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ArenaOct.
Torturous months, well years, are coming to an end. Yesterday, it was confirmed that 10.000 spectators will have the privilege to assist the first game to be played at the Allianz Parque – a veteran’s game in homage of “the Divine” Ademir da Guia. The match, taking place on Saturday 25 October, is the second test event out of three; the first event was a movie screening for a selected audience of 3.000 in late September.

Palmeiras and WTorre seem to be on speaking terms again, probably in a mutual understanding that the various pending issues regarding the contract – most importantly the right to commercialise seats – mustn’t hinder South America’s most modern multipurpose arena being put to good use as soon as possible. Last Monday, vice-president of the CBF, Mr Marco Polo del Nero, visited the Arena, for three hours, in the company of Walter Torre and Paulo Nobre. I can’t remember the last time I saw these two gentlemen together. A good sign.

Friendly games in all honour: when will Allianz Parque experience live ammo for the first time? Everything points toward 9 November, the date Palmeiras receive Atlético Mineiro for the 33th round of the Brasileirão. If – and that’s a big if – a third test event can be arranged before the 9 November, the Allianz Parque will be allowed to operate at full capacity when Palmeiras play Atlético: some 43.000 supporters. It’s speculated a training session – with 30.000 supporters on the stands – could be that third event. If no such event is carried out, only 30.000 supporters could be allowed in for the opener against Atlético. Not ideal, of course. Not bad either, but not ideal. Fingers crossed.

In any case, the stadium is 97% concluded and will be 100% ready when SIR PAUL McCARTNEY steps into the spotlights on 25 November, as now officially confirmed.
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Paul.
Of course Sir Paul has chosen the Allianz Parque as his venue. The permanent technologic installations alone are worth some US$ 20 million. That includes 500 wi-fi antennas providing free internet access to spectators and the two jumbotrons, where interaction with the audience will take place much like in the NFL. In addition, expect regular TV screens in every corridor and corner – some 700 in total – allowing fans to watch the game when standing in line or executing some other fundamentally important biological function.

ArenaOctNightAllianz Parque is not only modern, but stunningly beautiful. Aerial shots at night, like the one to your right (by Dan Albuquerque), gives you an idea. Recently, the stadium won two categories in the prestigious “Corporate Architecture Awards”, one of the most important of its kind in Latin America. No wonder WTorre has already closed deals on 75 out of the 80 available VIP cabins, their annual renting fee coming at US$80K-210K a piece.

Did we mention the acoustic experience, expected to turn the Allianz Parque into a cauldron of Bombonera magnitude?

You might be asking yourself, who will run this flagship? None other than Susan Darrington, former vice-president of the CenturyLink Field, the largest stadium in Seattle, USA.

susan_darringtonCenturyLink Field is the home of current NFL champions Seattle Seahawks. It’s also where the Sounders receive an average 44.000 spectators a game in the Major League Soccer. The arena hosts a whopping 300 events per year – large and small – and 1.5 million visitors. For ten years, Canadian-born Mrs Darrington was one of the responsible for managing the CenturyLink Field. And it’s this experience she is now deploying as General Manager at the Allianz Parque. Yes, deploying, as in present time: Mrs Darrington is working for AEG – the company contracted by WTorre to run the Arena for the coming ten years – and has been in São Paulo since the beginning of 2014. Together with Director of Operations Raj Saha (with the Madison Square Garden on his CV) and the two Brazilian executives Felipe Soalheiro and Pedro Machado, she has the mission to transform the Allianz Parque into the main multipurpose arena in the country. The aim: attract same number of events as the CenturyLink Field.

Palmeirenses should keep in mind that the club is entitled to 20% of net revenues from “non-football” events during the first five years of the contract with WTorre (all revenues from games are Palmeiras’). The club’s share of these external revenues increases by 5% every five years, meaning Palmeiras will be entitled to 50% of net revenues during the last five years of the contract. When the contract expires, in 30 years’ time, all revenues will go to Palmeiras.

Just like a good wine, for Palmeiras, the Allianz Parque will get better and better year by year. Talk about a bright future!

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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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Every now and then, something special pops up. Something that breaks new ground. Like the comic book “ALMA” (SOUL), that is being launched this coming Tuesday at the HQ Mix bookstore, a few hundred meters from the Pacaembu stadium, São Paulo.

“ALMA” is the work of recognised cartoon artists Custódio (text) and Fernandes (drawings) and tells the story of the oldest sports and leisure area in Brazil, the legendary Parque Antarctica. Not only is the Parque Antárctica the only space that have seen all major Brazilian football players in action – including Charles Miller, Friedenreich, Garrincha, Pelé, Ademir da Guia and Marcos – but has also staged many a noteworthy event, including the very first official game of football in Brazil and the first car race in Latin America.

The Parque Antarctica was inaugurated in 1890. 30 years later, in 1920, the complex was purchased by the Sporting Society Palmeiras, who used it as home grounds while simultaneously making significant reforms. In 1933, the Palestra Italia stadium was officially opened – at the time recognised as the most modern stadium in Brazil, holding for some 30.000 spectators.

Custódio had the idea about the comic book when he learned that the Palestra was making way for the constructions of the New Arena, scheduled to stand ready by the end of 2013. Every day more fascinated about the rich story involving the Parque Antarctica and the Palestra Italia, he called upon Fernandes – a top cartoonist and caricaturist – to join in on the project. The result is a visually stunning and unique piece of art, telling a story over 120 years that is intimately linked with that of the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras. While finalising the comic, the authors experienced the ecstasy of Palmeiras concurring the Brazil Cup trophy and the sadness of the relegation in the Brazilian championship. As Custódio himself concludes: the entity is bigger than the men who passes through.

capa1_72As mentioned, the book release takes place this coming Tuesday (11 December) at the HQ Mix bookstore, Rua Tinhorão 124, Pacaembu, São Paulo, between 7pm and 1am. There’s also a second launch on the Saturday 15 December, at the Pizza Restaurant Prestíssimo, Al Joaquim Eugênio de Lima 1135, Jardins, São Paulo, from 7pm and onwards. There’s also a hotsite (in Portuguese) and an e-mail for online orders (R$ 35.00 including p&p inside Brazil).

This Tuesday I’ll be at the QG Mix securing my copy and a couple of autographs from the authors. Hope to see you there!

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Divine Design
Last Tuesday one of Brazil’s most respected and well known footballers turned 70: midfielder Ademir da Guia, aka “Divino” (the Divine) played a record 901 games for Palmeiras between 1961 and 1977, the year he retired from the pitch. A true palestrino in heart and soul, Ademir is a living memory of glorious days. May he continue to shine for still many a year to come!

Horizonte 1-3 Palmeiras
Palmeiras are so far the only team qualified to the round of 16 in the Brazil Cup after having defeated Horizonte by a two-goal margin last Wednesday. The Verdão suffered from a rough and heavy pitch, the intense heat and an early (and rather unfortunate) goal but kept the pressure up during the whole game and were able to convert the superiority into goals. Watch the highlights below.
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The result was important as it eliminates the second leg and allows Palmeiras to focus on physical and tactical exercises; only two games remain in the qualifying phase of the São Paulo Cup: this Sunday’s game against Guarani and the final game against Comercial. Two victories might be needed to secure Palmeiras’ position among the top four – important in the knockout phase to follow due to the advantage of playing at home.

Tweaking the Future
In mid March Palmeiras’ players contributed with genetic material to what could possibly be a ground-breaking research, conducted by the Federal University of São Paulo. The project, which has been running for eight months already, aims at tracing the profile of top athletes in various kinds of sports. In the future, the information could be used to find the right kind of athlete for a specific position, for optimising training or for preventing injuries. “There’s no other study like this been carried out elsewhere”, chief researcher Dr Bosco explains. “Real Madrid collect genetic material from their players and use the information on a day-to-day basis, but a study like this one, with athletes from different sports and with the crossing of data, is unique” he concludes.  

Avanti? Avanti!
The much criticised “Avanti” programme – designed to offer exclusive products and services to member supporters in exchange for a monthly fee – has been closed to new members and renovations for roughly a year. Now it finally seems the programme is about to undergo a complete makeover as a new company has been chosen to run it. In the beginning of the week a few supporters were invite by Palmeiras’ directors and the new company to express their opinions on previous – and failed – attempts to create a descent supporters’ programme. Apparently, the new “Avanti” is almost finished and the meeting served to tweak it in the right direction, i.e. to first and foremost meet the expectations of supporters. Perhaps it has finally become clear to everyone involved: unless the supporters find the programme attractive and embrace it, it will never become a success, not financially or in any other way. Let’s wait and see for the launch of the new version.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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Transfer market update
Paraguayan defender Adalberto Román has arrived. He comes as a loan for US$200.000 until the end of the year and is already training with the squad. If Palmeiras in 2013 would like to permanently release the 24-year-old from his contract with River Plate they need to put an additional US$3.5 million on the table.

Román will be the third Paraguayan defender to pull on the Palmeiras jersey; Rivarola and Gamarra have passed through here before.

One more foreigner arrived in São Paulo today: Argentine centre forward Hernán Barcos. Barcos leaves LDU after Palmeiras having offered the Ecuadorian club US$4 million for 70% of the player’s economic rights. Destined to sign a three-year contract, 27-year-old Barcos seems in good shape, eager and confident. Let’s see if Scolari finds the right place for him on the team – up there in the penalty zone where his 1,89 meters and 81 kilos make a difference.

Then there’s Jonas, the right-winger from Coritiba who was negotiating with Palmeiras but in the end preferred Santos (and clearly spelled it out in an interview). Turned out the deal with Santos didn’t materialise and Jonas… Well, the 24-year-old might, to Scolari’s delight, end up at Palmeiras after all. Seems as the deal involves roughly US$1.2 million to Coritiba and that Jonas and Palmeiras are already agreed on salaries. If the deal goes through, Jonas would be the fifth reinforcement in 2012 (after Barcos, Román, Daniel Carvalho and Juninho).

Not only are players arriving, but a few are leaving as well. Striker Dinei is returning to second division club Vitória, where he played in 2008 before being transferred to Spanish Celta de Vigo. Dinei never got it right at Palmeiras, scoring only once in 21 appearances (although we must admit that most of the games he would come on in mid/late second half).

Another player seemingly on the move is Vinícius. The young striker has for some time been targeted by Udinese (what IS it with these guys at Udinese; they’ve already snatched Danilo and Gabriel Silva) but now it seems a Spanish club have entered the scene. Palmeiras – owner of 80% of the kid’s economic rights – are keen to let him go if the price is right. I must say I think it’s a shame: in 2009 when Vinícius was only 16, he became the youngest player in history to play an official A-team game for Palmeiras. Is this the end of what could have been a beautiful story for Vinícius AND Palmeiras?

New Arena
Yesterday Marcos made his debut as promoter of the New Arena, doing a tour of the construction site together with legend Ademir da Guia and a group of 40 visitors. When Marcos returns from his holidays WTorre intends to sign him up as the “ambassador” of the stadium. Marco’s future attributions are not clear, but WTorre has made it clear that it involves much more than just the use of Marcos’ name and image.

WTorre is also negotiating the naming rights of the New Arena. Ajax’s main sponsor, insurance company Aegon, has made an offer of US$210 million for 20 years. WTorre has signalled interest, but believes the same amount could be had for a 15-years contract. WTorre is in no hurry to close the deal; in the words of director Rogério Dezembro the more one can show of the actual Arena, the easier it gets to negotiate the naming rights. WTorre is talking to several others and a deal could be closed in 30 or in 180 days, he says.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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