Black Saturday

Early afternoon, and there’s the first indicator that Palmeiras would be swimming against the tide. Whiz kid Gabriel Fernando opened up the scorecard for Palmeiras in the U17 São Paulo championship final against Santos, but the “Peixe” equalised then reverted the score. As the referee chose to ignore a scandalous penalty committed by Santos’ keeper in the dying minutes of the game, the title slipped out of reach. Our boys played a fantastic championship through and through: 21 victories, 3 draws and 2 defeats, conceiving only 17 goals while scoring a whopping 97 in total, 37 bearing the mark of Gabriel Fernando.

Meanwhile, for the first time in the Club’s history, members were casting their votes in the presidential elections. Ballots were still open when Palmeiras entered the pitch at the Beira-Rio stadium in Porto Alegre, determined to wrestle at least a point from Internacional. The Verdão, with Allione substituting Valdivia in a playmaker/attacker role in an otherwise defensive line-up, supported well Inter’s initial blitz, compacting the midfield and patiently awaiting the right opportunity to launch counter-attacks. Nevertheless it was Internacional who took the lead after 20 minutes, a harmless shot being deflected by Marcelo Oliveira, leaving Prass completely hapless as the packed stadium exploded in celebration: Inter were securing a spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup.

At that very same moment, it was announced that sitting president Paulo Nobre had been re-elected by a 60-40 per cent margin: 2.421 votes against 1.611 for opposition candidate Wlademir Pescarmona. Out of the 10.500 members, a little over 4.000 turned up to vote.

Back at the Beira-Rio, Palmeiras equalised after a splendid cross by Victor Luís, met by defensive midfielder Renato’s forehead: his first brace for Palmeiras (not counting goals as a junior player in lower divisions). Minutes later, the half-time break. The second half looked much like the first, until Inter’s coach Abel Braga decided to make a few adjustments, bringing more speed and mobility to his attack. The payoff came immediately and Inter, in a natural way, took the scorecard to 3-1 before the final whistle.

With our players leaving the pitch, attention shifted to Vitória’s away game against Flamengo. Sighs of (relative) relief as Flamengo with authority constructed a solid 4-0 victory, keeping Vitória parked in the relegation zone at 38 points, one point behind Palmeiras.

With one round to go, Palmeiras secure a spot in the first division if beating Atlético Paranaense at home. In case of a draw, fingers crossed Santos manages at least a draw, away, against Vitória. In case Palmeiras suffer a defeat, neither Vitória nor Bahia (playing away against Coritiba) can be allowed a victory. Nerve wrecking.

With the current state of affairs, on the surface of things, it is rather surprising Paulo Nobre was re-elected. The opposition calls him “the worst president in Palmeiras’ history”, and yet they were unable to put forward a candidate strong enough to take him down. Palmeiras, on the pitch, have deteriorated, with Nobre personally responsible (as highlighted repeatedly here at Anything Palmeiras). Still, there seems to be an understanding among a majority of the Club’s members that Nobre’s administration has brought institutional solidity to Palmeiras for the first time in decades. The coming two years is the time to cash in on the sacrifice made. “Nobre has paved the way. Now we’ll see what he’s truly made of”.

Nobre himself knows that if he has been given any slack at all, it’s because Palmeiras were in dire straits when he grabbed the steering wheel. Now that the financial course has been corrected, there are no excuses for not employing top executives, managers, football directors, and assembling a strong team. Nobre says structural changes will be implemented only after the end of the Brasileirão, but he has indicated the way: either a vice-president or a contracted Director of Football will be in charge of the team. Let’s desperately hope so: mind you, Nobre made the same promise two years ago, to no effect.

What shouldn’t take long is the extension of Gabriel Fernando’s contract: the kid has expressed his wish to stay and his manager this week said that all details had been agreed upon and that, for the sake of ethics, they were only await the results of the presidential election before signing. I admit I didn’t quite get the “for the sake of ethics” part, but as long as pen is put to paper, I’m cool.

“Cool” is not what you would call the reaction from some of Nobre’s most virulent critics after the election result had been made official. The traditionally complicated political climate at Palmeiras has been further fuelled by the meagre results on the pitch during the club´s centenary, stirring what can only be described as hatred. Hatred and rage, transformed into verbal and physical abuse. Yesterday, I received my share of the former, with promises of the latter, due to my [sic] “two years of unrestricted support to the Nobre administration”.

If these people actually read Anything Palmeiras, I conclude they never hit the refresh button. Or they couldn’t care either way: anyone not equally revolted as they become “the enemy”, and is attacked as such.

So be it. As far as ”Anything Palmeiras” goes, I have but one commitment: write as truthfully I can about the way I see and experience Palmeiras and palmeirenses. I get but one thing in return: feedback. And feedback is my fuel.

It has been two difficult years. I believe the two coming years will be better, much better. But only if Palmeiras beat Atlético Paranaense to remain in Série A. Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, every hour up until kick-off on Sunday, the only thing on my and everybody else’s mind must be VICTORY, and ON THE PITCH.


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