*by Erasmo München
To those of us that support Palmeiras, the last 38 years – all years after the 1976 trophy in the São Paulo state league – have seen penury of results, the exception being the 8 years of the Palmeiras & Parmalat “shared-management experiment”.
Yes, there were near exception cases like the good teams of 1978 and 1979, then the 1983 and 1986 line ups that also almost made it, the 1989 team with lots of signings coupled with the iron fisted rule of our former goal keeper as coach that lost one match and ended up knocked out in the quarter finals; plus the wins in 2008 and 2012.
But the fact is that during this period, when left to its own devices, the club most of the times didn’t quite make it and only won twice, which actually adds to the theory: from 1976 onwards, except for the time that Parmalat brought a combination of torrential cash flow with sound management practices, plus the political lull that it engendered, nothing really lastingly good happened to the Verdão.
What can we do to overcome this “kind of curse”?
A global centre of excellence in football players
I am 55 years old and I still remember the first time that my dad took me to a Palmeiras match. That happened in 1965, the stadium was Ulrico Mursa in Santos and the score was Portuguesa Santista 1 x 2 Palmeiras.
Since then, and mostly after 1970, I became a fervent follower of the club and got used to one refrain that resembled the slogan of Ultragaz a liquefied gas company very active then. It used to say “every other day, Ultragaz is at your door” (to deliver gas); to the football arena, it translated as “every other year, Palmeiras wins a title” (ano sim, ano não, o Palmeiras é campeão, for those of us who understand Portuguese).
I saw Tupazinho, Servilho, Gallardo (he scored the two goals in the first game I mentioned above), Zequinha, Djalma Santos, Djalma Dias, Ferrari, Rinaldo, Copeu, Jaime, Minuca, Nelson, Baldochi, Dé, Pio, Hector Silva etc.
Then from 1972 up to 1975, the renowned “academy part 2”: Leão, Eurico, Luis Pereira, Alfredo and Zeca; Dudu and Ademir; Edu, Leivinha, Cesar and Ney. Came 1976 and in spite of the emptiness felt due to the exit of the likes of Luis Pereira, Leivinha (gone to play in Spain for Atletico Madrid), Eurico (left to play for Grêmio), Dudu (retired and acting as coach for the club), Zeca (also retired), the team managed to rely on good replacements and plucked up another São Paulo state league win.
And before my early years as supporter, there had been other wonderful players like Romeo, Fiúme, Cattani, Heitor, Tosi, Jair, Lima, Mazzola, Julinho etc. In other words, as a lineage of good players, Palmeiras has always been considered a global centre of excellence!
Excellence in players requires a reasonable level of political unity
What none of us supporters knew is that at that very time – the 1970s – a hidden “revolution” – one should say an authentic coup d’etat – was quietly taking place. The politics of the club were being hijacked by one individual whose only aim has been to dominate the decisions and probably for his private benefit. After that, politicking and disunity became the “core value”, the “guiding principle” of the club.
Yes, Palmeiras had never been a paragon of peace, but despite the internal fights for power and for winning an argument, when it came to bring about what was best for the club and the football team, all political forces used to “row in the same direction up the river”. Not by accident, one famous expression in Brazil seems to have been coined in Palmeiras’ politics prior to 1976: “it all ended in pizza”, as a sign that even hot debates could be sorted out around a good chunk of dough, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese sprinkled with oregano, as long as the best solution for the common purpose had been achieved.
After this individual reached the central stage of the club’s politics though it all changed and the implied motto of his dealings is “the end justifies the means”, as Machiavelli would say.
The results of this state of affairs are appallingly obvious: rarefied number of titles, two relegations (perhaps three), loss of position in the rank of supporters, downgrading of the club’s brand market value – the difficulty in finding a good sponsor is a good proxy for that – debts, terrific difficulties in acquiring working capital. And apart from the benefits expected from the renovated stadium, perspectives are rather gloom.
Yes, there is the direct vote for president that will be tried for the first time this year that many see as a promising move. But that also is a an uncertain step because of fears that the average club member may not be as sensitive to the football team’s problems: it’s known even that many club members are supporters of rival teams, and that became members only to benefit from the club’s facilities.
Political unity entails an as yet untried action: full transparency
Therefore, the main conclusion one draws from all these years of disunity and poor performance is that for the team to continually succeed and attract the admiration of supporters, the number one factor is not to have excellence in football players although that is a non-negotiable requirement.
But for this requirement to take place, the number one condition is to have a solid amount of unity in the way the team is governed, i.e. decisions have to be taken exclusively for the good of the team and there cannot be any level of boycotting.
The question is “how do we achieve this”? After all, boycotts and individualism driven opposition are hard to put the finger on, aren’t they? And if a solution for that were so obvious, after almost 40 years it’d probably have been put in practice.
There is one thing though that I haven’t seen tried so far, that is full transparency. Full transparency can prune those that “row the canoe in the wrong direction”.
Let’s expose the real culprits. Let’s bring their dealings into the open. Let’s show who benefits from the poor signings of overrated players, let’s show the supporters the real terms of the agreements signed behind the curtains, let’s find out if there is someone who boycotts the preparation of the team, why players shirk instead of giving their maximum.
As it stands today, the executive leadership bear the brunt of the failures. Many certainly deserve it. But, I am sure that in almost 40 years we had good managers with real commitment to the club but that have been sabotaged by uncommitted people.
I firmly believe that this will not only intimidate them now, but it will help eradicate their existence in the future. We the supporters have to know who gains so that we lose. People like this individual who has been in control of the politics of Palmeiras have to be set apart from the process and exposing them is an untried way to accomplish this.
Doing this, we can foster that “reasonable unity” mentioned above and then stand a chance to bring back the times when rooting for Palmeiras was pleasurable, motivating, reinvigorating.
Let’s make it happen. The club deserves it, the club supporters deserve it, the Brazilian sports community deserves it.
The centennial history of Palmeiras deserves it!
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*Erasmo München is 55 years old, Brazilian, and the biological child of an Italian man and a Brazilian women. Early in life, Erasmo was adopted by a family of Italian descent: becoming a passionate palmeirense was definitely his destiny. Holding two university degrees (Economics and Administration), he works as project auditor for a Dutch humanitarian entity.
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