Today’s post was going to reflect my dissatisfaction with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari – our US$ 400.000 a month star – who after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat against Santos threw the towel and declared that chances for qualification for next year’s Libertadores Cup was zero. With ten rounds to go and Palmeiras six point behind that last spot, it’s unacceptable language. Last year, Fluminense was in a much worse situation but escaped relegation through a heroic performance in the last weeks of the championship. As long as there is a mathematical chance, you are expected to FIGHT, damn it! I have some more well-chosen words for Mr Scolari, but they’ll have to wait.
Yesterday afternoon, while shopping some jerseys together with his brother in law and one more friend at the Palmeiras store in front of the Academia, Palmeiras midfielder João Vítor was harassed and suffered injuries from physical aggression, as a group of 15-20 Palmeiras “supporters” (read thugs) demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the team’s performance as of late. João Vítor returned back to the training grounds – where the squad leaving for today’s game against Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro was going through some last minute details – and was then taken to hospital. He is apparently OK. There’s little news at this point on the health status of his brother in law and the friend.
Anything Palmeiras has a firm position: any act of violence against players is inadmissible under any circumstances.
The incident obviously caused great impact with the squad. Kleber got into an argument with director of football Frizzo and possibly with Scolari, and abandoned the training session. The squad, that was scheduled for a 9pm flight, instead left this morning for Rio de Janeiro. Kleber did not show up. Possibly, he was told by the director’s that he was out; the details we’ll know later.
The team is falling apart. The important game against Flamengo is what least matters at this point, as players reflect on their situation, their safety, the safety of their families. In addition, a catch-22 has been installed: if we imagine the impossible, i.e. Palmeiras beating Flamengo tonight, wouldn’t it serve as “proof” – at least in the minds of some – that the intimidation and aggression of players works? Now who would want that?
João Vítor is a young and quiet chap, someone who’s never been in the crossfire. Mostly on the bench, and currently recovering from an injury, he’s a very unlikely target. Conrado Cacace of Verdazzo puts it well, claiming there are really only two possible options to characterise this incident: a) totally random and isolated, where a group of (possibly drunk) “supporters” air their frustrations, or b) an orchestrated event to destabilise Palmeiras even more, turning attention away from the upcoming political mobilisations that seem to be gaining strength among a broad spectrum of supporters. Second option sounds paranoid? Well, yes: especially if you’re not much familiarised with Palmeiras and the back stage of things at this almost century-old club.
We’ve seen it happen before. Palmeiras is like one of those jelly squeeze toys: get a good grip somewhere, and it will immediately remould in your hand, popping out where you least expect it. Scary.