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claws.
The judicial dead-lock between Palmeiras and WTorre continues, but, at least, construction on the Allianz Parque proceeds. And as of now, exciting and eye-catching stages will initiate.

Inside the premises, workers are marking the spots where the 43.603 seats will be installed. The first chairs should materialise within a week or two. Hand rails are already in place. Spotlights and floodlights are being positioned.

Meanwhile, a company contracted by WTorre is finishing work on the drainage and irrigation system, with layers of gravel and sand being poured onto the centre of the stadium. In late April, the surface will be receiving grass.

coverThese are all important steps, but supporters will nevertheless primarily notice the installation of the external coating which initiated a few days ago. Plates of stainless steel, with holes to facilitate the circulation of air, can already be noticed by anyone passing by on the Padre Antônio Tomaz street. The whole facade of the stadium will receive the steel plates, with exception of the five “claws” that raise from ground level all the way to the roof: these will receive a different finish and colour scheme, most likely green and white.

43 months ago, WTorre promised handing over the finished stadium within 30 months. The delays, the judicial dead-lock and the current status of completion have made Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre cautiously talk about inauguration only in 2015. Palmeiras are also considering taking legal action against WTorre: the contract stipulates rather hefty fines in case of delays. Might be nothing but a way to tweak up the pressure on WTorre, but it’s nevertheless a valid approach.

In the other corner, WTorre defiantly claims the stadium will be ready by the end of June. If it’s a bluff, it’s a bold one: WTorre is reportedly negotiating with AEG dates for different events at the Allianz Parque for the second half of 2014. Apparently, six events have been pre-booked so far.

Below, courtesy of globoesporte.com, an up-to-date mosaic of the construction site.
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mosaico_palmeiras_69

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Catching up on last week’s events is a more than joyful exercise, as Palmeiras’ engine is running smoothly on so many levels. It’s been many years without such apparent tranquillity in the squad, backstage, even [sic] in the press.

Palmeiras 2-1 Bragantino
Last Friday, Palmeiras bagged another three points after a convincing display against hard-hitting Bragantino. The opponent came determined to wreck Palmeiras’ creativity with all means available, but a more than inspired Valdivia – who, if he keeps his current form, soon will again deserve his nickname El Mago – found the holes: masterly serving Kardec who with plastic perfection bent it past the keeper; then himself taking a surprising shot with exceptional precision. With 2-0 on the scorecard, Palmeiras slowed down, allowing Bragantino to reduce and almost level: a common but unforgiving attitude that Kleina must deal with within the squad. Still, and with the last 20 minutes included, Palmeiras of last Friday performed much more convincingly than against Icasa the Tuesday before, even though the 4-0 score against Icasa might have you think differently.

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Fernandinho extends his contract
It took a while, but Palmeiras finally announced the extension of the contract with left-winger turned midfielder Fernandinho. As compensation, Fernandinho’s club Oeste received 20-year-old Diego Souza: both players will remain at respective new club until the end of the year.

Fernandinho suffered a serious knee injury soon after arrival and has yet to prove his worth after almost nine months parked in the medical department. Coach Kleina has faith in his potential. Oeste wanted to negotiate him definitively, but Palmeiras’ lack of funds was a major obstacle. After rounds of negotiations the situation was solved with the Souza swap and a small salary raise for Fernandinho.

Patrik, the Sport
Midfielder Patrik had supporters on the brink of nervous breakdowns in 2012, Scolari insisting on using him time after time. He wasn’t able to convince Kleina and the athlete ended up leaving for South Korean club Gangwon, where he didn’t remain long. Just back at Palmeiras – enough to provoke a minor storm of protests on social media – within a week his new destination was settled: Sport of Recife. Another lending deal. Could have made that one a permanent.

Blue and I like it
All these players being sent off to gain experience at other clubs are not only reducing Palmeiras’ oversized squad, but also the number of monthly pay checks. The month of June was the first one since July 2012 that closed with a positive balance and, consequently, also the first one during Nobre’s mandate to do so: some US$ 250.000. With roughly US$ 10 million of accumulated deficit January-May, this is a small but important step in the right direction. And, mind you, without yet having signed a major sponsor.

Several measures have led to the financial turnaround, not only the swapping and lending of players: the extinction of Palmeiras B has been fundamental, so has the hibernation of all of Palmeiras’ professional Olympic sports genres that weren’t able to maintain themselves through sponsorships. Times are rough and rather drastic measures have been taken; justified when you’re US$ 2 million short month after month.

Lapidating the jewel…
Last week new aerial photos of the Allianz Parque were released: with 65% of the construction underway, almost all of the supporting structure is in place.
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#S40MARCOS
Yesterday, 4 August, the greatest Palmeiras keeper of them all turned 40. Congratulations, Saint Marcos!

Loves me, loves me not
The Barcos poll was rather inconclusive: 57% wouldn’t have him back, 43% would. Something tells me had the negotiations regarding his exit been better handled, numbers would be the opposite.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Allianz_Parque_cover.
Yesterday, the official name of Palmeiras’ New Arena was announced. Chosen by 89% of supporters (a total of 620.000 votes cast) and the sponsor alike, “Allianz Parque” it is. Be sure to check out the video below, screened during the announcement cerimony.

Some consider this the ultimate display of selling one’s soul. Others, that the Brazilian football landscape is changing and that Palmeiras are spearheading that change. After all, we see a solid and competent construction company – WTorre; a world-leading events and sports promoter – AEG; an international and financially strong investor in sports – Allianz Insurance Group; and nothing less than the Brazilian club with most national titles – Palmeiras. Add some 15 million supporters. These five components now come together under one roof,Allianz_Parque_logo merging tradition, innovation and passion for decades to come. It’s safe to assume many a rivalling football director lay sleepless at night.
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Changing the subject: there are things happening on the transfer front.

Forward Ananias has arrived as part of the deal involving Souza, who left for Cruzeiro. The 24-year-old comes on loan until the end of the year, with Palmeiras having the option to extend the loan period or even purchase the player. The deal also contemplates an old debt that Cruzeiro settles for Palmeiras, plus the option for Palmeiras to buy Charles and Marcelo Oliveira after their loan periods come to an end at Palmeiras.

Ananias, born in São Luís (state of Maranhão), has previously played for Bahia and Portuguesa. At his first press conference, he promised to work hard and honour the Palmeiras jersey. If he doesn’t, he certainly won’t last long. That being said: I have a good feeling about this one.

Another player already considered in the bag is midfielder Mendieta. Clubs, player and agent have reached an agreement and the Paraguayan is expected in São Paulo any day now to undergo medical exams and sign the contract. Four seasons, apparently. Speculated transfer sum some US$ 1.5 million. Good and timely signing, if going through.

Other speculations include right-winger Luis Ricardo of Portuguesa in a swap including Maurício Ramos and Maikon Leite; and 23-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder Patito Rodriguez, currently at Santos, for Wesley. Only speculations. Only. Speculations.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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What’s in a name? Sometimes, not much. Sometimes, the world.

Today, in São Paulo, WTorre, Palmeiras and Allianz publicly announced the purchase of the naming rights of the New Arena by Allianz: a deal worth roughly US$ 150 million for a 20-year contract, Palmeiras’ share being approximately US$ 19 million (the rest goes to WTorre; always remembering that Palmeiras are not paying a cent for the construction of the New Arena).

Allianz rapidly launched a facebook voting campaign, where supporters are encouraged to pick the name of Palmeiras’ new stadium from three options: Allianz Center, Allianz 360º and Allianz Parque.

Needless to say, none of these options make a palmeirense happy. The first two make no reference do Palmeiras or the Palestra Italia Stadium. The third option… Well, “Parque” is a reference to the Parque Antártica where the old Palestra Italia was situated. But the name has a strange ring to it: in Portuguese, the correct phrasing would be “Parque Allianz”. “Allianz Parque” is like calling the Munich stadium “Arena Allianz”. Doesn’t quite work.

This is however less important than the main issue: “every” supporter wants the name to be “Allianz Palestra”: the sponsor in evidence, but with a strong link to the original stadium as well as Palmeiras’ origins.

Allianz - Edward Lange CEO Allianz BrasilThe people at Allianz, like Brazil CEO Edward Lange here to your right, say it’s company policy not putting anything in front of the name “Allianz” (thus ruling out “Parque Allianz”). Allianz also fear that “Palestra” is too strong a name, that it will shadow “Allianz” if put together. And here, Allianz is choosing the wrong path.

The palmeirense is VERY traditional – a feeling sprung from the club’s origins in the Italian minorities of São Paulo, the persecution suffered in the past and the unequal treatment Palmeiras are suffering to this date. A palmeirense refers to his home, his stadium, as “Palestra Italia” or simply “Palestra”. And always will.

This is bad news if you’ve purchased the naming rights and are opting for a collision course with tradition, because you will lose. It’s good news if you trust the strength of your brand and also supporters to recognise your efforts to respect history.

Call it Allianz Parque, and supporters will say Palestra.

Call it Allianz Palestra, and many might still call it Palestra, but many others (and in increasing numbers) will call it Allianz Palestra. And believe you me: many of us will make an effort to say the full name, in recognition of the respectful attitude shown by the company in reverting the decision.

Allianz, you have a unique opportunity to please 15 million potential customers. Just say the name. Say the name.

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The week that started off with a bang in Boston also brought about sadness in São Paulo as a wire on one of the cranes in operation at the construction site of the New Arena snapped, dropping a load onto a group of workers, killing one and injuring another two. A thorough investigation will be carried out, as always when these kinds of unfortunately not so uncommon accidents happen. Work was supposed to gradually return to normal beginning on Wednesday, but until now (Thursday night) everything’s quiet at the construction site. During tonight’s game Against Sporting Cristal, our players wore a black arm band as a tribute to the deceased.

The tragic accident is the wrong backdrop to announce the mega-agreement being finalised as these lines are written: unless something unexpected surface, Palmeiras and WTorre will shortly announce the selling of the New Arena naming rights to Europe’s largest insurance company, German Allianz. The deal is speculated to be worth some US$ 150 million for a period of 10 years, the New Arena joining the Allianz family members in Germany (Allianz Arena, Munich), England (Allianz Park, London), France (Allianz Riviera, Nice) and Australia (Allianz Stadium, Sydney). “Allianz Palestra”, anyone?

ayrton_palmeiras_afp.jpg_95Back to the Libertadores game. Palmeiras sent a decimated squad to Peru, as Kleina wisely opted for letting Henrique and Vinícius rest – they had two yellow cards each and thus risked missing out on the first leg of the knockout phase if booked in the last game – instead promoting Vilson and Ronny. Our men in green didn’t maintain the posture from recent games and managed the least likely: lose to already disqualified Sporting Cristal, while Tigre, in Assunção (!), were beating Libertad by a margin of three goals and pushing Palmeiras down to second place. On stoppage time however, Libertad scored and propelled Palmeiras back into first position. Phew. In theory, easier competition in the next round and the advantage of playing the second leg on home grounds.

EDIT: Tijuana/MEX are up next. First game away, second in São Paulo.

Speaking of Henrique: our captain was called up by Scolari for the friendly against Chile on 24 April in Belo Horizonte. The centre-back will commemorate his return to the national squad in company of Leandro, the young striker enjoying his second opportunity to make a lasting impression. All in all, Scolari called up 18 players, all active in Brazil.

Thankfully, Henrique and Leandro should not be missing any games for Palmeiras while serving the national squad.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra! Although not today. But hey, we finished first, didn’t we?

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Construction on the already infamous “Itaquerão” stadium destined for Corinthians the opening of the 2014 World Cup can halt at any moment due to uncertainties regarding the financing. The Federal Government is already sketching up a Plan B: move the inauguration game to Brasilia.

engenhãoIn Rio de Janeiro, local authorities yesterday declared the João Havelange stadium, commonly known as the Engenhão, closed until further notice. The stadium, built between 2004 and 2007, has been deemed structurally unsafe: strong winds have weakened the roofing.  While the Maracaná stadium undergoes its complete renovation, the Engenhão has been Rio de Janeiros’ main arena. The big four now scramble to find solutions: Fluminense have already announced they are taking their Libertadores games to Vasco’s São Genoário stadium.

In the meantime, Palmeiras’ New Arena is quietly materialising, centimetre by centimetre. With roughly 68 per cent of works concluded, Latin America’s most modern multi-purpose stadium is coming true without any public money or tax breaks, only through private investments.

The progress of the construction can be followed in detail on the official hotsite of the New Arena (also available in English), as well as on several blogs and forums, for example the Pró Palmeiras, La Nostra Casa, Blog da Arena Palestra Itália and the Skyscraper City thread. What follows below is something different and very modest, a few personal reflections based on a visit* conducted to the construction site at the end of 2012.
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Clean - within the possible limits of a large construction site.

Clean – within the possible limits of a large construction site.

organised

Organised – supplies and equipment stacked in an orderly fashion left and right.

Environmentally sound - trees and plants standing green and strong just meters from the concrete being raised.

Environmentally sound – trees and plants standing green and strong just meters from the concrete being raised.

Transparent - constant evaluation of suppliers by use of a large matrix pinned to the wall.

Transparent – constant evaluation of suppliers by use of a large matrix pinned to the wall.

Good mannered - it's a "good afternoon" or a slight nod from EVERY worker we meet.

Good mannered – it’s a “good afternoon” or a slight nod from EVERY worker we meet.

Safe - bright vests, helmets, protection glasses, boots, gloves, harnesses... It's all there.

Safe – bright vests, helmets, protection glasses, boots, gloves, harnesses… It’s all there.

Respectful - as this quote illustrates: "While working the shifts, all are Palmeiras. Whatever they are outside of working hours is their own business. But in here, they are Palmeiras."

Respectful – as this quote illustrates: “While working the shifts, all are Palmeiras. Whatever they are outside of working hours is their own business. But in here, they are Palmeiras.”

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To round things off, a few bonus pictures. And never forget: Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!
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* My very special “thank you” to the marvelous people at DSM, and especially Daniela, granting me access to the construction site and a guided tour. 

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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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