Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

There’s a lot to be said. Palmeiras’ obligation last Sunday was to dominate Ituano just like Bragantino were dominated three days before, reinforcing the tremendous gap between the two teams in terms of tradition, supporter base, national and international projection and, not least, payroll. True that Ituano sported and still sport the best defence so far in the tournament, with only 10 goals suffered in, now, 17 games, but that’s a mere detail: Palmeiras, playing at second home Pacaembu and before a 31.000 head strong crowd had nothing but an obligation to fulfil: beat Ituano to face Santos in the Paulistão finals.

It’s in the nature of obligations to occasionally turn into nightmares. And looking closely, Palmeiras’ undeniable superiority started to deteriorate already against Bragantino, with the referee, as so often, turning a blind eye to the over-physical gameplay commonly adopted by less technical teams. Especially Valdivia was targeted, his right ankle so swollen after the game against Bragantino, Palmeiras’ medic vetoed him from the starting eleven against Ituano. And Ituano followed the script laid out days before: Alan Kardec received a challenge from behind and went down, the Ituano aggressor not even seeing the yellow. Two offensive key players out against the best defence of the championship. Not good.

In addition, Kleina’s choices for the starting eleven and bench were questionable. Tiago Alves was dislocated from his position as centre-back to the right, leaving everyone wondering why Bruninho wasn’t even on the bench. With Kardec’s exit, Vinícius came on, proving once again he adds nothing to the squad. Wesley looked like he was enjoying a walk in the park, while Leandro repeated his lousy performance of previous games.

Palmeiras were nevertheless clearly superior, were in possession of the ball for most of the time and created several opportunities. As time went by, with the ref allowing for the over-physical style to prevail, our players started to show both frustration and nervousness, looking for quick solutions and missing simple passes. Ituano on the other hand maintained their posture, firmly executing the gameplan set out in the first minute: dragging out the status quo all the way to a penalty shootout. Fate wanted differently and reworded Ituano with the one goal close to the final whistle, formally dictating Kleina’s 100th game for Palmeiras a tragedy.

Previous years, the defeat would throw Palmeiras heads first into a bottomless pit. As Gian Oddi at ESPN insightfully wrote a few days back: for those inside the club who feed on the frustration and passion of many, the worse Palmeiras perform, the better for their sordid political ambitions. If crashing out of the Paulistão jeopardises the continuation of the silent and ungrateful revolution currently taking place at Palmeiras, Oddi argues that throwing away the chances to the Paulistão title would be the last of the club’s problems. He’s absolutely right.

All this while remembering that Corinthians didn’t even make it to the knockout phase and that São Paulo FC were kicked out already in the quarter-finals by mighty [sic] Penapolense (who were beating Santos in the other semi-finals with 30 minutes to the final whistle). There’s room for many in the rocky boat.

Page turned. Palmeiras now have an eminent task ahead: eliminate Vilhena from the Brazil Cup this coming Wednesday. A draw is enough, as Palmeiras won the away game 0-1.

After that, all efforts should be put into releasing Alan Kardec from his contract with Benfica. And either sign a new contract with Wesley or sell him. The debts from his purchase during the previous administration is reportedly what’s holding back the signing of a Master sponsor (which would be the governmental bank “Caixa Econômica Federal“, or just “Caixa” for short).

In parallel, time for some soul-searching. Maintaining Kleina is crucial; we needn’t be shown once more that hotshot coaches fail as everybody else have failed at Palmeiras recently. Kleina and the directors need to re-evaluate the squad, dismiss a few players and find options on the market for key positions, especially a top forward and a right-back. It’s all about hard work, entering the Brazilian Championship in mid April in the right mindset.

We’ll be fine. Accidents happen. Although they have been happening more frequently than we would wish at Palmeiras.

Short on the game against Vilhena: Palmeiras have no less than eight players in the medical department: Wendel, França, Fernando Prass, Valdivia, Alan Kardec, Bruno César and Juninho. Possibly also Wesley. Thus, Palmeiras tomorrow will look very different. Not that Vilhena should stand a fighting chance. But hey, what was that again on the topic of “obligations”?

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Conrado Cacace of the Verdazzo, currently one of the most influential voices in the universe of opinion-making palmeirenses, attended yesterday’s game at the Vila Belmiro. Half an hour after the final whistle, Palmeiras supporters were allowed to leave the stadium. While making his way out, checking his smartphone for information on other game results, Conrado received a hard blow to his face and hit the ground before receiving several kicks. He managed to get to the bus waiting outside, his phone stolen, and upon returning to São Paulo underwent medical exams. With multiple fractures to his face, he’s scheduled for surgery today (Monday).

Outspoken, uncompromising, always backing his positions with compelling arguments. A strong personality that sometimes annoys even those agreeing with his views. “He had it coming”, some argues.

He had it coming, only if we accept violence as a legitimate form of argumentation. Without the shadow of a doubt, Conrado was cowardly assaulted by someone coming from “our” ranks, someone calling himself a palmeirense, someone who disagrees with the editorial line of the Verdazzo. Fists and kicks were chosen as a means to punish him, and to silence him. Stealing his phone was just a bonus.

The right to expression is fundamental, at any and every level of society. The use of violence to combat ideas is nothing short of fascism. As such, it must be condemned without hesitation, without fear, and without personal preferences in regard to the identity of the victim and his views.

Reflect on that before uttering another “he had it coming”: that kind of mentality is, directly or indirectly, the breeding ground for what happened to Conrado. And could happen to you next.

Conrado, I wish you a speedy recovery, both physical and mental. Hope to see you back in the saddle as soon as possible: your work has never been more important.

— ooo —

Difficult to analyse yesterday’s clash against Santos. True enough, Palmeiras did not seem quite awake, allowing Santos not one but two goals before half time. On the other hand, Palmeiras would likely have reached the draw had the game continues for another ten minutes. And personally, I liked Bruninhos debut. Game highlights below.

I’d say Palmeiras have more to give. And possibly Kleina opted for not revealing all his cards, especially as yesterday’s result actually means Palmeiras have a theoretically easier path to the finals, avoiding SPFC in the semi. In any case, the Paulistão truly starts now, in the knockout phase: Thursday night we welcome Bragantino, with the one game determining who face Ituano or Botafogo/SP in the semi-finals.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The always relevant Verdazzo published an important piece last Wednesday, exposing the perils Palmeiras supporters might face on their way to, during and after the away game against Santos at Vila Belmiro this coming Sunday.

Summing up the situation: after the 2013 incident at the airport in Buenos Aires, Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre cut all ties with the Mancha Verde supporter group. Not that it had any effect on the presence of the Mancha at stadiums (and not that it was intended to have any effect): home games were never a problem due to the large amount of tickets available, and for away games the MV normally secured the amount they needed by different methods – some of them acceptable and others not so much. That’s the way it is and has been for quite some time.

Well, times they are a changing. After the ruckus during distribution of tickets to the Corinthians vs. Palmeiras clash a few weeks back – where queues outside and inside the club got completely out of hand – the Palmeiras administration has taken an innovating step further in the strengthening of the Avanti membership programme: provide tickets to important away games based on Avanti member’s rating. It’s fairly simple: records are kept on Avanti member’s stadium visits and compiled into a ranking. Against Santos, 700 tickets have been made available for the visiting team. Palmeiras have bought them all and sent an e-mail to the 700 highest-ranking Avanti members, offering them a ticket each at a fixed price. Unsold tickets are advertised a second time to the next set of people on the ranking. Any unsold tickets after he second round will then be made available on a first-come-first-serve basis, Avanti member or not.

The initiative is worth all the praise, as it effectively rewards those who work the turnstile the most. At least, as long as these are Avanti members. And there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be. Be they Mancha Verde or not.

Now, going back to the Verdazzo text, there’s a genuine and legitimate concern for the safety of those 700 palmeirenses heading for the Vila Belmiro. For the first time in ages, there’s no telling how or even if the Mancha Verde will be present. That will have implications on how much chanting and support the relatively small Palmeiras section will be able to convey to our players. Equally or more important: it will have implications on how much protection will be available for our supporters. The Verdazzo convincingly argues that, unless preventive police work is flawlessly executed, the risk of a disaster is overwhelming, as Santos supporters are likely to take advantage of the situation. “It will be the ultimate test to whether Paulo Nobre was right in maintaining an inflexible approach [toward the Mancha Verde]“, Cacace concludes.

But that last sentence is where this space and the Verdazzo will differ. Perhaps in part because I’m not much familiar with the stands, having been to few home games and even fewer away game. In the eyes of some, that alone might be enough to disqualify my opinion entirely. On the other hand, the distance might be what allows me to maintain my focus on principle, even under pressing circumstances like these.

Nobre cut ties with all organized supporter groups based on the principle that physical aggression is incompatible with the society we want to live in and the club’s philosophy. How cynical would it not be if he initiated a rapprochement with the Mancha Verde because Palmeiras, in a sense, need their services as storm troopers, need their protection?

S.E. Palmeiras must do what it can to cater for the supporters’ basic needs, but protection is not one of those: that’s for the authorities and the police to handle. Certainly, Palmeiras should be in constant dialogue with authorities, with the police, and cooperate as much as possible with the aim to increase security for everyone involved. However, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the authorities, with the police.

To lay blame on Nobre for what eventually might go wrong in Santos on Sunday is illogical and inconsistent.

UPDATE: Less than an hour after the publication of this text, three people trashed the Avanti ticket booth in an act of dissatisfaction  for “only” be allowed one ticket each: they wanted 90 tickets out of the total 700 and presented the money. When denied the extended purchase, they attacked the vendor and destroyed equipment and furniture.

Palmeiras responded by suspending the selling of remaining tickets. Full cooperation with the police is expected in a joint effort to identify the perpetrators and bring charges against them. President Nobre issued a firm statement in the afternoon, making clear that the club’s policy remains firm, that Avanti will be the mechanism through which supporters preferably will get their tickets, and that Palmeiras will not bend under pressure.

At this point, there are no information on whether the perpetrators would be members of any of the organised supporter groups.

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Palmeiras 2014

2013 ends with open ends a plenty. Squad undefined, master sponsor undefined, Allianz Parque inauguration undefined. The Nobre administration has broken new ground in several areas, but palestrinos enter 2014 with more question marks than ever. Rumours are Nobre has chosen Monday 6 January for a batch of announcements. Rumours.

A few new players have been signed, but not yet announced. Some have left or are packing their bags: Vilson, André Luiz, Márcio Araújo, Ronny Amaro, Rondinelly, Ananias, Fernandinho, Bruno and Leo Gago are all considered goners. Some players are returning from loans, most notably Patrick Vieira, João Denoni and Luiz Gustavo. Considering that Palmeiras U20 reached the finals in the Copa do Brasil less than two weeks ago (lost to Internacional), while the U17 won an international tournament, there is room for optimism on the horizon.

Silence is, supposedly, golden. But not all silence. The Nobre administration has not been able to strike a balance between the level of secrecy needed for optimal performance and the openness needed to please supporters near and far: the most blatant example being the Hernán Barcos transfer to Grêmio at the beginning of the season – a deal badly executed and very poorly disclosed to the public.

Early in 2013, hopes were high as winds of change carried promises. Months went by. And the year certainly ends in an anticlimax.

2014 is spelled centenary. Palmeiras, make us proud.

Happy New Year.

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Last round of the Brazilian Championship 2013. Portuguesa vs. Grêmio, a game without any relevance in terms of ascension, relegation, access to the Libertadores Cup or the Copa Sulamericana. Nothing.

32 minutes into the second half, Portuguesa commit what can only be regarded as a silly blunder: suspended player Héverton comes on for the paulista team.

Minutes ago, Portuguesa were punished by the Superior Tribunal of Sports for the infringement, and to the letter: Portuguesa lost the one point from the goalless draw against Grêmio and an additional three points. With that, Portuguesa drop four positions in the tables, finishing in the relegation zone. And saving Fluminense from second division play in 2014.

Did Portuguesa commit an infringement? Certainly. Is the punishment proportional to the crime? Certainly not. Not that any of the judges involved in the Rio de Janeiro-based STJD would agree to that.

And Fluminense? Based on historical merit and curious circumstances, the carioca club cements its position as Brazil’s most loathed.

While this blogger wonders how on earth he could be so naive as to entitle the previous post “Brasileirão 2013 – final statements”.

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“Grab a seat, Walter. As in one seat, not many thousand. And that one seat, only because you have my permission. That’s the way it is, has always been, always will be. No one yanks pieces from us, weather we call it Palestra Italia, Parque Antárctica or Allianz Parque.

Seriously, I have no idea what’s running through your mind as of late. Aren’t we in the beginning of a three decade long partnership? Is it not in all our interest to conclude this construction as soon as possible, so that we can start cashing in those bucket-loads of gold? Because there will be bucket-loads of gold, for both of us, and you now that better than me.

Yes, there are faults in the contract, there is room for interpretation. Although, in all honesty: how much weight carries your interpretation that Palmeiras have agreed to give up essentially all control on game ticket pricing for the next 30 years? Not much, I’d say – especially not since you publicly and on several occasions – even in print – have reinforced that all game revenues and all decisions on ticket pricing are exclusively Palmeiras’ business.

Walter, a strong partnership relies on strong partners. What on earth do you expect to achieve by crippling Palmeiras’ AVANTI supporter programme? Because that’s what would happen if Palmeiras lost control over ticket prices. If. It’s not going to happen.

What’s  behind the 180 degree shift, partner? What had you suddenly go bitching about it in the media, claiming Palmeiras’ home as your property? Using social media to lecture me on how my team should be run, on what investments I need for improved performance on and off the pitch? Talks of slowing down pace on the already late construction? And now wanting to take me to court?

Walter, seriously: are you out of your f*cking mind?

I hope you’ve been paying attention. Let it all sink in. You might be strong in short bursts, or when fast money is needed, but I’m an army of millions and were born long before you drew your first breath. Think about that for a second or two. Swallow your pride, lick your wounds. Then come back to me when you’re ready to solve this matter, like partners would.

Please close the door on your way out.”

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masksPasse lá em casa, “drop by my place”, a Brazilian acquaintance will tell you. “Come over for some coffee”. Without ever giving you his address. When not followed by action, words become meaningless. Empty. A theatre. Sometimes innocent, but often anything but innocent.

A politician in Brasilia accused of fraud will step up to the microphone before his peers in Congress and for 45 minutes claim his innocence. Not presenting any evidence thereof, just claiming it. Half of his peers will nod convincingly and declare that the case is to be considered closed. The same people who hide behind the secret voting procedure to let’s another member of parliament, sentenced to 13 years in prison, to keep his mandate.

Brazilian doctors take an oath to always respect and protect life, but are extremely reluctant to serve under harsh conditions, leaving a large part of the population uncovered. Foreign doctors – eager to work, eager to fill nine out of ten positions previously and recently again refused by Brazilian doctors – are booed by their Brazilian colleagues upon arrival in the country.

A journalist claims high ethical standards, but only reacts (and what a reaction!) when Valdivia drags his feet off the court in order to get that third yellow booking and clean his sheet. Why no reaction when other players and teams were involved in identical situations? Could it be the journalist happens to support Palmeiras’ biggest rival?

And when you think you’ve seen it all, another respected journalist, who happens to be a Palmeiras supporter, defends his colleague. Corporatism worthy of congress, worthy of Brazilian doctors.

Valdivia goes to trial. In stark contrast to previous (and rare) occasions when a player has been tried for “tricking” the referee into a booking, the Tribunal of Sports sentences Valdivia to sit out two games.

Ethics. Principles. Transparency. Words put to use a plenty in Brazilian society. Meaningless words. Empty.

There’s this other word, “professionalism”, much used in the world of sports. “Professional management”. With six months in office, Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre better take a good look at his staff and make serious evaluations. Has performance been up to standards? Have key persons delivered? Is Brunoro the man for the job? After Barcos and Vilson, should palmeirenses really have to prepare themselves for a third, foggy transfer to unfold at any moment?

There needs to be coherent action to match. I’d hate to see “professionalism” at Palmeiras become one more empty word.

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