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Playing before 40.986 spectators, a new attendance record at the Allianz Parque, Palmeiras were Palmeiras like throughout most of 2016: confident, in control, sufficiently efficient to secure the three points against Chapecoense and the 2016 Brazil championship title. The only goal was right-back Fabiano’s, and what a beautiful goal. His first for Palmeiras, one that will be remembered forever.

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Who contributed the most to this title, arriving after 22 long years of waiting?

Jailson, the 35-year-old who had never played a first division game in his life and stepped up in August, when Fernando Prass was injured in late July, to support an 18-games-streak of invincibility?

Dudu, the hotheaded forward who matured after receiving the captain’s armband to become the player with most assists in this year’s edition of the Brasileirão?

Tchê-Tchê, who last year seriously considered abandoning football for the lack of opportunities, today a given on the midfield on any Palmeiras starting eleven?

Moisés, “hidden away” in Croatia, ridiculed upon arriving, today considered the greatest surprise of the championship?

Gabriel Jesus, who’s splendid first half of the championship set the pace for the title race?

Jean, the experienced, polyvalent, hard-working leader?

Yerry Mina, who went straight into the starting eleven, scored, was injured, came back to score more and form a massive centre lock with Vítor Hugo?

Zé Roberto, the living myth, at 42 the heart and soul of the squad, always reminding us of the GIANT called Palmeiras?

Cuca, the prophet, the professional, the father, who knows how to create a family not through external enemies but common aspirations?

Alexandre Mattos, the director of football who contracted all the aforementioned pieces and then some?

Paulo Nobre, the club president who in four years took Palmeiras from rags to riches?

Palmeirenses near and far, tirelessly reinventing the art of supporting the team, standing ground against everything and everyone, including friendly fire?

None. All. That is what is so special about this campaign: it is a truly collective effort like seldom seen. And unbelievably well deserved.
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celebration.
I still need to come down. Pictures and videos of the magnificent celebration – all over São Paulo and all over the world – only in a day or two.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Today, the provisional list for Brazil’s Olympic squad was revealed and, as expected, Palmeiras striker Gabriel Jesus was on it. But not only him: also alviverde keeper Fernando Prass was called up, his first time in the Brazilian national team, at the age of 37. “This is a dream coming true”, he stated, sharing his surprise but also acknowledging his impressive form and decisive moments at Palmeiras in the last year or so. Olympic squad coach Rogério Micale explained that Prass’ leadership and abilities, not least shown in penalty shootouts, had rendered him the spot: an indication Prass might very well carry the captain’s armband during the competition.
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In fact, Prass will become the oldest football player to defend Brazil in Olympic Games: he turns 38 next month and by a wide margin will surpass previous record holder Bebeto, 32 at the time of his participation in the 1996 Atlanta campaign.

Palmeiras are likely to see a third player make it to the Olympics: Colombian fullback Yerry Mina, the youngster today joining the Palmeiras squad post Copa América.

Although palmeirenses were excited about Prass and Jesus making the list (abundant good-luck wishes to both on social media) there were equal amounts of concern. The Brazilian championship will carry on as normal during the Olympic games, meaning team captain Prass and top scorer Gabriel (16 braces so far in 2016) will miss six rounds of the Brasileirão: Atlético-MG (home), Botafogo (away), Chapecoense (away), Vitória (home), Atlético-PR (away) e Ponte Preta (home). Perhaps this will mark the return of young and speedy Erik into Cuca’s starting eleven. Our coach has some thinking and testing to do.

Below, the complete list, to be confirmed by 14 July.

Goalkeepers: Fernando Prass (Palmeiras), Uilson (Atlético-MG)
Defenders: Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (São Paulo), Zeca (Santos), Douglas Santos (Atlético-MG), Luan (Vasco), William (Internacional)
Midfielders: Rafinha Alcântara (Barcelona), Rodrigo Dourado (Internacional), Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk), Thiago Maia (Santos), Felipe Anderson (Lazio)
Forwards: Neymar (Barcelona), Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Gabriel (Santos), Luan (Grêmio)

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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001_pigcollection_logoGermanic immigrants first arrived in Brazil starting at the beginning of the 1800’s. From 1824 to 1969, a modest estimation is that some 250.000 Germans arrived in Brazil – the fourth largest immigrant community to settle in the country, after the Portuguese, Italians and Spaniards. A majority of them arrived between the I and the II World War.

Early German immigrants settled mostly in rural areas of Brazil, making their living as farmers. Those arriving in the 20th century mostly settled in big towns, being middle-class labourers from urban areas of Germany. During the 1920s and 1930s, Brazil also attracted a significant number of German Jews, who settled mostly in São Paulo.

Many aspects of Brazil’s culture has been influenced by Germans, especially so in the southern states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul: the Brazilian Oktoberfest in Blumenau is second only to Munich in size. Roughly 5-10 million Brazilians are believed to have German ancestry and the Germanic influence in Brazil is undeniable, as two of Brazil’s most famous personalities can attest to: architect Oscar Niemeyer and über-model Gisele Bündchen.

With all this “germanification” going on in Brazil for centuries, how come Palmeiras have never played in Germany? Good question! The Verdão have played German teams 8 times (4 victories, 3 draws and 1 defeat) and the list includes heavy-hitters like Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund. However, not one clash has taken place on German soil.

Regardless, to all our German readers, near and far: danke schön!
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artwork by Custódio Rosa

research by Cláudio of IPE

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The Allianz Parque press office confirms that the Arena will host several major attractions in the second half of 2015. So far, three shows are confirmed between September and October.

Rod Stewart takes possession of the Allianz Parque amphitheatre on September 19, treating the audience to rock gems from his career that spans no less than five decades. The outspoken Celtic F.C. supporter will certainly enjoy the green surroundings.

On 25 September, pop artist Katy Perry brings her megashow “The Prismatic World Tour” to the people of São Paulo. 

And on October 24, rock band Muse takes the centre stage with their “Drones” tour.

As always, part of the net revenues from these events go to Palmeiras. But there is no such thing as a free lunch: some of the events might clash with home games, dislocating Palmeiras to another venue (and if so, receiving compensation from the construction company WTorre). Another negative aspect is the wear and tear of the grass. After the Paul McCartney and Roberto Carlos shows, the pitch didn’t look good at all. This week however, more resistant grass for the winter season is being planted, which will hopefully limit the damage.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Dreams of a sixth World Cup title for Brazil were dashed yesterday as a completely dominant Germany humiliated the men in yellow. 7-1 is not only Brazil’s worst defeat ever, but also the second worst in the history of World Cups, only trumped by Sweden’s 8-0 against Cuba in the quarterfinals of 1938.

Muller opened up the scorecard for Germany in the tenth minute, then Miroslav Klose drilled home, becoming World Cup top scorer of all times with his 16 braces. What then followed at the Mineirão stadium was an utter disgrace: Brazil’s defence suffered a complete meltdown, allowing the German side another three goals in six minutes, making the score 5-0 with 28 minutes on the clock. We saw Germany cruise through the remainder of the game, adding two additional braces in the second half, before Oscar defined the end result in the dying minutes.
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There are explanations to the seemingly inexplicable. Emotional aspects come into the mix, the pressure on the squad, expectations. The collective blow of losing Neymar and the whole “play for him” sentimentalism that followed. Motivation and emotion, the us-against-the-world, defined as the “Família Scolari” approach – has worked on previous occasions. This time, it backfired.

Now, would yesterday have played out much differently with Neymar and Thiago Silva on the pitch? Not likely.

Brazil lost because of hubris, believing it could take Germany on as equals.

The German squad has been carefully crafted for years, with players moulded to fit like pieces in a machine. In comparison, the Brazilian “little canary” is young and unexperienced as a group. Unexperienced, chiefly because of the many different players that have been tested and discarded in the last few years.

Scolari’s relaxed attitude to training hasn’t helped: Brazil played Chile on a Friday, the players only going back to train on the Tuesday.

However, tactical errors must be considered the primary reason for yesterday’s disaster. As during earlier games, Brazil’s lack of a midfield was obvious. Against Chile and Colombia, Brazil suffered but pulled through. Against Germany, not strengthening the midfield equalled suicide. Penetrating Brazil’s defence with ease, it looked like the Germans were on a training session.

Who’s to blame? Primarily coach Scolari.

But we need to look further.
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Brazilian football has stagnated. Internally, externally. On and off the pitch. And this while maintaining an absurdly arrogant attitude. It’s time for Brazilian football to rethink itself, to reframe glories and values from the past into a modern context, a globalized perspective, humbly learning from others and implementing profound changes. At club level, in regard to legislation, financial transparency, the Federation, relationship with sponsors (in particular Rede Globo), match hours… The list could go on and on.

Change must also happen at player level, but not through “implementing”: something is lacking in terms of maturity and responsibility on an individual level. Something has been lost (or were never present) behind all the hairdos, gang style signs, instagraming, silly dance moves and everything else taking the focus away from football. Watching Brazilian TV these last few weeks, you wouldn’t believe the number of commercials featuring Scolari and Brazilian key players. Neither would you believe the easy access selected Brazilian entertainment TV has had to players and staff throughout the tournament.

Brazil needs to man up. Learn when it’s time for fun and when it’s not. Give and demand respect. In so many aspects; football being only one of them.

Brazil takes on either the Netherlands or Argentina in Saturday’s bronze match in Brasilia. In case of an all-out South America clash, FIFA has already signalled it will suspend the selling of alcoholic beverage at the Mané Garrincha stadium. Wisely so, if you ask me.

The World Cup, as a tournament, is a success. The path leading up to it has been a tragedy of wasted money and opportunities. As for the legacy? For Brazil? Let me get back to you on that one.

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[It’s not the destination, but the journey that counts. Now, what if it’s been a really bad journey?]

Expectations and excitement has been building up for some time, as the number of canary-yellow jerseys take to the streets in greater numbers by the day. Flags everywhere, pavements chalked up in creative green, yellow and blue designs, peoples smiling in anticipation of the sixth World Cup title destined for the country where football is considered part of the DNA.

That was four years ago.

In 2014, World Cup in Brazil can be resumed as one, resigned, collective sigh. Yes, resigned, because Brazil has had SEVEN years to prepare for what was supposed to be the party of parties, the event of events, the celebration of celebrations. Of Brazil showcasing all its social, civic and economic progress, its joyeux de vivre, its welcoming ways and, of course, superior football. Well, Brazil is certainly a favourite to lift the trophy, so there might be glimpses of superiority on the pitch. Forget the rest.

At the moment of writing, kickoff is less than two days away. Preparations for hosting the 2014 World Cup has been Brazil in a nutshell: a striking incapability to plan, to execute, to conduct with transparency. Considerably less than half of promised infrastructure improvements have been concluded. Some probably never will be – which is far worse than all those aborted before any physical labour begun – as it’s literarily money down the drain. However which way you look at it, costs have soared, and corruption is taking its toll. Behold the Mané Garrincha stadium in the capital of the country, originally budgeted at around 800 million reais (US$ 350 million), but today almost hitting the 2 billion (US$ 900 million) mark. Or the Itaqueirão stadium, where the opening game will be held, situated in one of the poorer outskirts of the city of São Paulo. The amount of public money poured into these and other stadiums around Brazil… A stark contrast to the “World Cup of Private Investments” enthusiastically proclaimed by President Dilma Rousseff a few years back.

True enough, the relationship Brazilians nourish to football has gone rather sour over the last decade or so. How could it not? With access to information increasing by the day, especially the young are increasingly turning their backs on the corrupt and inefficient Brazilian Football Federation, the poorly run football clubs, the badly kept stadiums, the overpriced tickets, the insane hours imposed by leading broadcaster Globo, the arbitrary rulings of the Superior Tribunal of Sports… Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the questionable quality of Brazilian football itself. So, yes: football in Brazil is not what it used to be – not on club level, not on National Squad level. Still, that’s only part of the explanation, and a minor part. You see, Brazil is, still, a football nation.

Thing is, not only World Cup preparations but the whole of Brazil has gone awry. The economy has entered into a general stalemate, suffering under notoriously heavy bureaucracy, lack of fiscal reforms and a desperate need for investments in infrastructure. Tens of millions have been lifted out of extreme poverty due to social welfare programs and grants, while also the lower middle class has been growing considerably in numbers. Making up the lion’s part of Brazilian society, these people struggle immensely to make ends meet, and increasingly so as inflation is again moving up the scales, bringing back ghosts past.

The economy certainly is a matter of outmost concern, as is the poor educational system and the even worse public health care. Add the record-breaking 50.000+ homicides in 2013, and the 60.000+ deaths in traffic accidents – the latest fatality being Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s nephew only a few hours ago…

Elections are due this fall, but when you examine the candidates, there’s little hope in sight.

Brazilians are tired. Frustrated. Angry. They would love to celebrate the World Cup, but many lack the energy. And even larger numbers seem torn between mixed feelings. To what extent can I enjoy the World Cup without giving the government my stamp of approval? By having fun, am I being a fool, pathetically duped into submission?

Others voice a different opinion. “OK, there has been issues, but now all that must be set aside: it’s our duty to do the best World Cup humanly possible, the country’s image is at stake.”

Perhaps we’ll have a World Cup without major incidents. Brazil showing the world “they can do it”. Backslapping all around. And then refocus: after all, we have presidential elections coming up, then the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Perhaps we’ll have protests, and protests escalating into what we saw in mid 2013, with – literally – millions of people taking to the streets, jeopardising the entire World Cup. Protests that would show governments and FIFA that PEOPLE is a force to reckon with.

In a broader perspective, I have a feeling the second image of Brazil would be so much more enriching for the country, and for the world.

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ps. I’d really welcome your thoughts on this post; feel more than free to leave your comments.

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The last two lines of Palmeiras’ anthem are not only strong but carry a political message, making direct reference to the Italian immigrants who founded Palmeiras. Victims of persecution and even labelled “the enemy” during WWII as Brazil sided with the allied forces against Germany, Italy and Japan, the italianinhos in Brazil felt the ugliness of exclusion. The hymn – written in 1949 and with the agony of being looked upon as unpatriotic in fresh memory – leaves no room for excuses: “we know how to be Brazilian, while maintaining our (Italian) core” is the message contained in the lines that in their original version read “que sabe ser brasileiro, ostentando a sua fibra”.

The practice of implicit or explicit exclusion continues to this date, although the target has moved: in today’s Brazil, Indigenous peoples – and especially those living in remote areas or close to our national borders – are by some labelled “a risk to national security”, as if prone to side against Brazil in case of a conflict with a neighbouring state or might suddenly demand secession, seeking to break free from Brazil.

Such arguments can only be sustained by someone who has never visited Indigenous communities or truly sat down to listen to what Indigenous persons have to say.

Take the Yanomami. Their experiences with non-Indigenous (i.e. our) society has been anything but a smooth ride. Their more frequent contact with the outside world happened during the 1950s and 1960s, but it was the gold rush in the 1970s and especially in the 1980s that led to a dramatic population decrease as the Yanomami fell victim to diseases like the measles, malaria, tuberculosis… Even a regular flu could be enough to wipe out an entire village. In addition, the Yanomami were the victims of other kinds of violence and it was only when they faced the risk of annihilation that the Brazilian government gave in to national and international pressure, demarcating their territory in 1992 and expelling more than 40.000 gold diggers.

Today, the Yanomami consist of a little over 19.000 individuals on the Brazilian side and another 15.000 in Venezuela. The Brazilian Yanomami live inside a territory of roughly 95.000 square kilometres and at large maintain a traditional life style. They have created three representative organisations, the largest one being Hutukara Associação Yanomami, or HAY for short.

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami is the president of HAY and one of the most respected Indigenous leaders in Brazil. Having lost his father and most of his close family to the diseases brought in by the gold diggers, he lived for a few years in the city before returning to the village to become a fierce advocate of the right of Indigenous peoples to chose their own destiny. He’s seen it all, including “progress” and what it does to people and their societies. Based on this he’s made his choice in a firm belief that he and his people are better off where they are, maintaining a traditional way of life.

At the Hutukara General Assembly, some 600 Yanomami from all over the territory gathered to discuss many of the issues that are important to the Yanomami people: territorial surveillance, the continuous presence of illegal gold diggers and farmers on Yanomami land, health care, schools and social/cultural identity among others.

Again: the early Yanomami experience with non-Indigenous society was mostly disastrous in nature: gold diggers, timber loggers, even government officials trying to “pacify” the “savages” and “integrate” them. As of 1988 and the new Brazilian Constitution – where extensive rights for Indigenous peoples were guaranteed – improvements started to occur, most notably in the demarcation of Indigenous territories and the understanding that non-contacted tribes should be allowed to decide when, where and if to have contact with the outside world.

Being Brazilian, and knowing that they are Brazilian, the Yanomami seek what their country’s  constitution entitles them to: access to their traditional lands – free from intruders – allowing then to live according to their own beliefs and wishes. They depend on the Brazilian government to provide protection. But not only that: as other citizens, also the Yanomami have the right to decent health care and schools. In addition, they have the right to be not only informed about but actually approve of any governmental activity – for example infrastructure projects – that directly or indirectly interfere with their lives. This is called the principle of free, prior and informed consent and is to be found both in the Brazilian constitution as well as in several international conventions ratified by Brazil, for example the ILO 169.

The Yanomami are Yanomami. And they are Brazilian. Denying them their rights or discriminating against them is criminal. Just like discriminating against those of Italian, German and Japanese descent living in Brazil was a crime at the time. As was forcing Palestra Italia to abandon its name and become Palmeiras. As was forcing palmeirenses to physically – and physically should be understood literarily – stand up to defend Palmeiras and the Palestra Italia stadium from being invaded by the mobs.

I didn’t find any palmeirenses at the Demini village while participating in the General Assembly. I did however find the Yanomami proud and beautiful as ever, just like my Palmeiras. Maintaining their core, just like my Palmeiras.

Cut off from all communication, I could nothing but interrogate persons from the incoming single engine planes Thursday morning to find out about Bahia vs. Palmeiras. Finally, a public prosecutor from Porto Alegre relieved me of my agony: we were alive by the smallest possible margin.

Avanti Palestra!
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*All pictures by Kristian Bengtson except the last one by Patricia Benthien.

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