Last week, two separate incidents that took place on Sunday 30 September made headlines both in Brazil and worldwide: the first involved a 13-year-old girl who stirred the blood of Coritiba supporters as she asked for and received the jersey from a player of the opposite team (Lucas, of São Paulo) at the end of the game; the second incident involved a Celtic supporter watching a Corinthians game from the stands at the Pacaembu, and is the focus of this post.
In an all-exclusive interview for Anything Palmeiras, 43-year-old Kevin Fawl from Edinburgh tells us exactly what happened that day and why the Corinthians club management have expressed their eagerness in finding the Scotsman to “put things right”.
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Anything Palmeiras: Tell us a little about your trip, Kevin. Was this your first time in Brazil?
Kevin Fawl: Yes, it was. I arrived in São Paulo to conduct a few audits, arriving Saturday 30 September and leaving Thursday 4th October. This was my first time in Brazil and I do not speak Portuguese.
AP: Why on earth go to a Corinthians game in the first place?!?
KF: I had the Sunday available to rest and adjust to the time-zone. So I thought I would try and see a Brazilian football match. When I checked online in Scotland, the only game was Corinthians vs. Sport at 4pm on the Sunday. I talked to my contact in São Paulo and he got me a VIP ticket which was left at the hotel desk for my arrival.
AP: You’re a big Celtic fan, I take it.
KF: I always wear my Celtic tops and had my hoops on when I went. Celtic are a Scottish team 6.000 miles away from São Paulo. I did not believe there was any relevance between the two teams and still don’t.
There were lots of fans outside and there did not appear to be an issue outside the stadium. I also visited the stadium, the museum, etc.
When I entered the VIP door, I was shown to my seat. I looked around and there were other team shirts such as Sunderland, Inter Milan, etc. So I didn’t think I was out of place with my Celtic top.
AP: When did you start noticing something was wrong? Talk us through what happened.
The first half was ok, but no goals and passed off without any issue. However, when the referee blew for half-time that status changed. I stood up to stretch my legs and heard a couple of loud voices shouting in Portuguese. I thought this was normal and didn’t take any notice. I looked inside my VIP bag, etc. Then the number of voices increased and the volume increased. I then looked around and it was clear it was something near me that was the problem.
AP: “Near you”? The innocence of the lambs…
KF: Again, I just assumed it was something other than me that was the issue, as I had no reason to feel threatened.
Then, a Corinthians supporter outside the VIP area got my attention and told me that my top was causing offense. At that point, a police officer appeared and spoke in Portuguese. I started to realize what was happening and thought the best course of action was to go inside the VIP area away from the crowd. As I did this, two officers followed me in and a couple of fans apologized and shook their heads. The noise at this point was very loud and it sounded like half the stadium was jeering.
Once inside, I decided that it was best to put on my jacket, leave the stadium, and go back to the hotel. Which I did. As I left the VIP area to exit, one of the girls said that they were sorry and the issue was due to one of Corinthians’ rivals wearing green tops. Which I now know to be Palmeiras.
AP: Yes, the rivalry between Palmeiras and Corinthians is indeed something special and the derbies between the two are among the most talked about in Brazilian football. But say: in your opinion, were you foolish and, in a sense, “deserved it” or were the Corinthians supporters out of line?
KF: I think the Corinthians’ fans were a bit strange. A colour of a top does not define a team. A Celtic top is a Celtic top. Just as a Palmeiras top is a Palmeiras top. If I was wearing a Palmeiras shirt, then you could argue stupidity on my part. But I wasn’t.
In hindsight, I could have checked this. However, it should not excuse the poor behaviour of those fans towards a foreign tourist whose only objective was to enjoy his first Brazilian football match.
AP: Meaning you have now understood that in Brazil, you belong to a family of 15 million who wears green and white, the glorious Palmeiras family, who would receive you with open arms?
KF: I may be in São Paulo in 12 months and would happily come to see a full 90 minutes of a Palmeiras game, proudly wearing the Green and White hoops of Glasgow Celtic.
AP: Kevin, thank you for sharing your story with us. Welcome back to Brazil, to São Paulo, and to Palmeiras; may your next stay surprise you only positively!
KF: You’re welcome. Thank you.
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EDIT: Unfortunately, Kevin left Brazil before Palmeiras and yours truly got hold of him – otherwise, he could have looked forward to a visit at the Club House and a tour around the construction site of the New Arena. In any case, it’s now confirmed by Palmeiras’ Press Office that our own Scotsman can expect a little something in the snail mail any of these days.