As young Hamlet would say: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Well, no need to travel that far; living in Brazil will occasionally test your nerves, occasionally your stomach. Not seldom both. This morning, the newspaper “Jornal da Tarde” – part of the large media group Estado de São Paulo – very confidently published an article (both online and later in the paper version) signed by Luiz Antônio Prósperi claiming that the referee chosen for Sunday’s semi-final game in the Paulistão between Palmeiras and Corinthians was the gentlemen to your right, Paulo César de Oliveira. This is rather odd, as the referees are picked out in a draw (transmitted live on TV and over the internet) and the draw had yet to take place. Scheduled for 3pm this afternoon, the draw did indeed happen as normal. And guess what? Paulo César de Oliveira was confirmed for Sunday’s game.
According to Prósperi, the explanation to this curiosity was a meeting on Monday between Palmeiras, Corinthians and the São Paulo Football Federation. At the meeting, Corinthians requested de Oliveira. Palmeiras expressed no objections and the agreement was sealed between the three entities.
There are so many levels and possibilities to the above scenario that I’m not going to explore them much further here: that the agreement indeed exists and that the draw is a fraud; that the Jornal da Tarde was misinformed (there has never been any agreement) but “got lucky” (in the sense that the outcome of the draw supported their claim); that the agreement existed but Palmeiras made sure it leaked to the press in order to gain initial advantages and then be able to strike from a morally higher ground, perhaps demanding that a new referee be chosen. As additional icing on the cake, there’s strong controversy between palmeirenses in regard to the choice of de Oliveira: most would support the theory that he is totally biased towards Corinthians and that he has a history of harming Palmeiras, making it extremely difficult to understand why Palmeiras’ directors would enter into the agreement in the first place.
In the light of the above, my food for thought is of a more general nature: if the draw is manipulated when two teams agree, there’s nothing preventing it from being manipulated in order to benefit a specific team at any time. There are of course many moments when it could prove advantageous (if you are inclined to foul play) having a referee that is biased towards your team, or succumbs easily when pressured, or even is inclined to take bribes.
This affaire could easily be forgotten in a couple of days. Or not. The “Jornal da Tarde” might have opened Pandora’s Box.