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medals.
Shoulder to shoulder, back to back. That’s how Palmeiras’ troop of security paved its way through the crowds to brake the hinges of the locked gate hindering our players to exit the feverishly hostile Campeón del Siglo stadium after the game against Peñarol. 

Their decisive action possibly saved lives. In recognition of their crucial intervention, Palmeiras president Mauricio Galiotte last Sunday, during the halftime break against Vasco, pinned a medal to the chest of each of the 20.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Act 1 – The Game
Freshly eliminated from the Paulistão and with coach Eduardo Baptista under pressure, Palmeiras travelled to Montevideo without Dudu, suspended, to face Peñarol. The away game promised to be every bit as tough as the home game in mid-April, the Uruguayans having already shown their nastier side. However, not their nastiest.

Baptista tried to surprise Peñarol by using the same formation as against Ponte Preta the other week: a 3-5-2, this time with Vítor Hugo operating to the left, Dracena centred and Mina to the right. Promoting Vítor Hugo back into the line-up, Baptista hoped to add both speed and superior aerial cover, both offensively but in particular defensively. He rested Tchê Tchê, populating the midfield with Felipe Melo, Guerra, and Michel Bastos. Jean and Egídio on the flanks, Roger Guedes and Borja up front.

Baptista’s battleplan failed miserably. Although the 3-5-2 turned into a 5-4-1 when pressured, Palmeiras were still unable to stop the crosses from happening, several of them reaching Peñarol’s hovering forwards. When recovering the ball, Palmeiras’ transition was typically a punt up the field, where Borja, completely isolated, faced two or three defenders. Palmeiras created nothing but suffered great pressure, succumbing at 12 (goal should have been void due to a clear foul on Mina) and again at 40. Things looked very grim at halftime.

The second half kicked off with Palmeiras back to basics: Vítor Hugo and Egídio out as Palmeiras reshaped into a 4-1-3-2, with Willian as Borja’s wingman and Tchê Tchê adding quality in the middle. The only novelty was Michel Bastos, dislocated to the left flank. The changes had immediate effect, Willian closing the gap with four minutes on the clock and Mina equalising at 18. Peñarol were on the ropes and suffered the third blow at 27, again by the feet of Willian. Palmeiras controlled the game until the final whistle, securing another epic victory.
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Act 2 – The Ambush
Final whistle. Felipe Melo raises his arms in a victorious gesture and walks slowly toward the centre of the pitch, but is intercepted by Peñarol players and the aggression starts, while supporters clash on the stands. Fernando Prass, Willian and others are targeted on the pitch, as havoc spreads all over. Melo defending himself with his fists. As Palmeiras players run for the exit – for the tunnel that leads to the locker rooms – they find the gates shut. Impossible to know what would have happened had not Palmeiras’ directors predicted something of the sort could go down and brought a batch of extra security with them to Montevideo: these men now go to work on the gates, forcing them open, finally permitting our staff and players to exit the pitch. The ruckus continues in the tunnel and down the corridors, but eventually stalls, again thanks to Palmeiras’ guards. No police in sight, outsourced stadium security or anyone else concerned with the safety of the visitors. On the contrary: there are reports of stadium management people, photographers and others attacking Palmeiras players and supporters.

Anything except heavy fines for Peñarol would be a tremendous scandal; CONMEBOL had better act fast and with vigour.
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Act 3 – Relief & Revolt
During the press conference that followed, Eduardo Baptista let the dogs out. He showed initial relief by the fact that no one was seriously injured, mixed with anger at the outrageous behaviour of Peñarol and the stadium administrators. However, an underlying issue quickly surfaced: all the bull written in the press about Palmeiras in general and Baptista’s work in particular. He really laid it out, pitched voice and fist slamming the table. All the frustration of being a serious and dedicated coach, leading a group of equally dedicated professionals, and having to read gossip and outright lies day in and day out, as if football was tabloid material. How much this hurts the sport and how much it damages the work he and others try to carry out. His bottom line: journalists have a huge responsibility, but many ignore that in their increasingly obsessive quest for audience rating and online clicks.

In the words of former Palmeiras director Custódio Dias: “I’d say we just witnessed Eduardo Baptista take command at Palmeiras”. And I agree with him. Things will never be the same between supporters and Baptista after yesterday’s victory and the way he later positioned himself vis-à-vis the press. Many might continue sceptical about his capacity as a coach, but he won the respect of everyone. Yes, I dare say everyone.
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— ooo —

Palmeiras now have 10 points, leading Group 5 four points ahead of Jorge Wilstermann and six points ahead of Atlético Tucumán. Peñarol is at the bottom with three points. In the next round, Palmeiras travel to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to face Wilstermann on 3 May.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Cut and paste from Thursday’s game post. “No reason for panic. Training, adjustments, time. We’re only at the very beginning of a long journey with these men.”

One thing is accepting this after suffering a loss to Ponte Preta, another completely after conceding the three points, at home, to arch rivals Corinthians. The stigma continues: in the last 14 clashes against any of the other three major São Paulo clubs, Palmeiras have won but one game: against SPFC in February last year. Painful.

Still, words that were valid after last Thursday’s defeat to Ponte are as valid today: Palmeiras have a squad, not yet a team. Yesterday, we saw a level game, with a fatality determining the outcome, as you can see from the match recap below.
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We will have a few more weeks of up and downs before the squad meshes into a team. Mind you, two key players – Cleiton Xavier and Arouca – have not even debuted yet, and playmaker Valdivia is, as always, recovering from injury. Coach Oswaldo is getting to know his players and their characteristics. Newcomers will need space to prove their worth and get used to the patterns of their teammates. Others, like Maikon Leite, are short stacked: as a player returning to Palmeiras after some time abroad, he will either have to show considerable progress or expect infernal heat from (rightly so) impatient supporters. For Leite, time is running out, if it has not already.

— ooo —

The days anticipating the game, as well as the days now to follow, will be dominated by the once again obvious failure of Brazilian authorities to handle public security.

Three days before the derby, the public prosecutor’s office “recommended” the ban of Corinthians supporters at the Allianz Parque “due to security concerns”, threatening both Palmeiras and Corinthians with legal action if they disobeyed the recommendation. Corinthians threatened to withdraw from the match were their supporters not allowed to enter. The day before the game, the São Paulo Football Federation took a decision: the game would be played and with supporters from both teams.

Come match day, and the apparatus to separate the two organised supporter groups is considerable. Some minor incidents are reported. It could have stopped there, hadn’t it been for the trigger-happy, aggressive and malicious police force, randomly dispersing crowds of supporters – including families with children and retired persons, just hanging around or on their way to the stadium – using tear gas, shock grenades and rubber bullets. The policy clearly does not think derbies should be played at the Allianz Parque; the “right” amount of havoc reinforces this position.

Palmeiras must conduct a thorough investigation and take a firm stance, condemning the violence committed against the club’s most vital asset: its supporters. You want the Avanti supporter programme to grow? It will not, unless supporters feel they have someone looking after them, at least on their way to and inside the stadium. In this chaos called Brazil, that someone has to be the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras.

President Paulo Nobre, speak up!

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MV.
The always relevant Verdazzo published an important piece last Wednesday, exposing the perils Palmeiras supporters might face on their way to, during and after the away game against Santos at Vila Belmiro this coming Sunday.

Summing up the situation: after the 2013 incident at the airport in Buenos Aires, Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre cut all ties with the Mancha Verde supporter group. Not that it had any effect on the presence of the Mancha at stadiums (and not that it was intended to have any effect): home games were never a problem due to the large amount of tickets available, and for away games the MV normally secured the amount they needed by different methods – some of them acceptable and others not so much. That’s the way it is and has been for quite some time.

Well, times they are a changing. After the ruckus during distribution of tickets to the Corinthians vs. Palmeiras clash a few weeks back – where queues outside and inside the club got completely out of hand – the Palmeiras administration has taken an innovating step further in the strengthening of the Avanti membership programme: provide tickets to important away games based on Avanti member’s rating. It’s fairly simple: records are kept on Avanti member’s stadium visits and compiled into a ranking. Against Santos, 700 tickets have been made available for the visiting team. Palmeiras have bought them all and sent an e-mail to the 700 highest-ranking Avanti members, offering them a ticket each at a fixed price. Unsold tickets are advertised a second time to the next set of people on the ranking. Any unsold tickets after he second round will then be made available on a first-come-first-serve basis, Avanti member or not.

The initiative is worth all the praise, as it effectively rewards those who work the turnstile the most. At least, as long as these are Avanti members. And there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be. Be they Mancha Verde or not.

Now, going back to the Verdazzo text, there’s a genuine and legitimate concern for the safety of those 700 palmeirenses heading for the Vila Belmiro. For the first time in ages, there’s no telling how or even if the Mancha Verde will be present. That will have implications on how much chanting and support the relatively small Palmeiras section will be able to convey to our players. Equally or more important: it will have implications on how much protection will be available for our supporters. The Verdazzo convincingly argues that, unless preventive police work is flawlessly executed, the risk of a disaster is overwhelming, as Santos supporters are likely to take advantage of the situation. “It will be the ultimate test to whether Paulo Nobre was right in maintaining an inflexible approach [toward the Mancha Verde]”, Cacace concludes.

But that last sentence is where this space and the Verdazzo will differ. Perhaps in part because I’m not much familiar with the stands, having been to few home games and even fewer away game. In the eyes of some, that alone might be enough to disqualify my opinion entirely. On the other hand, the distance might be what allows me to maintain my focus on principle, even under pressing circumstances like these.

Nobre cut ties with all organized supporter groups based on the principle that physical aggression is incompatible with the society we want to live in and the club’s philosophy. How cynical would it not be if he initiated a rapprochement with the Mancha Verde because Palmeiras, in a sense, need their services as storm troopers, need their protection?

S.E. Palmeiras must do what it can to cater for the supporters’ basic needs, but protection is not one of those: that’s for the authorities and the police to handle. Certainly, Palmeiras should be in constant dialogue with authorities, with the police, and cooperate as much as possible with the aim to increase security for everyone involved. However, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the authorities, with the police.

To lay blame on Nobre for what eventually might go wrong in Santos on Sunday is illogical and inconsistent.

UPDATE: Less than an hour after the publication of this text, three people trashed the Avanti ticket booth in an act of dissatisfaction  for “only” be allowed one ticket each: they wanted 90 tickets out of the total 700 and presented the money. When denied the extended purchase, they attacked the vendor and destroyed equipment and furniture.

Palmeiras responded by suspending the selling of remaining tickets. Full cooperation with the police is expected in a joint effort to identify the perpetrators and bring charges against them. President Nobre issued a firm statement in the afternoon, making clear that the club’s policy remains firm, that Avanti will be the mechanism through which supporters preferably will get their tickets, and that Palmeiras will not bend under pressure.

At this point, there are no information on whether the perpetrators would be members of any of the organised supporter groups.

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