Heaps could and should be written about Palmeiras’ historic battle against biased and/or racist politicians and journalists. The peak years naturally occurred during WWII, when Palmeiras was forced to change its name (for more info, click here) and even ran serious risk of losing its stadium. Needless to say, things have improved greatly since then. But all is not roses: far from it. You only need to read the main daily newspapers from São Paulo or access some of the online news providers for a couple of weeks or so in order to realize there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark. News about the Verdão tend to bring up problems, crises, and more problems. Sometimes, pure lies are found in print, apparently serving a grander objective: destabilising the team and/or turning its supporters against it. And I do not need to go into details in regard to the construction of the Arena Palestra, do I?
Considering the long history of “persecution”, one would think that Palmeiras’ directors, coaches and other staff should have learnt how to deal with this by now. Think again. Rather than having learnt when and how to confront the press, again and again we see Palmeiras – individually or as institution – responding intuitively, reflexively, aggressively – as if always expecting a knife in the back or an evil twist to any question, even how neutral it sometimes may be in itself.
The latest example involves outspoken coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. In short, the script is as follows:
14 October: in the away game against Sucre, Valdivia felt the back of his left thigh and was substituted already in the first half. As the midfielder had felt discomfort in the region two days earlier during practice, it was understood that having him play was a calculated risk. It was speculated at the time that he could be away from the pitch for 2-3 weeks in order to recover.
20 October: home game against Sucre, and Valdivia plays the full 90 minutes.
24 October: derby against Corinthians. Valdivia starts on the bench, comes on in the second half but is taken off before the end of the game. A journalist questions Scolari about Valdivia’s medical condition, claiming that Palmeiras’ chief doctor had said that the Chilean was injured. Scolari – knowing this piece of information to be false, as he only moments before had settled with the doctor in question exactly what information would or would not be released to the media – explodes, affirming that the doctor had said “no such crap, no such shit”, and leaves the press conference visibly upset.
27 October: first leg in the SA Cup quarter finals against Atlético/MG. Valdivia plays from start but is forced to leave the pitch after 18 minutes, again unable to cope with the pains in his left thigh. At the press conference after the game, a journalist questions his participation. Scolari replies with aggressiveness, letting the journalists know that they are a pain in the ass, that Valdivia played great for 18 minutes and that if he plays only 10 minutes next game, that’s also great, and finally concluded that the journalists were clowning around and, pointing to a specific journalist, stated: you’re the most clown of them all.
After these incidents, Scolari has refused to talk to the press. And the journalists have found their own way of protesting: yesterday during the game against Goiás, several of them were wearing clown noses. Scolari chose to ignore them – just walked pass them – and neither did he attended the press conference after the game.
Thus, it seems like “war” has been more or less declared. This serves no one. And I am of the opinion, in this specific case, that Scolari let himself be way to easily provoked and responded with unproportional and absolutely inappropriate language. Again and again. Will he learn? Will he seek to pacify the relationship with the press? I do hope so.
I also hope that this affair doesn’t spread to affect the players, as they need to focus hard on the very important games ahead in the few weeks that remain of this year.