With the team fighting against relegation – and only two home games remaining this season – going through with the inauguration of the Allianz Parque was a highly questionable decision. Sure, the opening was a celebration supporters had been looking forward to for the last four years and a bit. The over the top ticket prices, combined with a sold-out venue, brought in close to US$ 2.5 million to the club. And a victory against Sport would have effectively lifted Palmeiras out of harm’s way with three remaining rounds of the Brasileirão.
Well yes, Palmeiras could have won. Could have. Felipe Menezes’ header in the middle of the first half was a turning point, a lost opportunity that, in my opinion, ended up sealing Palmeiras’ fate. Sport played tight, retracted, knowing that Palmeiras would create few opportunities – as always when Valdivia is absent – and become more and more anxious as time progressed. Menezes blew his opportunity. Former Palmeiras striker Ananias did not. In the end, 0-2 was a fair result.
Palmeiras are a weak team. Weaker still under pressure. The task of a mandatory victory – in order to escape relegation and not ruin the celebration of a 39.000 strong crowd – proved overwhelming. Unsurprisingly.
On one side of the balance, revenues and initial euphoria. On the other, despair, tears and rage. The night was unforgettable. But not in the way it should have been.
It’s not about foreseeing the future, but about weighting cost vs. benefit, risk vs. payout. The prospect of opening the Arena under current circumstances was surrounded by uncertainties and split decisions anyway you look at it. I defended postponing the whole thing to 2015. Too late now.
With elections at Palmeiras only nine days away, certainly the decision to go through with the inauguration was influenced by the current administration’s desire to be associated with a grand celebration. The totality of damage done by the backfired plan goes well beyond lost pride, goes beyond the risk of relegation. It threatens the core of some important structural change that Palmeiras are undergoing and that, in my opinion, are crucial in order to elevate Palmeiras from the modus operandi seen at Corinthians, Flamengo, Botafogo and a majority of Brazilian clubs. Mr. Hyde’s disastrous management of football has come to overshadow Dr. Jekyll’s good work in terms of implementing sound financial management at Palmeiras: a positive balance sheet by the end of the month has become a subject of mockery and a symbol of “those who care nothing about football”.
Today, we are all hanging our heads in shame. Nevertheless, I believe Palmeiras will find strength somehow and remain in the first division, if not by merit, by incapability of other teams to capitalize on our fragility.
Also, within 2-3 years, I truly believe we’ll be experiencing change. Palmeiras have the most important ingredients: a solid history, a strong identity, a passionate and large supporter base, a stadium to call our own, and a growing range of national and, in particular, international partners. Maintaining and improving sound administrational and financial practices, combined with increasing revenues, should allow for the hiring of great professionals and the steady forming of a new squad, a new team. Palmeiras’ president for the coming two years – whoever that might be – will have all the tools available and no excuses.
Turning our attention back to the immediate needs: on Sunday Palmeiras face direct contender for relegation Coritiba, at the Couto Pereira stadium – needless to say, a crucial game. I will be at the stadium. The Mané Garrincha, in Brasilia, trying to enjoy Paul McCartney. Talk about timing.