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It has been confirmed Cuca will not renew his contract with the club in 2017. That means also Cuca’s brother and assisting coach Cuquinha and Euders Pedro are bidding farewell by the end of the month.

Cuca’s decision comes as no surprise, although both Palmeiras and especially the clubs’ supporters were hoping for a different outcome after the successful 2016 campaign, culminating in club’s ninth Brasileirão title. Cuca is keeping a promise to his family of dedicating more time to his loved ones, at least throughout the first semester of 2017.

“It’s a difficult choice, but I had to make it. In fact, and as I have always said, it was not for me even to come (to Palmeiras) this year. I was going to dedicate myself entirely to my family in 2016, but I was convinced by Alexandre Mattos, by the president, by the project that was presented to me and, of course, by my love for Palmeiras. I’ve been a supporter since I was a kid, I’ve never hidden that from anyone, and last Sunday I ended up being champion twice: as a coach and as a supporter. I exit very happy and with the mission accomplished. I’m sure I’ll be back one day to continue my history at the club”, Cuca told Palmeiras’ official website.

Club president Paulo Nobre added: “Considering his technical capacity, identification with the club and the person he is, we would have loved to have him in 2017. But we understand his choice. Palmeiras will always be open to him.”

Director of football Alexandre Mattos certainly has been anticipating work on plans B, C, and D. Abel Braga and Roger Machado were early speculations, but in the last couple of days, both reached agreements with Fluminense and Atlético Mineiro respectively. Another, less likely, option would be giving assisting coach Alberto Valentim the opportunity, either permanently or on the premises that Cuca could come back to Palmeiras in the second semester. Some supporters are already getting nervous, claiming Palmeiras moved in too late and will now have to settle for leftovers. Personally, I think Mattos has everything under control.

Cuca’s last game for Palmeiras happens Sunday 11th against Vitória, at the Barradão stadium, Salvador. In 52 games for the club, he totals 28 wins, 11 draws and 11 losses. Cuca was also suspended in two games: a victory with Cuquinha and a defeat with Alberto Valentim.

Here at Anything Palmeiras, we wish Cuca all the best. It has been a tremendous pleasure following the work of this very competent, dedicated and charming professional. Cuca, enjoy your family to the maximum, then come back to Palmeiras for many more days of glory!

ABRAÇO AND THANK YOU!
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The Chapecoense tragedy is unprecedented in the history of sports, an entire football squad practically wiped out. The death toll currently stands at 71: 19 Chapecoense squad members; 24 Chapecoense technical staff, directors and other people linked to the club; 21 journalists and 7 crewmembers. There are six survivors, all receiving medical care and in varying physical conditions.

Four of the fatal victims had direct links to Palmeiras: coach Caio Jr, who commanded the Verdão in 2007, forward Ananias (2013), midfielder Josimar (2014) and former midfielder Mário Sérgio (1984-1985).
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Commotion has been worldwide, condolences arriving from near and far, in particular from other football clubs. The four major clubs in São Paulo this morning announced they will offer players to Chapecoense in 2017, on loan and for free. In additions, the clubs will make a formal request to the Brazilian Football Confederation that Chapecoense be immune to relegation for the coming three years. Throughout the day, other Brazilian clubs adhered to the initiative. Nacional de Medellín, Chapecoense’s adversaries in the South America Cup final, asked CONMEBOL to consider Chapecoense Cup winners.
Brazil’s president has declared three days of mourning and the CBF, a week of mourning, suspending all scheduled games.

In the midst of all the pain, the beauty of solidarity. Regretfully, it seems to take random disastrous events to bring out the best in human beings. So be it. Could possibly the major Brazilian clubs find it in their hearts and minds to close ranks and elaborate a proposal to address the most urgent absurdities sprouting from the CBF, Rede Globo and the Brazilian Superior Tribunal of Sports? Are we allowed to hope that the death of these men and women would not be for nothing?

Chapecoense’s last game was against Palmeiras. Below, a short video with footage from the game, a simple homage payed by TV Palmeiras. The second video is from the minute of silence at Anfield ahead of today’s Liverpool vs Leeds game.

Our deepest condolences to family and friends of the victims, and to all Chapecoense supporters. Today, all of us who breathe football, are breathless.
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Playing before 40.986 spectators, a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras were Palmeiras like throughout most of 2016: confident, in control, sufficiently efficient to secure the three points against Chapecoense and the 2016 Brazil championship title. The only goal was right-back Fabiano’s, and what a beautiful goal. His first for Palmeiras, one that will be remembered forever.

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Who contributed the most to this title, arriving after 22 long years of waiting?

Jailson, the 35-year-old who had never played a first division game in his life and stepped up in August, when Fernando Prass was injured in late July, to support an 18-games-streak of invincibility?

Dudu, the hotheaded forward who matured after receiving the captain’s armband to become the player with most assists in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão?

Tchê-Tchê, who last year seriously considered abandoning football for the lack of opportunities, today a given on the midfield on any Palmeiras starting eleven?

Moisés, “hidden away” in Croatia, ridiculed upon arriving, today considered the greatest surprise of the championship?

Gabriel Jesus, who’s splendid first half of the championship set the pace for the title race?

Jean, the experienced, polyvalent, hard-working leader?

Yerry Mina, who went straight into the starting eleven, scored, was injured, came back to score more and form a massive centre lock with Vítor Hugo?

Zé Roberto, the living myth, at 42 the heart and soul of the squad, always reminding us of the GIANT called Palmeiras?

Cuca, the prophet, the professional, the father, who knows how to create a family not through external enemies but common aspirations?

Alexandre Mattos, the director of football who contracted all the aforementioned pieces and then some?

Paulo Nobre, the club president who in four years took Palmeiras from rags to riches?

Palmeirenses near and far, tirelessly reinventing the art of supporting the team, standing ground against everything and everyone, including friendly fire?

None. All. That is what is so special about this campaign: it is a truly collective effort like seldom seen. And unbelievably well deserved.
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I still need to come down. Pictures and videos of the magnificent celebration – all over São Paulo and all over the world – only in a day or two.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

To what extent football clubs should strive to be agents for social inclusion, community development and civic spirit is a cultural and ideological question. We have touched upon the issue previously, in this article. In short, there is no right and wrong, only a sliding scale, based on personal and collective preferences.

The same cannot be said about human rights and civil liberties: these are guaranteed by the constitution of any democracy, as well as a number of international treaties. Human rights are absolute and universal, no sliding scale whatsoever. And although no country fulfil all human rights all the time, they do strive to do so, at least in discourse.

Violation of human rights cannot be tolerated, neither any relaxation of their legal status. The same applies to any arbitrary restriction of civil liberties.

This is why it is so important to thoroughly dissect and discuss what has been happening around the Allianz Parque on game days as of late. What used to be the area palmeirenses gravitated to – either on their way to the stadium or just for spending time with fellow palmeirenses eating, drinking, socialising, and watching the game in any of the local bars – has become a no-go zone for anyone not an Allianz Parque ticket holder.
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Early morning on game day, police set up barricades, creating an iron ring around the stadium and its immediate surroundings. You are only allowed access if you show your ID and a valid ticket to the game. The initiative is backed by a state of São Paulo public prosecutor, who claims the restriction on any citizen’s fundamental freedom of movement is necessary to secure law and order: the “unauthorised selling of street food” being one of the concerns, to “limit the number of thefts” another. The “welfare of residents” a third.

Remember, we are talking about a location where Brazil’s first official football championship, the Paulista of 1902, took place. A location always intimately linked with sports. A neighbourhood that organically developed around the stadium, not the other way around.

A new level of absurdity was reached last Sunday, when seven-year-old Maria Eduarda was barred from passing the checkpoint least she washed the paint off her face. Her father tried to argue against the interpretation of “no masked person is allowed entrance”, but to no use: the green and white, so proudly applied, was removed in a mix of water and tears.
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Supporters are protesting loudly, questioning both the legal aspects and the fact that the no-go zone is applied only to the Allianz Parque, no other stadium.

Palmeiras have not only, albeit discretely, approved the measures, but actually been collaborating, providing third-party staff to help police with the logistics of verifying IDs and tickets at checkpoints.

As frequently stated, Palmeiras is a club used to battle everything and everyone. In 1942, that included the very Government. Our directors need to take a good look in the mirror before siding with abusive, fascist practices.

How Palmeiras have been conducting this campaign from day one: wary, conscious, meticulous, focused. The team has been impressively regular. Not brilliantly trashing opponents 5-0, not alternating highs and lows. Palmeiras have been consistent like no other. 1-0, 2-1, seldom exciting scorecards, but enough to bag the three points, round after round. Palmeiras support uncontested numbers: most victories, most goals scored, least goals conceived, leader of the championship for a total of 27 rounds and counting.

Against Botafogo, Palmeiras were Palmeiras: aware, in control, running like clockwork. As we have seen numerous times this season, the result materialized, this time through an unlikely header by Dudu. Another Palmeiras characteristic of 2016: when the likely tarry, the less likely is bound to happen, naturally.
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Cuca, at the press conference after the game, highlighted the manner by which players collectively and individually had grown during the season, how boys had become men. “A thing of beauty”, he said.

Palmeiras are very, very close to the title. Santos but drew with Cruzeiro, the gap to Palmeiras increasing to six points. Also Flamengo conceded the draw to Coritiba, kissing championship aspirations goodbye. Santos can still snatch the title, but for that to happen, need to win their two remaining games, while Palmeiras lose both. In other words, Palmeiras are one draw away from the title.

Coming Sunday, the stage is set for a grand finale before a packed Allianz Parque against Chapecoense, Palmeiras’ last home game this season. Yours truly will be there, in loco, one of the many representing millions, carrying Palmeiras toward the club’s ninth Brazilian championship title. A 22 year long wait is coming to its end.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Today Sunday, Palmeiras might secure the Brazilian championship title. Nothing like Palmeiras’ official photographer Cesar Grecos’ 2015 Brazil Cup picture book to get you into the right spirit!

With more than 400 pictures spread over some 200 pages, this piece of art gives you the expected and unexpected, the official and the unofficial, the glamourous and not so glamourous moments of Palmeiras’ 2015 Brazil Cup campaign, leading up to the club’s third Cup title. Cesar Greco keeps it simple, with clean framing of the subjects, leading us into and through the day-to-day of the squad and everything surrounding it: training, travel, gearing up, play, post-game, medical, training, travel… Like in the best moments of TV Palmeiras, we come a bit closer to the actual human beings behind the celebrity mask: their anxieties, beliefs, superstitions.
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Photographer Cesar Greco with Zé Roberto at book launch

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Currently sold out at Amazon, the book is available on Netshoes.com.br for approximately US$25, but they only offer domestic shipping. If you live outside of Brazil, let me know and we’ll try to work something out.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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Stepping into the Congonhas airport on Tuesday, heading for Belo Horizonte and Thursday’s game against Atlético Mineiro, the Palmeiras squad was greeted to a sending-off of the kind few of the players, if any, had witnessed before: an estimated 3.000 supporters had gathered to show their appraisal and encourage the men. Emotionally touched and honoured, players joined in in the choir – singing, filming, becoming one with the crowd. A rare moment of symbiosis, a thing of beauty.
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The game itself was every bit as tense as expected, Atlético applying customary pressure and exercising greater possession, our players closing ranks, biding their time and launching rapid counter-attacks, one of which saw Gabriel Jesus on target, ending his eight-game streak without finding the net. His tears of joy and relief say it all.
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In the second half, Atlético found the equalizer through Lucas Pratto, the Argentine striker enjoying a splendid moment at the club and national squad, just like our Gabriel Jesus. Tactical obedience loosened up slightly as fatigue kicked in on both sides, numerous chances being created. It could have gone either way, but the draw was fair and just about right for Palmeiras, now only needing two victories in remaining three rounds to mathematically secure the title.
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Two home games remain – against Botafogo on Sunday and Chapecoense the following Sunday – then Vitória away, before the club’s top scorer (12) in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão joins Manchester City. “I got emotional, because these are my last games for Palmeiras”, Gabriel Jesus explained after the final whistle. “Ever since I first pulled on this shirt, I have honoured it, in all the games. Of course, sometimes you lack in technique. Today, I felt tired, which is normal, but the sacrifice was worth it. Not only because of the goal, but also for being with my comrades. This is a united group, of which I am proud to be part”, he concluded.

In the wee hours of Friday, Palmeiras left Belo Horizonte for Atibaia, where conditions are ideal for concentration, rest and practice ahead of Sunday’s clash with Botafogo. A combination of results can actually seal the competition already this week: victory for the Verdão, paired with Cruzeiro defeating Santos and Flamengo losing points to Coritiba, will set corks shooting through the air.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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