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The taboo at the Morumbi remains: not since 2002 have Palmeiras beaten SPFC on their (sic) wretched grounds.

But today, the draw is a thing to celebrate, as Palmeiras played much under standards. True, the absences of Arouca, Zé Roberto and Dudu are important setbacks, but still: São Paulo acted like we are used to see Palmeiras, applying pressure high up the pitch, deploying speed through the flanks – and in particular Palmeiras’ left one – exchanging passes and advancing with ease in wave after wave. Retiring at halftime with a goalless draw was a treat.

Marcelo Oliveira tried to correct the stance at halftime, promoting youngster João Pedro on behalf of Andrei Girotto. Palmeiras improved considerably, but the game also became highly volatile, albeit entertaining. Until Palmeiras concede the goal, that is. Similar to the brace against Inter earlier this week: a mid-range shot from centre-left, seeking the opposite corner of Prass’ goal. São Paulo were more dangerous through and through.

Palmeiras tried to react, but nothing worked. Barrios asked to be substituted, Alecsandro entered. Then Kelvin on Lucas, Marcelo Oliveira desperately trying to find creative sparks in a team where even Gabriel Jesus was unhappy. Nothing indicated a change to the scorecard.

In the dying minute, the ball is passed back to Rogério Ceni. Alecsandro charges forward, the SPFC keeper tries to clear the ball but it deflects off the sole of Alecsandro’s boot before presenting itself to Robinho: the midfielder calmly chips the ball in a wide loop into the net to equal the scorecard. Palmeiras’ 100th goal for the season. And what a goal huh, Rogério? Hilarious. Ironic. In all honesty completely unworthy but who cares: Palmeiras salvage a point and cling on to fourth place.
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What we saw today must not be repeated against Internacional upcoming Wednesday. 20.000 tickets already sold. The game will take place at the Allianz Parque, the grass having recovered sufficiently from the Katy Perry assault. A goalless draw and we’re through to the semifinals.  

 Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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crefisa_jerseyAfter more than two years of drought, with no Brazilian football clubs signing major sponsorship deals with the private sector (the few large deals sealed were all with the public bank Caixa Econômica Federal), Palmeiras today broke the ice by announcing financial institution Crefisa as the club’s Master Sponsor 2015-2016.

The deal will render US$ 8.5 million annually for the club, allowing Crefisa to place their logo on the chest and back of the Palmeiras jersey. Harmonizing in colour and style, the logo looks good against the deep green. Tasteful.

Crefisa was until recently in well advanced negotiations with São Paulo FC, but Palmeiras interfered, making Crefisa shift their focus. “Yes, São Paulo presented an offer, but Palmeiras’ offer was much better, the project is much better. The amounts involved are higher, but the project is very good “, said Crefisa president Leila Pereira at today’s press conference.

crefisa_logoCrefisa was founded in São Paulo in 1964 and is specialised in providing credit to public servants and retired professionals. The company has some 800 offices spread out in Brazil’s 26 states and the Federal District, having served more than 3 million clients throughout the years.

Closing the deal with Crefisa not only re-enforces Palmeiras’ position as THE mark in 2015, but also sets São Paulo FC back both morally and financially: for each month our foe goes without a master sponsor, he’s losing out on some US$ 750.000 in revenues.  

That being said, personally, I would have preferred Palmeiras closing a deal with an internationally recognised brand. The Allianz Parque, the link to the USA through AEG (a partner in Arena operations), the increased international exposure through expected participation in the Libertadores Cup: all these factors and more make me think a multinational brand would have been better suited.

But hey, no more looking back or “ifs”: it’s all about embracing this partnership and making the best of it in the two years to come. Count on Palmeiras’ supporters to do their part: in only a few hours, Crefisa’s twitter account has gone from a couple of hundred to almost 4.000 followers. I’m sure Crefisa’s management are also saying…

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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alankardec_entrevista_marcelohazan9.
Editorial – the Alan Kardec screw-up

Next to Valdivia and Prass, Alan Kardec is considered the spinal core of the Palmeiras squad. Or rather, was: Kardec is expected to sign with São Paulo FC later this week for a whopping US$155.000 a month. Today, Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre held a press conference, confirming that our archenemy had swept the bride from the altar.

How come one of the most popular and important players in the squad, apparently devoted to Palmeiras and with a clearly expressed desire to renew his contract, jumped the fence? The answer is spelled Paulo Nobre.

No secret Nobre is all about sound, financial austerity: he inherited Palmeiras with already 75% of the 2013 revenues compromised and has made it a priority during his two-year mandate to remedy the Club’s more than precarious financial and administrative condition. All new player contracts and renovations during the Nobre administration have been carefully conducted with the aim of not overshooting budget. No different with Kardec.

The information I have is that Palmeiras were initially offering Kardec some US$75.000 a month in addition to extra revenues based on productivity and achieved goals. This is certainly lower than Kardec, his dad and a second agent involved in the negotiations were expecting. During several weeks, the parts were slowly moving closer, but the negotiations were indeed dragging out, just as they did with those involving Kleina and Leandro.

About a month ago, an agreement was finally reached between Kardec, the agents and Palmeiras’ director of football José Carlos Brunoro: a five-year contract at US$98.000 a month plus the variable revenues. The agreement was brought before Nobre for ratification, but Nobre said no. He wanted to shave off another US$9.000 a month, which would amount to a little more than half a million dollars for the whole extension of the contract. That is quite a lot of money, at least for you and me. However, it’s peanuts considering the larger picture, and peanuts considering Palmeiras’ payroll.

Nobre’s veto turned a done deal into an open affair, infuriating Kardec senior: the players’ father went to the press complaining about the difficult negotiation and said he would now consider other options. That was enough for SPFC to move in on Kardec senior and the agent, offering them double signing bonuses in addition to raising the salary offer to Kardec the player from US$98.000 to US$155.000. Kardec senior didn’t think twice and gave the director his word: my son is signing with SPFC.

As the tables turned, Paulo Nobre must have started sweating bullets. He faced two options: a) cover SPFC’s offer, completely overshooting his budget and destabilising the carefully crafted and implemented scheme with salary based on productivity, or b) let Kardec go, lose face, severely scratch Palmeiras’ image, weaken the squad and infuriate supporters.

Is Kardec worth US$155.000 a month? Most sports journalists would flat out state that he is not. But at this point, the decision was no longer a technical one, but also very much emotional. I believe Paulo Nobre was prepared to go out of his way to reel Kardec back in. Not that if would make any difference: when finally able to speak to the player – who had been sheltered for days by his father and agent – Kardec junior told Nobre that his father had reached a verbal agreement with São Paulo FC and the only way he now could sign with Palmeiras would be if he fired his own father. Curtains down.

nobreAt today’s press conference, Nobre highlighted SPFC’s “unethical behaviour”. Our president needs a reality check. Not only is he a fool if he didn’t see it coming, as he brought it upon himself. It’s difficult to understand how Nobre could veto a reached agreement involving one of the most important players in the squad because of a US$9.000 monthly difference, not foreseeing the ultimate consequences of his, yes, gamble.

Making things worse, it’s not only about Kardec. Palmeiras is a house of cards. The squad was different against Fluminense last Saturday – nervous, introvert, lost – and Palmeiras were beaten fair and square by the one goal at the Pacaembu. Some 12.000 supporters were present: very low numbers considering a home debut return to the first division. Criticism against the Nobre administration on social media has been massive these last few days. There are supporters cancelling their Avanti memberships (which is simply beyond me). Opposition candidates are breathing fresh air. The whole affair could eventually tip the scale in disfavour of Nobre’s re-election (if he opts for running, that is).

In my mind, I believe Palmeiras would (still) be worse off without Nobre in the drivers’ seat. But that all comes down to an ability to not only recognise one’s mistakes but also learn from them. With Nobre’s press conference fresh in my mind, I wonder: is he recognising his mistake? Will he learn from it? Will time tell?

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Four straight victories in the Paulistão, but the first real test was today against SPFC. Palmeiras haven’t played a classico in nearly a year due to the second division relegation, neither a high-level derby. The “Royal Clash”, as the Palmeiras vs. São Paulo is called, was awaited with mixed feelings of excitement, confidence and nervousness.

In an impressive collective display of tactical obedience, dedication and determination, Palmeiras simply put dominated São Paulo, the arch enemy, from start to finish. Today was not a day of brilliant football nor individual excellence, but rather a Palmeiras we haven’t seen in years: confident, strong, firm. Every player raised to the occasion, aware of the importance of the result, 100% focused on the game. Palmeiras left the pitch with three more points after braces from Valdivia and Alan Kardec, one in each half.

In an afternoon of collective overcoming, a few individual mentions are still in order:

# Wellington, abruptly called up to replace no other than team captain Henrique after his transfer to Napoli/ITA, nailed it for the second consecutive time, showing remarkable maturity and positioning skill. The kid is taking full advantage of the opportunity given to him. Monster.

# Lúcio, already oozing leadership on and off the pitch, cleverly dosing his personal grudge against his former club to inject just the right amount of adrenalin into every moment of the game.

# Marcelo Oliveira, aggressively exercising his duties as watchdog on the midfield, advancing his positioning and letting very little heat reach the centre-backs.
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Next up are XV de Piracicaba, on Wednesday, at the Barão de Serra Negra stadium. XV are third in their group, just ahead of Corinthians, with 7 points in five games, corresponding to 47% of possible points won. While Palmeiras continue…
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Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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In 1942, during World War II and because of a decree issued by President Getúlio Vargas, banning any organisation from using names related to the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan), Palestra Italia was compelled to change their name – becoming Palestra São Paulo; “palestra” being a Greek word and thus not violating the governmental decree.

The change of name did not prove enough to soothe political and sporting antagonists: under the threat of having to forfeit all the club’s assets and be expelled from the championship that they currently were leading, Palestra had no choice but to change their name a second time. On the night before the last game of the State championship, scheduled for 20 September 1942, the Palestra board of directors held a heated meeting. With the debate reaching its peak, Dr. Mario Minervino took to the floor and asked club Secretary, Dr. Pascoal W. Byron Giuliano, to register in the minutes:
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They don’t want us to be Palestra, so then we shall be Palmeiras – born to be Champions.

The following day, tensions flared. The final match was against São Paulo Futebol Clube, a club who’s directors openly played the treason card in relation to “foreign” sport associations and had already taken over the facilities of “Deutscher Sport Club” through a forced merger. Now, SPFC was laying claim to the assets of the former Palestra Italia.

arrancada_heroicaPalmeiras entered the field carrying the Brazilian flag under the leadership of Army Captain Adalberto Mendes. Not long after the initial blow of the whistle, Palmeiras were leading 3-1. Next, a penalty was called in Palmeiras’ favour. At that moment, SPFC decided Palmeiras were indeed an enemy of the homeland and pulled their side off the field amid jeers from all spectators, even the club’s own fans. The next day, newspapers sold out as everybody wanted to see the photograph of Palmeiras entering the pitch with the headline “A Leader Dies, A Champion is Born.”

20 September 1942. A date in history. But a date that carries pride, determination and moral fibre into current days, that defines us, that defines Palmeiras.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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Only a few weeks back, palmeirenses had nothing to look forward to and 2011 was a lost cause. The arrival of Cesar Sampaio and the exit of Judas30 provoked changes, with the away draw against Grêmio serving as a first indicator of possibly better days. The subsequent and convincing win against Bahia distanced Palmeiras from any risk of relegation and brought the team well into next year’s South America Cup zone.

Yesterday, act one of the Grand Finale was delivered to stunning effect as Palmeiras beat São Paulo Futebol Clube 1-0 (watch the highlights below) and dramatically reduced the enemy’s chances of qualifying for next year’s Libertadores Cup. Simultaneously Corinthians beat Figueirense 0-1, while a last minute goal from Vasco sealed their 2-1 away victory over Fluminense, postponing the title decision to the very last round and propelling Palmeiras’ status from extra to lead supporting role: Corinthians need at least a draw against Palmeiras to secure the title; a loss combined with Vasco beating Flamengo would hand the title over to the Maltese crusaders.

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It’s in moments like these that Valdivia stands out. Not only does he cope well with pressure, tension and provocations: he feeds from it. He’s the kind of player you love to have on your side and loath when playing for the enemy. Yesterday he was on fire, playing well and driving the opponent insane with his cocky attitude. Thankfully, the referee was in a good mood; he could have chosen to show Valdivia the yellow card, taking him out of the final game against the skunks. No such (bad) luck: Palmeiras will come armed and ready. Any corintiano claiming to be calm and confident is a liar.

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The weekend proved a source of joy also for all of us who have been following the Palmeiras sub-17, or the “Verdãozinho”. On Saturday, they played Santos for the second leg of the Paulista Championship title. The 2-1 advantage from the first game was enough to secure the novel title, as the youngsters lost by the same score but had the advantage due to a better overall campaign. And what a campaign! 32 games, 25 victories, 3 draws and 4 losses – a total of 86 goals scored and only 26 suffered. Congratulations to everybody involved in this great achievement, not least upcoming stars like Bruno Dybal, Luis Gustavo, Hugo Ragelli, Bruno Sabiá and goalkeeper Vinícius; for sure these kids and others will attract even more attention as from now on.

The pictures below are courtesy of the “Instituto Palestrina de Estatística – IPE”. Even further down, game highlights and post-game commemoration courtesy of Antena Verde.

  

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The change in attitude becomes clearer for each game, as Palmeiras recover confidence and might possibly end the year with some dignity. The victory against Bahia was convincing, as was the return of Valdivia, and served to definitely free Palmeiras of any risk of relegation in addition to substantially improve chances for play in next year’s South America Cup. Watch the highlights below.

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The sudden change in the team can surely be attributed to several factors, but I highlight two: the removal of Kleber (destination still unknown) from the squad and the arrival of football manager Cesar Sampaio. Especially the work of the latter seems to have been crucial in the lifting of morale and team spirit.

Speaking of team spirit: you guys remember Lincoln, the midfielder who spent much time in the medical department and left Palmeiras for Avaí in the beginning of the Brasileirão after having been labelled a chinelinho (literally “flip-flop”; a lazy fellow)? Well, at the end of the first half of Avaí vs. Vasco on Saturday, Lincoln’s team mate Diogo Orlando approached him and called for better performance. Lincoln disapproved and head-butted Orlando while still on the pitch. In the dressing room during half-time, Orlando was in tears and lamenting the eminent relegation of his team, when Lincoln approached him to apologise. Orlando got to his feet and apparently punched Lincoln repeatedly before being pulled away by other players. Mr Chinelinho didn’t get on for the second half. Poor Lincoln *HEAVY dose of irony*.

Avaí are the first team heading for the second division 2012. América/MG will only escape if they win their last two games against Atlético/PR and Atlético/GO and Cruzeiro stay put at 39 points (check out the tables to your right). Other teams running the risk are Atlético/PR, Ceará, Cruzeiro and even Bahia and Atlético/MG. My hunch: Cruzeiro and Atlético/PR join Avaí and América/MG.

In the second division the final round takes place this coming Saturday. Portuguesa (São Paulo), Náutico (Pernambuco) and Ponte Preta (São Paulo) are ready for ascension. The last spot most likely goes to Sport (Pernambuco), Bragantino (São Paulo) or Vitória (Bahia). Take note: we could have three teams from São Paulo join the present four in the first division, bringing up the total to seven; that’s more than a third of the total. My hunch: Sport beat already relegated Vila Nova and keep Bragantino at bay due to better goal difference.

Now back to Palmeiras. With two rounds to go, Palmeiras face SPFC and Corinthians. By the look of it, Palmeiras could have the rare opportunity to in a decisive manner contribute to depriving São Paulo of their spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup and Corinthians of the Brasileirão title. Inshallah.

Considering the rather positive outlook described above one would expect calm waters at Palmeiras, with everyone doing their best to preserve the good vibe and focused on the important tasks ahead, right?

It took 24 hours, or actually a little bit short of that, for the grenade to explode: president Tirone has decided to get rid of nearly every remunerated professional at Palmeiras, firing lawyer André Sica, administrative manager Sérgio do Prado and all five press officers. The decision will be formally communicated tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Arnaldo Tirone, when interviewed by Radio Bandeirantes, stated: “There are no specific reasons for the dismissals, but no one is eternal, neither am I. I hold nothing against the services nor the people, but some things at Palmeiras will change. We are reforming things and decisions have already been made.” Sounds reasonable? Not really. But getting rid of the only remaining professionals from the Belluzzo era has always been a strong demand from ex-president Mustafá Contursi and his political allies. It’s worth highlighting that Palmeiras’ press office was considered one of the best if not the best among the Paulista teams. But hey, performance means nothing, politics is everything. Back to basics at Palmeiras. Let’s hope for limited shockwaves this time.

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