos fulfilled the eternal fate of former Palmeiras players scoring against the Verdão, while trying to ignore that his premature exit was also written in the stars: he opened up the scorecard for the southerners, but after his sending off, Palmeiras could step up the pressure applied all first half to successful conclusion in the second, luckily turning the tables on Grêmio and pocketing another three points after braces from Mouche and right-back João Pedro.
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Clashing against Grêmio, against Scolari, against Barcos, was special. Not only the result per se, not only the 30.000 cheering supporters on a Saturday night, not only the satisfaction of overcoming ghosts from the past. But primarily because Palmeiras were back. Palmeiras, the team. Palmeiras, ready to take on all competition in this Brasileirão as equals. Last Saturday, Palmeiras were as large as anybody. We haven’t seen that in a long time.

I’m not saying we’ve escaped relegation, neither that the squad is the seventh wonder, but I do say we saw glimpses of something new and promising. An internal force and confidence. Much owed, of course, to the splendid performances of Valdivia and Prass. It’s incredible how much these two add to the mix when on the pitch. Makes all the difference. Explains why Palmeiras currently rest in 12th position, not in the bottom four – albeit only four points currently separate the Verdão from the relegation zone.

The squad have now rested for two day and tomorrow starts preparing for Sunday’s game against Santos. Our opponent lost 3-0 to Criciúma on Sunday, and this coming Thursday face Botafogo in the quarter-finals of the Brazil Cup. I’m sticking my neck out, saying Palmeiras are the favourite. What about you?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

Dr-Jekyll-y-Mr-Hyde.
What Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre is thinking or not thinking, doing or not doing is hard to tell. We see flares of activity, but they seem disconnected. Midfielder Josimar has left for second division Ponte Preta. Weldinho, Eguren and a few other players were on Nobre’s list of disposables a couple of weeks back, but Dorival apparently halted the process, giving our coach’s morale with the squad a boost. Still, alterations to the inflated squad are necessary. Deadline for reinforcement was last Friday, the only option finding players in the second division, as any first division players of quality would have reached the limit of seven games played in this edition of the Brasileirão. As mentioned in the previous post, two players were signed before Friday’s deadline and both were presented today: 25-year-old defensive midfielder Washington and 33-year-old keeper Jaílson. Not that Palmeiras couldn’t put Washington to good use: after all, Eguren, Renato, Josimar… And between the posts, Fábio and Deola have taking turns infuriating palmeirenses; if Jaílson is able to do the basics, it’s already a huge improvement. Too bad Palmeiras already lost many a precious points due to not having catered for this urgent keeper need sooner. It’s ironic that Jaílson is presented on the same day that Dorival announces the return of Fernando Prass between the posts tomorrow against Botafogo. We can only pray his elbow is 100%.

Palmeiras currently have the biggest squad among the clubs in the first division: 42 players. Many names, few talents. That’s planning for you.

With almost a starting eleven in the medical department, Palmeiras recently contracted the services of Cuban doctor José Amador. Dr Amador was responsible for Valdivia’s special preparation pre World Cup and has been working with him for almost a year. Would you believe the Chilean is actually paying part of the expenses of bringing and maintain the doctor at Palmeiras? That’s professional for you.

In addition, Palmeiras are also contracting the services of a motivational speaker. Second division club Portuguesa, threatened by relegation to the third division, has gone after a man who conducts hypnosis sessions. If Palmeiras opt in, I’ll let you know.

Excuse my sarcastic tone. It’s just that…

Some say Paulo Nobre has saved Palmeiras from financial ruin. Others claim he’s the worst president in the club’s centenary history. Who is right?

Both.

Nobre’s two-year mandate ends in December. We all know he inherited the club in financially dire straits, with some 75% of revenues already committed, facing big loans at high interest rates (close to three per cent a month) and fast maturing. He made the restructuring of administration and finances his top priority – and justly so. It’s also here results are clear and positive: total debts may have increased slightly, but they have also been completely rearranged (in all honesty, at large due to loans Nobre himself has negotiated in his name and passed on to Palmeiras), with a generous payback time and, for Brazilian standards, very low interest rate. The restructuring of debts were instrumental in Palmeiras, finally, receiving the CND certificate – a grading that allows the club to receive money from the government be it through sponsorship, tax breaks or other incentives. It was a lack of this certificate that halted the conclusion of a master sponsorship deal between Palmeiras and the public bank “Caixa Econômica Federal” earlier this year). In addition, a modernization process has taken place within the administration, including substantial upgrades in terms of equipment and software, allowing for the progressive detection of unnecessary costs and the outsourcing of certain services: all these measures and others allowing for both greater efficiency, transparency and cost/benefit. We can include the extinction of the “Palmeiras B” squad in this context. Certainly, Palmeiras’ next president, whoever that might be, will have better working conditions than any of his predecessors from the last couple of decades – at least when we talk administration and financial health.

In relation to marketing, results have been way under expectations. True, several traditional clubs have been without a master sponsor for some time now, but S.E. Palmeiras, in its centenary, shouldn’t have been one of them. And talking about the centenary: the number of jerseys launched – and their price tags – has become a joke amongst palmeirenses. Overall, prices has been one of the most controversial topics in these last two years, spanning from tickets to jerseys to the centenary banquet. It is known that the average palmeirense is better off financially than the average Brazilian and that he/she spends more than others on Palmeiras products and activities. That being said, there are, obviously, limits to everything. Recent price levels has felt like a slap in the face. In spite of this, the supporter programme has gone from 7K to 40K members in the last year, although it now seem to have stagnated – the team’s poor performance likely to be the main villain. Expect a new boost in adherence when Allianz Parque is up and running.

What else in marketing? Well, TV Palmeiras is a great success, as we’ve written about earlier.

Now, all of the above is overshadowed by the fact that Paulo Nobre, as a football manager, has been nothing short of a disaster. He was supposed to hand the football management over to a professional, but got a taste for it and just kept going. By the end of 2013, the squad’s core was there, all that was needed were a few adjustments, a few new players. But Nobre managed to keep those he shouldn’t (coach Kleina, Valdivia, Wesley) while letting the likes of Henrique and Alan Kardec lose. The team was unrecognisable, without reference. Players like Bruno César, Wesley and Leandro clearly lost interest. In a short span of time, what was a squad turned into something else, and results on the pitch matched the internal havoc.

Nobre brought in Ricardo Gareca. A gutsy move. But a gamble. When you gamble, you need luck. Or enough time and money to keep going until you start winning again. Palmeiras had neither time nor money: after three months, Gareca was fired and Palmeiras left with the four Argentine players the Argentine coach had asked for.

When Prass broke his elbow, who believed Deola was cut for the job? Deola, dismissed from Vitória because he wasn’t considered good enough? Or Fábio? Who believed young Fábio was ready to take on such a burden? Well, at least Nobre, because solutions were sought only when Palmeiras topped the “most goals suffered” stats. Now we have Jaílson. Too little too late, I’m afraid.

Yes, it’s easy to criticize in hindsight. Doesn’t take away the fact that Nobre might be the worse football manager Palmeiras has ever seen, getting it wrong even when he’s initially right – bringing in Kardec from Benfica was a very successful move, but losing him to São Paulo was many times more disgraceful.

Paulo Nobre’s mandate is soon over. Election are coming up. Three candidates have announced their intentions: Wladimir Pescarmona, Luiz Carlos Granieri and Paulo Nobre. I have no idea who Granieri is and where his vice-presidents stand. What Nobre is capable (and incapable) of, I do know. And Pescarmona… with César Maluco and former president Belluzzo as vice presidents? The men who frequently are seen in the media publicly defending the interests of WTorre against Palmeiras? You tell me who deserves our vote…

On 13 October, Palmeiras’ Deliberate Council takes a vote: candidates need at least 15% of approval to qualify for the actual voting – cast by the current 10.000 members of S.E. Palmeiras – scheduled for 29 November. It’s not going to be pretty.

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