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It’s possible that tonight’s clash with Flamengo is Palmeiras’ last game at the Barueri stadium this season. Seems like the falling revenues paired with the increasingly loud protests from supporters finally got through to the directors, who are looking for options in the capital of São Paulo. But let’s not get too excited: although the reasonable thing would be making Pacaembu our new second home – not least for players to feel comfortable when playing upcoming important games there – Mr Tirone might have other plans: following his “cheap is good” mentality, we might again be presented with the Canindé stadium. Stay tuned.

While Palmeiras continue their nomad life, the New Arena is a rock solid fact: a Petrus of reliability and professionalism being raised in the stormy waters that is SEP. As we touched upon last week, an approximate 36 per cent of the stadium have been concluded and the pace is picking up even more as segments of SEP’s administration finally have moved into the new administrative buildings, clearing space for the next phase of the constructions.

It came as no surprise that São Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab did nothing to honour his promise to help Palmeiras transform their license from “reform” to “new construction”. Thus, the New Stadium partly will have to be built on top of existing structures. If the old structures could be removed 100 per cent, some four months of construction time could be shaved off in addition to money saved. But it doesn’t matter: Palmeiras have always done everything without assistance, without favours, and will so continue.

WTorre is not only keeping the pace up but constantly seeking innovative solutions to secure that the best possible Arena will stand completed in the second half of 2013. For example, engineers from the company have visited the new Wembley and studied the installations that prevent spectators from invading the pitch: a sort of net consisting of metal wires that trap the feet of anyone trying to cross over, eliminating the need for fences or other type of vertical barriers.

Supporters are kept well informed through the hotsite of the New Arena: frequent news flashes, live streams and short videos are available to feed the hungry for information. There’s even a section – and a large one – in English, be sure to check it out.

Last week a third video was released on the hotsite (below), showing latest progress. It’s well worth watching, even for you non-Portuguese-speaking people out there. It’s not hard to see why many of our players on a recent visit to the construction site felt that extra motivational rush just by imagining stepping onto the pitch, being greeted by the crowd in let’s say a decisive 2013 Libertadores Cup game.
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In case you have missed the previous two videos, they are to be found here and here.

Avanti Palestra!

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Scolari continues having difficulties due to the elevated number of players in the medical department – the latest member is Daniel Carvalho who on Wednesday left the training session. Against Botafogo in yesterday’s first leg of Palmeiras’ debut in the South America Cup, our warriors in green were Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos, Leandro Amaro and Juninho; João Vitor, Henrique, Marcos Assunção (Márcio Araújo – 20’/2nd H) and Mazinho (Obina – 38’/1st H); Maikon Leite (Fernandinho at halftime) and Barcos. At least we got Maurício Ramos and Assunção back, but not even Scolari was to be found on his usual position: due to previous bad experiences with the two linesmen he chose to put assistant coach Murtosa in the frontline, Scolari calling the shots from the stands by radio.

As you can notice, Palmeiras came without a reference playmaker on the midfield as both Valdivia and Carvalho are injured. This was clearly felt as improvised Mazinho didn’t deliver and both he and Maikon Leite got almost nothing right in the first half. Botafogo were not dominating completely, but Palmeiras certainly weren’t on top of the situation. We went to halftime with a goalless draw, much thanks to Bruno’s inspired evening between the posts.

Second half began with Obina on Mazinho and Fernandinho on Maikon Leite, turning the game around completely. Palmeiras gradually took command of the midfield and created chance after chance. The efforts paid off twice and in similar fashion: Barcos taking down the ball on his chest, turning, choosing the angle, and netting. Two spectacular goals by the Pirate.
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Barcos’ two goals and the excellent performance put on by Bruno were the highlights of the night, together with the hilarious moment below. The basketball player in disguise deserves a medal.
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The return game will take place in three weeks’ time and Palmeiras have an important advantage, especially for not having conceded any away goals.

Now for the less positive aspect of yesterday’s clash: 3.833 paying spectators at the Barueri arena. “Less positive” is quite an understatement: utterly revolting is more like it. To your right, a picture taken by “ArqPalestrina” and posted on the Arquibancada Palestrina blog, showing the ticket box at the stadium less than 30 minutes before kick-off. Deserted.

Those responsible at Palmeiras for insisting on using the Barueri must be pressured every single moment and in every possible way to reverse this perversity and put Palmeiras back at the Pacaembu stadium. If that doesn’t help, hang’em high. This has GOT to change. Palmeiras are being clinically separated from the lion’s part of their supporters, with only the die-hard fans mustering enough energy to time and time again show up at the Barueri stadium. Enough!

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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I’m trailing behind with my writing and being on the road this week, I’ve decided to keep things short and to the point. Forgive me for cutting corners.

Palmeiras drew 1-1 against SPFC last Sunday in what turned out to be the coldest night this year (Swedish summer, as @Lagrutta will have you believe). The game was played at the Barueri stadium before little more than 8.000 spectators: depressingly low for a choque rei, as the derby between the two is called. More on this later.

Palmeiras, patched up due to the many players in the medical department, came with Bruno; Artur, Maurício Ramos (Maikon Leite – 46′/1st H), Leandro Amaro and Juninho; Henrique, Márcio Araújo, João Vítor and Valdivia; Mazinho (Fernandinho – 42′/2nd H) and Betinho (Cicinho – 14′/2nd H)

Against São Paulo – in the top segment of the Brasileirão and promoting the debut of coach Ney Franco – Palmeiras surprised positively, especially considering the emotional and physical drain of the last few weeks that culminated in the Brazil Cup title. The Verdão took command and maintained it even after seeing Henrique sent off early in the second half. SPFC should be thankful they returned with that one point and didn’t suffer a greater embarrassment. Highlights below.
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Apart from having Henrique suspended in Tomorrow’s (Thursday) game against Coritiba, we also lost Maurício Ramos due to a muscle injury. I’m no doctor but these frequent muscular problems our players are experiencing can’t be normal. Well, at least Barcos is back training after his appendicitis surgery two weeks ago.

Palmeiras are not only losing players due to injuries: the (in)famous Superior Brazilian Sports Tribunal (STJD) yesterday punished Luiz Felipe Scolari with one game’s suspension for “clapping ironically” during a game against Ponte Preta in June. Valdivia received a three-games suspension linked to the incident that got him sent off against Coritiba in the first leg of the finals of the Brazil Cup, thus keeping him out of the two games this week against same Coritiba and Nautico. The way the STJD directly influences the championship is a joke. It’s also a joke how Palmeiras have gone from a respected adversary to a lame duck off the pitch; not long ago we had good lawyers defending and often winning our cases in the STJD. Not anymore. Result: technical assistant Murtosa will command the team on Thursday against Coritiba without Luan, Barcos Maurício Ramos, Román Thiago Heleno (injured) and João Vítor, Valdivia, Maicon Leite and Henrique (suspended). Assunção should however be recovered from his cold. And we might even have the debut of no other than… Obina.

Yes, Obina is back. The 29-year-old baiano, who played for Palmeiras in 2009 scoring 12 goals in 27 matches before being discharged together with teammate Maurício due to a fight between the two on the pitch, has been given a second chance. Upon leaving Palmeiras the striker returned to Atlético Mineiro where he had a very successful season, then transferred to Shandong Luneng (China). After two so-so seasons in Asia, Obina’s wish to return was timed with Scolari’s search for a second striker with a strong presence in the penalty area. Obina comes as a loan until the end of the year and Palmeiras have first option for buying his economic rights at the end of the term. It’s a bit of a gamble, but if enthusiasm and happiness are any measures, Obina will contribute greatly to the squad; it was like the lost son returning home, with plenty of backslapping, jokes and laughter. Welcome back, Obina!

Palmeiras have also signed with 21-year-old, left footed midfielder Netinho. A former Vasco da Gama and Santos player, Netinho left Brazil at the age of 16, played two years in Europe and has spent his last three years at Al Wakrah, Catar. Netinho will regain physical form and adapt to Brazilian football at Palmeiras B before eventually taking the step up to the main team. His contract runs for three months but can be extended with at least three more.

Back to the topic of the Barueri stadium. This week, The Brazilian Football Federation released a ranking of teams in the Brasileirão, based on their average public during home games. Palmeiras were to be found in the very bottom, with a 8.600 heads average, about a third of the average of top three teams Corinthians, Grêmio and Sport. Yet another indicator of the hefty price Palmeiras are paying for the unreasonable decision to call Barueri “home”.

Unfortunately, we might be looking at the tip of the iceberg. Adopting the Barueri in the final stages of the Brazil Cup due to superstition, players feeling more at ease, the smaller stadium diminishing pressure or whatever: all this and more could be tolerated to increase chances of winning the title. With mission accomplished, priority number one should be finding the way back to the Pacaumbu stadium and the home crowd, not least because important games are bound to take place there in 2012 and 2013. Imagine the frustration when we instead learn that Palmeiras’ directors have requested that the only two home games in the first half of the Brasileirão not scheduled for Barueri – Bahia and Flamengo – also be played there? It’s wrong beyond the comprehension of the word “wrong”. Idiots.

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The 2012 Football Blogging Awards were announced last Saturday and Anything Palmeiras won the Best Club-Specific Blog category. My most sincere THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me on facebook and twitter; this award is YOURS!

Below, a list of all winners. If you want to check out my acceptance speech video, as screened during the awards ceremony in Manchester/UK, click here.

Best Male Blog – The 4th Official
Best Female Blog – The Liver Bird
Best New Blog – My Old Man Said
Best Veteran Blog – Six Tame Sides
Best Club-Specific Blog – Anything Palmeiras
Best Podcast- Chelsea Football Fancast
Best Comedy Blog – Fitba Thatba
Best Video Blog – The League of Ireland Interview Show

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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It’s a battle over 180 minutes, with the first 90 happening today. Palmeiras’ supporters are understanding what’s at stake and are completely mobilised, both physically and virtually. Tickets are obviously sold out and when players arrive at the Barueri arena they will be greeted by “The Green Corridor”: supporters in uniform carrying flags, firecrackers and green signal torches will make way for the bus to pass right between them. It will be powerful and beautiful, a display of greatness to further boost determination of the squad. Within the limits of possible, the Barueri stadium will be transformed into the Palestra Italia, if just for a few hours. Coritiba will feel the white heat.

Bruno – standing tall between our goalposts tonight – arrived at Palmeiras exactly 15 years back, on 5 July 1997, at the age of 13. No better moment to shine than tonight.

Get ready to fill your lungs with air as the spectacle begins; may we all release that roar of ecstasy tonight, again and again.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

EDIT (13:40) – Centre-forward Barcos is out of the finals: the Argentine woke up this morning with severe abdominal pains due to appendicitis. A surgery has been scheduled for 2pm today at the São Luiz hospital in São Paulo. Of course a major blow to Palmeiras’ offensive quality, but such is life.

Barcos: get well soon. Rest of the squad: your glory will be even greater. Avanti!

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For the last couple of weeks, and exclusively due to Palmeiras’ real possibility of clutching the club’s first national title in 14 years, I’ve been keeping a positive agenda. This post… Well, a handful of incidents make it impossible to keep quiet.

Yesterday afternoon, Palmeiras’ heavily criticized supporter programme Avanti was re-launched. The overall shortcomings of the original programme seem to remain and I will designate a post exclusively for the topic in a near future. What’s important right now is the decision (with immediate effect) to couple up the pre-purchase of game tickets to being a member of Avanti. This means that being a member is the only realistic way to secure tickets for the first semi-final game against Coritiba. Perfect timing if you want to boost adherence. Perverse timing if you care for your customers. Yesterday evening we saw an avalanche of supporters trying to renew or adhere to the programme and the site crashing time and time again. No-one was reachable on customer support. In addition, there was no info about the re-launch to be found on Palmeiras’ homepage at the time of release (it’s up now) and the old Avanti homepage was still operative. The amateurism of these people never ceases to amaze. Would you believe they even have the nerve to brag about the hash tag “Avanti” being on the international “Trending Topics” list (screen dump to your right)? Thousands and thousands of supporters ventilating their frustrations on twitter and Palmeiras are PROUD for being on the TTs? Please wake me up from this nightmare.

Let’s move on. The first leg of the Copa do Brasil finals was initially scheduled for Wednesday 4 July, but then rescheduled by the Brazilian Football Federation (CBF) to the day after in order not to clash with the Corinthians vs. Boca Juniors Libertadores final. Fair enough. Yesterday, a new re-scheduling was announced, delaying kickoff with 45 minutes, indicating that TV network Globo intends to show the game on their open network and were making adjustments – of course not to their grid but to the game. What about all supporters who now are left without any public transport option for returning home from the remote Barueri arena? Screw’em.

The second leg of the abovementioned finals happens on 11 July. Just like Corinthians, Palmeiras filed a request with the CBF to have their sandwiched game in the Brazilian Championship postponed, thus allowing for a complete focus on the Brazil Cup finals. Corinthians request was granted. Palmeiras’ wasn’t. Did our directors raise hell? Not really. Screw Palmeiras.

Against Grêmio, we saw centre-back Henrique receive the red card in a completely and utterly unjustifiable manner. I mean completely. A more than strong case, if I’ve ever seen one, for successfully challenging the referees decision in the Brazilian Sports Tribunal, the STJD. What does Palmeiras’ legal director Piraci de Oliveira convey to journalists the day before submitting the appeal? “We’ll try to act, show that Henrique isn’t to blame, but it’s difficult. I admit not believing it will happen. It’s difficult, but we’ll try”. With that looser mentality, for sure they’ll screw Palmeiras. If we bring this Brazil Cup title home, it’s in defiance of everything and everyone.

Speaking of Piraci de Oliveira: the man is doing his outmost to redefine “embarrassing”. Not much good seems to be coming out of his legal department but the man is frequently – and especially on social medias like twitter – finding time to voice his opinion about absolutely everything regarding Palmeiras, mock supporters who dare to question him in any way and flirt with young, preferably blond, girls. “Pathetic” doesn’t quite cover it anymore. Adding insult to injury, Mr de Oliveira’s goal seems to be the club’s presidential elections in 2015. Imagine that, dear reader. Are you ready to redefine “screwed”?

AVANTI PALESTRA

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Nem aí by Mario Alberto

“Is there a game on tonight?” – “Beats me” (by Mario Alberto at “Lance!”)

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Not that it serves as an excuse, but the illustration above perfectly captures the mood that anticipated yesterday’s game. Corinthians’ usual suspects had been replaced by bench warmers, while most of Palmeiras’ key players were on the pitch in body but hardly in soul. The result: on one side young guns trying to get the world’s attention; on the other side eleven not very interested nor interesting football players. The young guns drew the longer straw in the end.

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Of course Palmeiras should’ve won against Corinthians’ B-side, and of course the three point would’ve been a good starting point for a recovery of the disastrous initial rounds of the Brasileirão (two point in six games now), in addition to boosting players’ self-esteem. But let’s be honest: no-one cares. The focus is completely on the 180 minutes that will decide this year’s Copa do Brasil. It’s been 14 years since Palmeiras last national title. 14 long years. And without any aspirations in this year’s Brasileirão (except avoiding relegation, that is) the Brazil Cup is the only possibility to avoid complete fiasco and another year down the drain. It’s never been more “all or nothing” than this. Never. And God help any player wearing our jersey who doesn’t give his life for this title.

Just now CBF confirmed the first leg of the finals for 5 July (not the 4th, as that would clash with the Corinthians vs. Boca Juniors Libertadores Cup final) and the Barueri stadium. So be it. The stadium is of difficult access and too small for the anticipated number of spectators, but that’s where Palmeiras’ players feel the most comfortable. As I opined in the previous post: the error was letting players get used to playing in Barueri in the first place. Made the bed, now sleep in it.

You will have noticed the less critical tone in recent posts. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Palmeiras is doing any better in terms of administration or whatever; no sir, there are a LOT of unsaid things. But that will have to wait until after the finals.

AVANTI PALESTRA!

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The human mind – both individually and collectively – is a strange creation. Sometimes, pain will make us rise to the occasion, while in other cases a positive experience is needed to relight the fire.

Contemplate Palmeiras’ streak of 22 undefeated games, stretching from 2011 into late March of this year. 22 games. Undefeated. Then the Verdão lost 2-1 to Corinthians and a bad spell was installed that culminated in the premature exit from the São Paulo Cup and the so far 2 points out of 15 in the Brazilian Championship.

Take Valdivia. Although it’s way too early to draw conclusions, I think we can all agree that the player we saw last Thursday is the same player we fell in love with in 2008: fast and furious, irreverent, decisive. The kind of player you adore having on your side and loath when wearing your opponent’s colours. Could it be that the hardship Valdivia and his wife went through some weeks ago will leave a legacy not entirely negative? Today’s clash with Corinthians might give us some more indicators.

During high school I was struggling with my French classes. On a scale from A to E, I was scoring consistent D’s. Halfway through my penultimate semester there was this Central Exam, mandatory for all schools in the country. A couple of weeks after the exam, my French teacher approached me in the corridors and asked for a word: “Kristian, how did you feel about your Central Exam?”. I swallowed hard and said, truthfully: “I actually thought I might have done OK”, already anticipating the bad news. “OK?” she said. “Well, let me tell you that you did more than OK. You were actually one of the best in the class”. I must have smiled from ear to ear, because so did she. And French class would never be the same. I found joy and raised my grades, finishing the last year with a solid B.

Reason can only get us that far: there are many other things that come into the equation, not least self-esteem, force of habit, superstition, encouragement…

It’s absurd to call the Barueri stadium “home”, as we’ve related before (here, for example). Last Thursday, we had palmeirenses leaving the capital three hours ahead of the game against Grêmio and still not making it in time. We had palmeirenses – and not a few, mind you – leaving their cars by the highway and walking/running for kilometres in hope of reaching the stadium before it was all over. Many got in only at half-time. Some didn’t make it at all. Shameful. Revolting.

Still, I believe Barueri must be the arena of choice also for the final game of the Brazil Cup, and this for one single reason: our players seem to want it. No wonder, as they have gotten used to it in the last few months and, de facto, have had positive experiences there. Palmeiras’ retrospect at the Barueri arena is great. One mustn’t neglect the positive impact this is causing on our players.

Call it superstition, call it emotional motivation, whatever: the fact is that Palmeiras’ players feel good at the Barueri. The error was letting this happen in the first place. Made the bed, now sleep in it. Palmeiras’ directors must do everything humanly possible to improve chances of bringing that trophy home. Even at the cost of decreased revenues (optional stadiums in São Paulo allow for a considerably larger audience) and again humiliating their most valuable asset: the supporters.

To all our brave warriors out there: AVANTI PALESTRA!
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*all pictures by Fernando Dantas/Gazeta Press

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