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Palmeiras President Maurício Galiotte

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In light of Sunday’s debacle, Palmeiras yesterday night published an open letter to the club’s supporters. The letter reads [in an unofficial translation]:

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The Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras understands that the institution and its supporters suffered hard and irreparable damage by the disastrous, incompetent and irregular performance put out by the referees responsible for last Sunday’s game between Palmeiras and Corinthians.

In violation of the rulebook, there was clear and evident external interference in the arbitration, as indisputably proven by the images. As a response to this, in the name of integrity and transparency during games, Palmeiras understands it is non-negotiable that the following measures be adopted by the Paulista Football Federation:

1. Implementation of the Video Assistant Referee for all matches of the São Paulo Championship as of 2019;

2. Creation of a recording system, allowing for the disclosure, when necessary, of all communication between referees during the game;

3. Careful reassessment of the directors of the Referees Department of the Paulista Football Federation, as well as a more rigorous evaluation of those in charge of the matches.

Until there is an official signal coming from the Paulista Football Federation that these transparency measures will be adopted, Palmeiras’ relations with the Federation remain suspended.

On the pitch, Palmeiras consider last Sunday’s game a regrettable page now turned. There are other competitions ahead of us and we will make our outmost efforts to achieve them. The Palmeiras supporter is key in this process and his acknowledged involvement will be even more important.

Avanti Palestra!

Regards,

SOCIEDADE ESPORTIVA PALMEIRAS
Maurício Precivalle Galiotte
President

— ooo —

Palmeiras are using strong language. If the club will be able to withstand the pressure and/or provoke change, only time will tell.

Brazilian football is facing a crisis, Sunday’s events nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Primary culprits have been named before. Extremely badly managed, non-transparent, biased, elitist, with poor refereeing (at best), and overall low levels of stadium attendance. The football federations, the confederation and Rede Globo are putting out a sad product, selling it as top notch to sponsors. Possibly these sponsors would be more concerned about the quality of the product they associate their brands with, should they face rejection among football lovers.

For your information, a list of brands sponsoring main championships and/or transmissions:

Rede Globo
Banco Itaú, Brahma, Chevrolet, Hypermarcas, Unilever, Vivo

Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF)
Cimed, English Live, Gol, Guaraná Antártica Nike, Itaú, Mastercard, Ultrafarma, Universidade Brasil, Vivo

Paulista Football Federation (FPF)
Bet 90, Canon, Gafisa, Itaipava, Kappa, Penalty, Sky

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globo_respeite

“Football is run by Globo; the Federation is just a meeting room” – Alex

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Hundreds of tiny cuts. Day in, day out. Took me some years to notice, partly due to innocence, partly due to my inability to pick up the finer strokes and the “in-between-the-lines” in a still to me very foreign language.

From those early stages of ignorance, I progressed to denial, considering a wide, orchestrated campaign a preposterous idea, driven by the passion that blinds the best of supporters of any club at any given time.

Patterns became more visible over time, and so did my knowledge of the society in which I find myself inserted. These and other things converted to a different insight, laying the foundation for what I am about to address: the multifaceted and deliberate attacks on the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras.

These attacks are partly rooted in decade-long feuds of both political and social order; the Italian origin of the club; the “enemy-of-the-state” sentiment flourishing during WWII, culminating in the forced name change from Palestra Italia to Palmeiras; the biased Superior Tribunal of Sports, based in Rio de Janeiro, always catering for the interests of carioca teams; the rotten to the bone Brazilian Football Federation (CBF); the equally pathetic Paulista Football Federation… These and other factors directly and indirectly contribute to direct and indirect attacks on Palmeiras, exemplified on numerous occasions over the years, as exposed here at AP.

Yet, we are still to address Palmeiras’ main foe, the true hydra. The Globo television network and its affiliates.

The power of Rede Globo is unrivalled, and on many fronts. For decades, this giant of the Brazilian media has called the shots concerning the Brazilian championship and the National Squad, a puppet master of sorts behind the CBF. The Network assigns time slots for games without regard to stadium attendance, only concerned about securing maximum revenues from their primary cash cows, the telenovelas. Weekday games finish close to midnight, spectators sometime left without public transport to get home by.

The Network has its darlings, Flamengo and Corinthians. “The Clubs of the People”. Little efforts sparred to award advantages to these two in the pursuit of a “Barcelona vs. Real Madrid of the Americas” setting. Flamengo and Corinthians receive about the double in broadcasting rights compared to other major clubs, including Palmeiras, without any numbers to justify the distortion. They get more airtime, without television ratings to back up the decision. The two frequently enjoy positive plot twists: a Flamengo draw is an “increased undefeated streak” while a Palmeiras draw is a “narrow escape from embarrassing defeat”. Would you believe the Globo network even sponsors the fabrication of banners and flags for the organised supporter groups of Flamengo and Corinthians?
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The inflated broadcasting revenues enjoyed by the aforementioned darlings roughly correspond to what Palmeiras receive through the club’s Master Sponsorship agreement with Crefisa/FAM. Indeed an important source of revenue, albeit only making up some 16% of Palmeiras’ total inflow. The club is however frequently criticized in the media for “having accepted being hostage to the capital” and dependent on the whims of a sponsor.

Last year, after lengthy negotiations, Palmeiras opted for selling their 2019-2024 cable TV transmission rights to newcomers Esporte Interativo, part of the Turner Broadcasting Company, the television arm of Time Warner. This has generated two immediate effects: for the Palmeiras games that Globo would retain the right to broadcast (open air and PPV), the Network has offered Palmeiras a deal 20% below that of previous year. Palmeiras have so far refused; if stalemate prevails, Globo will be without broadcasting rights to 1/10 of games in the 2019 Brazilian championship.

More seriously, and as former Globo employee Luiz Ademar confirmed a few weeks back, the Network has been instructing their sports journalists to trash-talk Palmeiras. And not only Palmeiras, but any team that signs with Esporte Interativo.

Palmeiras’ exposure has diminished on cable TV and even on the radio, with the CBN and Globo radio stations sometimes opting out from a transmission that seemed like a no-brainer.

Add to this the absurdities frequently seen on social media. I refuse to linger on this topic, but will provide you with one example: “How many goals will Teo Gutiérres score against Palmeiras?” is the question posed by Globo affiliate SporTV. One would think the Network would express support for a Brazilian representative in the Libertadores Cup. Think again.
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Isolated, the aforementioned examples are easily brushed aside. Compiled, they draw a different picture. A picture also subject to healthy scepticism, were it not for its perpetration over time. And its effect on the referees.

No, there is no orchestrated conspiracy among referees to benefit certain teams and make life harder for others. No need to: everyone knows what happens to the career of a referee who makes a crucial mistake or two against Flamengo or Corinthians. Referees in Brazil never talk, unless they have committed such a mistake. A few weeks back we had one actually crying to the press outside the locker rooms.

No wonder attendance is dropping all over the scale. Supporters in general are tired of the bias, the manipulation and the outright lies. Palmeiras supporters in particular, who last week launched a twitter campaign that within hours reached the worldwide trending topics with the hashtag “GloboRespeiteOPalmeiras”.

Unhappy costumers is normally not good for business. In this particular context, unhappy costumers might hurt the brands associating themselves with Rede Globo in general and with football in particular. Food for thought.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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In a very balanced clash between leader Corinthians and second placed Palmeiras, the refereeing was instrumental, allowing Corinthians to open up the scorecard through a clear offside goal halfway into the first half. Dazed and confused, taking greater risks in the chase for the equalizer, Palmeiras quicly suffered a second blow, then diminished through Mina before allowing Corinthians a third goal, resulting from a dubious penalty. Moisés scored a beauty in the second half, closing the scorecard and Palmeiras’ title aspirations.
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“The refereeing is just poor, the errors even out in the end” is a common argument. An argument that ignores the obvious: Corinthians are the team most times directly and decisively benefitted by the referees in this year’s edition of the Brazilian Championship. On the other side of the scale, Palmeiras, the team most times disfavoured. Mind you, this is not supporters talking, but according to the Brazilian Football Federation’s own data analysis, available online. A quick crunching of numbers, correcting the tables for points won and lost through undisputable refereeing errors, and the current standing would be Santos (61), Palmeiras (60), Grêmio (58) and Corinthians (54).

Palmeiras are now 8 points behind with six rounds to go. 2017 has boiled down to securing a spot in the top four, which would guarantee direct qualification to the Libertadores Cup, in turn crucial for less turbulent 2018 pre-season preparations.

On Thursday, in Salvador, Palmeiras visit Vitória, just below the relegation divider. Expect a “difficult bone to gnaw”, as one would say in Portuguese.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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The additional wide-angle video footage that have surfaced in the last couple of days shows that Palmeiras were the victim of an outright assault at the Campeón del Siglo stadium, Montevideo. It all starts seconds before the final whistle, Willian going down after receiving a punch to the face, from behind, inside the penalty box. At the final whistle, Felipe Melo raises his arms towards the sky in his characteristic “thank-you” prass_attackedgesture, while several Peñarol players approach him, starts tugging (Melo still with his arms raised, defensively) then initiate a chase. Meanwhile, keeper Fernando Prass (pictured) tries to defend himself from a series of kicks and punches from three Peñarol players. As the debacle unfolds, now generalised, we see invading Peñarol supporters participating and, I kid you not, Uruguayan press (there is video footage of a photographer hitting Felipe Melo with what seems to be his tripod).

Yesterday morning, Palmeiras lawyer Leonardo Holanda personally handed in documents and video evidence at the Conmebol headquarters in Asunción, Paraguay. Piece of cake, right. Think again.

Awaiting trial, Conmebol has preventively suspended four players for three games: Palmeiras’ Felipe Melo and Peñarol players Nández, Mier and Lucas Hernandez. For starters, none of these was responsible for knocking out Willian.

Worse, the official reports from the referee and the Conmebol delegate state that the ruckus started when Felipe Melo, facing the Peñarol bench, made a gesture towards the sky, provoking a reaction from Peñarol players before mutual punches were thrown. The reports imply that “had it not been for Melo…”

On the day, Peñarol’s president stated he had ordered the gates closed out of concern for security (for whom? certainly not for Palmeiras players and staff left isolated on the pitch to face the rage of the crowds). The other day, Conmebol claimed THEY ordered the gates closed.

The signals are extremely worrying. Seems Conmebol will spare little effort to, at least partially, blame Palmeiras for the events in Montevideo. Absurd? Yes, but not that surprising, considering the entity’s stance on previous occasions involving Brazilian clubs and any other Spanish-speaking neighbours.

Considering the above, it is even sadder to register the deafening silence from the Brazilian Football Confederation. Add to that the silence from other Brazilian clubs and the overall lack of support from Brazilian sports journalists.

Seldom has it come through more clearly: we are on our own.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Yesterday’s Palmeiras vs Cruzeiro was a well-played and intense affair, nevertheless resulting in a goalless draw. I could and should elaborate a bit more on the game, the decision to play in Araraquara (the Allianz Parque not available for having received an Andrea Bocelli show the previous night) and the unusual lengths Palmeiras – or rather Paulo Nobre – is ready to go to have national squad members Gabriel Jesus and Mina present and in playing conditions. Could, should, but will not.

The single most important aspect of yesterday’s round happened during Fluminense vs Flamengo, where the runners-up were ahead on two occasions, before Fluminense scored the equaliser, an offside header, five minutes from stoppage time. The linesman raised his flag, but referee Sandro Meira Ricci overruled him, allowing the goal. A few minutes of discussion, as would be expected, then the entire Flamengo bench poured onto the pitch, affirming goalscorer Henrique had indeed been offside. After some ten minutes of this, the referee reversed his decision, disallowing the goal.
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More than one Flamengo player confirmed they learnt Henrique was offside from external sources, i.e. someone watching TV or listening to the radio passing the information on to the bench. Players brought this to the referee, who succumbed to the pressure. Nothing of this appears in the referee’s post-game report, released only this morning: “game stopped for 10 minutes as players from both teams protested against a referee decision relating to an offside situation” and then, a little further down, “nothing out of the ordinary to report”.

Referees acting upon external sources of information are in clear violation of FIFA regulations and of a magnitude that sets the stage for a rematch. Fluminense president Peter Siemsen says he will demand it, but he does not stand a chance. Just as Palmeiras in 2012, when Barcos’ “Hand of God” brace against Internacional was disallowed due to external interference, contributing to the Verdão’s relegation that year.

justice“Why do you defend an unjust goal? Henrique was clearly offside, and justice was made in the end”, some shallow minds argue, failing to see that “making justice” in that particular moment automatically implied in violating justice on every single previous occasion involving controversial refereeing in the championship.

The correct thing would be a rematch. As many clubs as possible should joint ranks with Fluminense (oh, the irony) to endorse that rules and regulations be followed. “Good luck”.

— ooo —

If yesterday’s results stand, Palmeiras are found at 61 points, Flamengo at 60 and Atlético Mineiro, who beat América Mineiro 3-0, at 56. With eight rounds to go. Buckle up, people.

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It is not for nothing the Brazilian league is considered one of the most difficult in the world. I am obviously not talking quality, but spread. Any given year, a large number of teams have real possibilities of bagging the title, and 2016 is no exception, the difference between the top six teams, after 17 rounds, having never been smaller than this years’ four points.
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Palmeiras seemed nervous yesterday. Perhaps the pressure of closing the round, knowing all direct contenders had won their games, contributed. Moisés was back in the starting eleven, but there was no chemistry between him and Cleiton Xavier, once again underperforming. With Tchê Tchê suspended, Cuca opted for Thiago Santos, who had to double up his efforts, the Rio team cramping up the midfield. Up front, Palmeiras changed it up a bit with Leandro Pereira as a reference point, Erik and Guedes playing wide, leaving Dudu, rather surprisingly, on the bench.

Botafogo on one of those nights when everything run as clockwork… The result was not unfair and, as far as Palmeiras go, a combination of collective and individual failures.

The second consecutive defeat pushed Palmeiras down to third place, with the same number of points as Santos and one point behind Corinthians. Two rounds left in this first half of the championship: a tough away game on Thursday against Chapecoense, then Vitória at home. Cuca needs to take a long, hard look at his men at think outside the box, while at the same time go back to basics. I believe it is time to retract a bit from the optimistic and offensive style as of late, tighten defence and play on the mistakes of our opponents. Our squad has quality, our coach idem, and we all know the well above average working conditions Palmeiras provide. It is just a matter of riding out the storm then set the course straight. Simple. At least in theory. Now, we all know how hard it can be to shake off that negativity and anxiety once installed.

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The hellish weekend was not restricted to Sunday’s bout, but actually kicked off on Saturday with the news that keeper Fernando Prass – serving the Olympic team – had been cut from the squad due to a fracture to his elbow.

After recovering from surgery in 2014, Prass played in 120 out of 124 Palmeiras games, never being out due to injury. Within a week with the Olympic squad, he felt the elbow. Rested for a few days. Was evaluated and declared ALL GOOD by the Olympic team’s medical staff, who put him back on training. Next day, off to the hospital, where a fracture was confirmed.

prass_elbowThe whole thing stinks. Improper training paired with an incompetent medical team managed to screw up Brazil’s best keeper in less than ten days. Prass himself is, of course, devastated: finally called up for the National squad, this was (I believe) his one and only chance to pull on the canarinho jersey. Check out the swollen elbow…

Fernando is not expected back on the pitch this year. Vagner, his designated substitute for eight rounds, must now step up to a completely new challenge: be Palmeiras’ 2016 champion keeper. Anything Palmeiras wishes both men the best of luck in their intertwined but very separate paths in the months to come.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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I am not even going to try. Sure, Palmeiras faced Chapecoense without three key players: Zé Roberto, Robinho, Thiago Santos. And the Santa Catarina side came boosted with moral after having advanced to the quarterfinals of the South America Cup earlier in the week. Not the ideal scenario for an away game. It got worse when we saw the line-up.

Coach Oliveira opted for Amaral besides Arouca and kept Egídio on the left flank. Egídio might have some offensive qualities (although these have been absent as of late) but his defensive qualities is non-existent. An open invitation to advance. Immediately explored. And when Arouca was injured halfway through the first half, our defensive lines fell apart completely.

What about Palmeiras’ strong offense? Dudu, Barrios, Gabriel Jesus and Rafael Marques were all there, but there was no midfield to talk about, no one exercising the playmaker. Again, coach Oliveira curiously opted for keeping both Allione and Fellype Gabriel out of the starting eleven, leaving it to Rafael Marques and Dudu to act out the roles of Robinho and Zé Roberto. No go.

All of the above is however not enough to explain the shamefully inflated score. Our men resigned. They should never. Never. Not only the squad needs an earful: also coach Oliveira must feel a bit of heat.

Now don’t think the absurdities stop there. The referee yesterday put on quite a show. After a duel between Egídio and Barbio, the former was shown a red card and sent off. Minutes later, in his earpiece, referee Jaílson Freitas received word from the fourth referee, trotted over to him and learnt that Egídio did not commit a foul, that he had won the ball cleanly in dispute with the Chapecoense forward. Result: Freitas overturned his decision and brought Egídio back from the locker room.

True, Egídio did not commit the foul, but that is irrelevant considering the much more important question: why did it take the fourth referee several minutes to get his ocular testimony through to referee Freitas? There is only one plausible explanation: the fourth referee did not actually see the Egídio vs. Barbio situation, but was informed about it by outsiders, by people with access to television replays. Obviously, a gigantic breach of FIFA regulations.

It has been discussed here before. The question of whether or not to adopt electronic/external aid for football referees is a necessary (and to a certain extent ongoing) debate, but any implementation of the sort must take place in the open, in full transparency and with FIFA authorization. The discussion [sic] that the 2012 handball incident stirred led absolutely nowhere. Don’t expect different in 2015.
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The Brazilian championship now takes a 10-days break as World Cup classifiers are played. This is bad news for Palmeiras supporters, who will have this last game glued to their retinas with nothing to replace it with. On the other hand, the break is a godsend for Marcelo Oliveira and the squad, who must take full advantage of the opportunity to reflect and correct. Nine rounds to go, Palmeiras in sixth with 45 points, one point from that Libertadores spot and with upcoming semi-finals in the Brazil Cup. No time for regrets.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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