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Yesterday, on the day he reached his 77th birthday, legendary former defensive midfielder Dudu was graced with the highest reward: being immortalized through a bronze bust in front of the Allianz Parque.

Olegário Tolói de Oliveira – nicknamed Dudu – was born in Araraquara, state of São Paulo, on 7 November 1939. He arrived at Palmeiras in 1964. Twelve years later, he had played a total of 609 games for the club, scored 25 goals, and won nine titles, including five Brazilian championship titles. Upon retiring as a player in 1976, he gave coaching a go, winning the São Paulo state championship for the club that same year.
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“I’m prettier (the bust) than in person *laughs*. What the directors of Palmeiras are doing for me, I have no words to thank them, to thank my friends, relatives and former colleagues for their presence. I feel great joy today, this actually rocked me a bit. Which is very rare, for something to rock me, but today is very emotional for me” said Dudu at the uncovering of the bust, in the presence of president Paulo Nobre, vice-president Maurício Galiotti, Ademir da Guia and other invited.

In addition to Dudu, only five players have received the honour: Junqueira, Waldemar Fiúme, Ademir da Guia, Oberdan Cattani and Marcos. Dudu’s bust was positioned right next to Ademir’s, which makes perfect sense: Dudu and “The Divine” played back-to-back for most of their time at Palmeiras.

No one deserves the bust better. CONGRATULATIONS, DUDU!
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A Saint cast in bronze

The number 12 is at Palmeiras eternally linked with Marcos, the world-class keeper who retired from the Club in 2012. Last Saturday, the 12 December, at 12 o’clock, a crowd gathered at the Allianz Parque as a bust was unveiled in his honour. “São Marcos”, today 42, defended Palmeiras for 20 years and acquired the respect and admiration from palmeirenses and non-palmeirenses alike.

Marcos is the fifth player to be awarded a bust by the Club: Oberdan Cattani, Ademir da Guia, Junqueira and Waldemar Fiúme are the previously graced. 
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Oswaldo de Oliveira was sacked earlier this week.

Although not yet officially announced, Marcelo Oliveira – 2013-2014 champion with Cruzeiro – is taking over the reigns.

Striker Alecsandro has signed a contract until end of 2016, promising to score plenty of goals.

Alan Patrick and Ayrton has left for Flamengo: thank you and goodbye.

Today, a bust over legendary keeper Oberdan Cattani – who would have turned 96 on this very day had he still been with us – was unveiled at the Allianz Parque.

Today also marked the day the Rua Turiassú changed name to Rua Palestra Italia, paying homage to Palmeiras’ glorious past.

Mattos is hunting in Europe: rumour says it’s big game in his crosshairs this time.

Short but sweet as doors close and we’re ready for takeoff. Avanti!

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Last Saturday, on 28 March, Palmeiras paid homage to one of club’s biggest idols in recent times: Alexsandro de Souza. Alex for short. A game was played at the Allianz Parque between the “Friends of Alex” squad against the “Palmeiras Libertadores 1999” squad. So much history bundled together it makes you breathless.
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Alex was instrumental in securing the Brazil Cup and the Mercosur Cup in 1998, and the Libertadores Cup in 1999.

Alex was instrumental in turning this recently arrived Swede into a palmeirense.  

At Palmeiras, Alex played a total of 241 games, scoring 78 times and giving 56 assists.

Certainly other players from the last two decades were as big or bigger playing for Palmeiras, but there is something special with this playmaker, respected on and of the pitch like few others, and very well known also outside of Brazil due to his magnificent years at Turkish Fenerbahçe.  

No wonder there were many Turkish fans present at the Allianz Parque last Saturday. One of Alex’s most feverish followers is Harun Aydogan. Leaving the rest of the space for him and his own words. Enjoy.

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Hello,

This is Harun Aydogan, from Turkey. I am 22 years old and a university student in my country. I went to Brazil, as you guys know, because of Alex. He was our Captain for eight years. And he was the best ever seen in my country. He has a perfect personality: even after our team Fenerbahçe’s backward president Aziz Yıldırım kick him out of the club, he didn’t say a bad thing. And he never changes, Alex is such a kind person. We love Alex. We love our Captain. He deserves the best. I am so happy because I was able to meet him in Brazil and even, for the first time, see and talk to him, face to face. It made me so excited. I am totally sure that he one day is going to be the coach of Fenerbahçe!
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This is me with my captain, my idol, and our future coach Capitão Alex de Souza! Nós te amamos!

This is me with my captain, my idol, and our future coach Capitão Alex de Souza! Nós te amamos!

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As for Palmeiras and their fans, thank you so much! Especially the guys from Mancha Verde! They are exactly ultras, who really connect with the team 100% heart. By the way, I would love the watch a game with them and sing a song for Palmeiras and for Alex also! Thank you for everything, Brazilian people: you are so friendly, just like Turkish people! Thank you guys, I felt like home! I hope I can return to Brazil and watch a game at the Allianz Parque!

Obrigadão, Capitão Alex!
Obrigadão, Palmeiras!
Obrigadão, Mancha Verde!
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This is me some two years ago, back in Turkey, with my Palmeiras jersey! Look I made a heart for you guys! :))

This is me some two years ago, back in Turkey, with my Palmeiras jersey! Look I made a heart for you guys! :))

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Late yesterday night, legendary goalkeeper Oberdan Cattani – the only living link between Palestra Italia and Palmeiras – drew his last breath, shortly after turning 95 years old. Cattani was to be graced with a bust this month of June – joining the extremely selective group consisting of Waldemar Fiume, Junqueira, Ademir da Guia and, soon, Marcos – but his family asked for the postponing of the ceremony due to Cattani’s precarious health condition.

Oberdan_Campeão Paulista 1942Ceremony or no ceremony: Oberdan Cattani certainly knew his importance in the history of Palmeiras and was recognised for it. The former truck driver from Sorocaba played at Palmeiras from 1941 to 1954, completing a total of 351 games, being 207 victories, 76 draws and 68 defeats. He was instrumental in the Paulista title of 1942, the famous “Arrancada Heróica“, and with Palmeiras also brought home the 1951 Rio Cup, the São Paulo championships of 1944, 1947 and 1950, and the Rio-São Paulo tournament of 1951.

oberdan_impulsionCattani’s large hands (a whopping 26 cm across, allowing him to one-handed grab balls in mid air), superior positioning skills, elasticity and amazing propulsion took him all the way to the Brazilian national squad.

“After 90, it’s stoppage time. He lived and died beautifully. Morreu de morte morrida“, my wife commented yesterday, when I told her the sad news. Her words gave me comfort. Cattani indeed lived and died as one of the greatest players and palmeirenses in the history of the Club.

Below, a picture from my first and only encounter with the legend, outside the Palestra, in January of 2012.

Rest in peace, Oberdan.
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Oberdan

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Djalma_Santos_hi-resOne of the greatest of Brazilian football has left us. Djalma Santos, who played for Palmeiras 1959-1968, started his rise to international stardom when he made his debut in the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden. With impressive physique, technique and eye for the game, Djalma Santos became the absolute reference for the right-back position for more than a decade, integrating the Brazilian national squad in the four World Cups 1958-1966 (out of which Brazil came out victorious in the first two).

Born in São Paulo on 27 February 1929, Dejalma dos Santos – as his birth certificate reads – started his professional footballing career at Portuguesa in 1948. He signed with Palmeiras in 1959 and completed 498 games in our colours before leaving for Atlético Paranaense in 1968, at the age of 38. He played for an additional four years at Atlético where he also ended his career, without never ever in his life having been sent off the football pitch.

With Palmeiras, Djalma won the São Paulo championships of 1959, 1963 and 1966; the Taça Brasil of 1960 and 1967; the Roberto Gomes Pedrosa tournament of 1967 and the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo championship of 1965.

Yesterday evening, at the age of 84, Djalma Santos died in hospital from severe pneumonia followed by cardiac arrest.

President of Brasil Dilma Rousseff issued a condolence note this morning.

Thoughts go to his family, friends and legion of fans.

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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.

IMG_1420The 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, IMG_1433Zé 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.

IMG_1428The 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
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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.
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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.

We salute you, São Marcos!
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