11 December 2012. Young and old, men, women and children: some 39.000 of them, all with their eyes fixed upon one man as he walks up onto the grass of the Pacaembu stadium. Applauses and cheers for one of the most respected players in the history of Brazilian football – Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis – the one and only “São Marcos”, or Marcos for short.
This is a farewell. This is a tribute. This is in commemoration of a tremendous athlete and a singular man. Tonight, the stellar Palmeiras squad of 1999 plays the Brazilian National squad of the 2002 World Cup: two squads where Marcos was the uncontested keeper. They have all gatherer to play in his honour. And palmeirenses from all over Brazil have made a pilgrimage to be here, at this moment.
The atmosphere is that of serenity, pride, a fair bit of melancholy but also of celebration. As the spectators slowly fill up the Pacaembu hours before kickoff – briefly stopping outside to admire the green floodlights and tributes to “the Saint” and the immortal #12 displayed on the facade of the stadium – they joyfully make use of balloons and mosaics while singing practically nonstop.
Each player is greeted by the crowds upon entering the pitch: the canarinhos of 2002 with specially invited guest consist of Dida, Velloso, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Júnior, Roque Júnior, Edmílson, Antônio Carlos, Belletti, Zé Roberto, Rivaldo, Djalminha, Juninho Paulista, Ricardinho, Denílson, Luizão, Ronaldo and Edílson, and are led by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari; then the Palmeiras squad of 1999 – also including a few guest stars, with São Marcos, Sérgio, Neném, Rubens Júnior, Tiago Silva, Cléber, Rivarola, Agnaldo Liz, Tonhão, César Sampaio, Dudu, Galeano, Pedrinho, Amaral, Alex, Ademir da Guia, Evair, Oséas, Paulo Nunes, Euller, Asprilla and Edmundo, under the command of César Maluco. Be present to watch these gentlemen play live is one heck of a rush!
Kickoff. The National Team have more possession and test Marcos with a few shots. 17 minutes into the game, Edmundo is fouled inside the penalty area. Marcos, who hasn’t scored a goal in his entire career, refuses to take it but the pressure from the stands are deafening and when the players cross the entire pitch to come and fetch him, he succumbs. As the ball hits the back of the net the roar knows no limit.
The game progresses in similar fashion, with Palmeiras mostly counterattacking – Alex showing great form on the midfield. And every time Marcos touches the ball, the crowd goes wild. Early in second half, Marcos give way to Sergio between the posts, as the former change gear and now turns into a forward, without much luck though: Marcos hardly touches the ball while the 2002 squad reduces after a header by Edílson and then equalises through Luizão.
When the clock strikes midnight – and the date changes to 12.12.12 – the centre headlights at the stadium go off. With Kleine’s guitar version of the Palmeiras hymn in the background, Marcos takes hold of the microphone and delivers his farewell speech, thanking everyone who have been there for him throughout his career. He finishes with the words
Of you Palmeiras supporters I ask but one thing: never forget me. Because I will never forget you.
before jumping on a trolley that takes him on a lap of honour. This must be the best sending off of all times.
Now, there’s no such thing as a perfect script… In Sweden we have this expression: “ränderna går aldrig ur“, a reference to the stripes of a zebra that are not only in the fur but actually mark the skin of the animal as well. No matter what you do, a zebra is a zebra. Or, if you prefer, a skunk is a skunk. And it apparently takes a gambá to try to humiliate Marcos at his own party by opting for a mid-pitch shot while our keeper – with his back to all other players – is returning to the goal after converting the penalty (Ronaldo). It takes a gambá to steal the ball from 71-year-old Palmeiras legend Ademir “the Divine” da Guia as everybody else is enjoying the sequence of passes designed with the intention of showing off the grand old master’s touch (Edílson).
Nothing of this matters in the end. The farewell was a splendid display of palestrinidade, of love and respect for a team and the man who made it his home for more than 20 years.