The butterfly effect

Scholars of chaos theory sometimes make reference to “the butterfly effect”, in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The name of the effect was coined by Edward Lorenz, who claimed that a hurricane could have its origins in something as humble as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly weeks back in time.

In chaos theory, the mathematical models are absurdly complex and, infallibly, most factors that should be taken into consideration are not even known to the scientist. Even so, these brilliant minds come up with rather astonishing models.

That being said, I dare any of them to explain football.

After the 2-2 draw against Flamengo, Palmeiras’ ability to react – even under severe pressure – seemed to point in the right direction. Dorival Júnior might not have the best of squads in his hands, but enough material do work with – physically and mentally – to rebuild something that would resemble a team.

On the Sunday against Goiás, Palmeiras’ momentum of evolution was to be confirmed. But Palmeiras were beaten to a pulp. 6-0 are shocking numbers against any team and, with all due respect, even more so against Goiás. After a defeat like that, and with Palmeiras finishing the round in the bottom of the tables, obviously the President steps up to face the music. Well, not our president: 48 hours after the disaster, Paulo Nobre was still nowhere to be seen. Journalists were instead treated to 19-year-old Nathan – who made his first team debut against Fluminense on September 13 but didn’t even come on against Goiás – to quench their thirst. Apparently, the kid trembled like a leaf during the press conference but nevertheless stood his ground: “I’m only 19 but I speak for Palmeiras. I’ve waited for this opportunity and I’m ready”.

Nathan was found on the bench the following game against Vitória. Against a direct contender for relegation, Palmeiras did well at the Pacaembu and won 2-0 after goals from Lúcio and Henrique, one in each half. The three points did not lift Palmeiras out of the relegation zone, but close enough to relight hopes amongst supporters.

Hopes trashed the following Sunday, as Palmeiras let an odd goal away victory over Figueirense bizarrely slip away in the last 15 minutes, the game ending 3-1.

Yesterday, it was once again all or nothing against another direct contender for relegation: Chapecoense. Palmeiras came on guns ablaze and we could have had 2-0 within 15 minutes. Instead, the action slowly levelled and then, just before halftime, Chapecoense took the lead. With ten minutes of the second half, not a soul at the Pacaembu stadium was believing the scorecard was still 0-1, Chapecoense having blown three clear opportunities to drive it home. Everything spelled disaster and relegation when Wesley – in the starting eleven enjoying the confidence of coach Dorival, who worked with him at Santos – equalised. Jaws then dropped all over the universe as Henrique quickly followed up with a legitimate hat-trick, before Chapecoense made it 4-2 in the dying minutes of the game.

The three points lifted Palmeiras out of the relegations zone, regardless of other results in this 26th of 38 rounds taking place this weekend. Henrique is currently top scorer in the 2014 Brazilian championship. Our next adversary are crisis-stricken Botafogo, and another victory could put Palmeiras at a distance of no more than one or two points from the upper half of the tables. Suck on that, professors of chaos.

— ooo —

Today the national transfer window closed and Palmeiras brought in two second-division players: keeper Jaílson from Ceará and defensive midfielder Washington from Joinville (although negotiations were conducted with Penapolense). Jaílsons contract with Palmeitras runs until May next year. He was second option between the posts at Ceará, but that might very likely be better than Palmeiras current first and second option. Washington was a regular in Joinville’s starting eleven and should be able to fight for a position also at Palmeiras’. He has three months to make a lasting impression. More on these two later.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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