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Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee has made public its ruling on the scandalous events following the Peñarol vs Palmeiras Libertadores Cup game. As previously reported, Felipe Melo received a six-game ban, while three Peñarol players received five games each. In addition, Peñarol must play their last home game before an empty stadium: a slap with a silk glove, as the Uruguayans are already eliminated from the tournament. Palmeiras on the other hand was sentenced to three away games without supporters, meaning that only in the case of advancing to the finals, palmeirenses will be present.

Palmeiras promptly issued a formal statement, which you find below, in a free translation.

“In view of the disclosure of Conmebol’s ruling on the incidents related to the match against Peñarol, the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras hereby announce that:

1 – The feeling is one of total indignation and revolt for the lack of criteria in Conmebol´s application of penalties for the two clubs and their athletes.

2 – It is on the verge of mockery that Peñarol, the club responsible for the safety of the match and the one who did not fulfill its function, receives a penalty lower than that of Palmeiras. Palmeiras, both team and supporters, being the victim of an evident ambush, in addition to other crimes. It is worth remembering that, in spite of the tense atmosphere during the first leg against Peñarol, safety at the Allianz Parque was guaranteed by nearly 600 professionals, able to avoid any kind of incident. This contrasts to the tiny and unprepared group of 60 private security guards hired by the Uruguayan club for the second leg.

3 – The Conmebol Disciplinary Committee has short-sightedly preferred to base its evaluation on the consequences and not on the causes of events.

4 – Palmeiras reiterates what the club has sustained from the first moment, at the stadium in Montevideo: the club and its players were victims and not causers of the incidents after the game. We proved to Conmebol, through a vast selection of videos, photos and testimonies, what really happened in that game. By the outcome of the ruling, it seems technical criteria were not taken into account, which is completely inadmissible and inconsistent. It is unacceptable that a Palmeiras athlete be punished for defending himself against a clear attempt of aggression and that supporters – clearly cornered, attacked and the target of racist manifestations – are now prevented from following the team through the competition.

5 – Palmeiras’ Legal Department is preparing an appeal, contesting the penalties applied to player Felipe Melo and the club. The appeal will be brought before the Conmebol in the coming week.

6 – The Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras will seek justice. The club does not accept any other position of Conmebol’s Disciplinary Committee but a revision of its decision and a ruling solely based on technical criteria.”

Needless to say, supporters are wholeheartedly behind the club on this one. Many hold the opinion Palmeiras must withdraw from the tournament should Conmebol maintain its ruling.

For Palmeiras’ upcoming last game in the group stage on Wednesday, at home against Atlético Tucumán, a silent protest against Conmebol is planned. During the National Hymn, supporters on the stands will raise their arms towards the sky in the same manner Felipe Melo did after the final whistle against Peñarol. In the same manner he does after almost every game. In the same manner now labelled “a provocative gesture” by the referees and Conmebol, a gesture they argue sparked the violence.

Anything Palmeiras strongly urge everyone to adhere to the protest on Wednesday.

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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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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Sampaio.
With the São Paulo championship being decided this coming Sunday, no doubt regarding what team to send to São Luís, state of Maranhão, for the first leg of the second round of the Brazil Cup: everyone except the normal starting eleven. Thus, Palmeiras’ line-up was a complete novelty: Jaílson; Ayrton, Tobio, Jackson and Victor Luis; Amaral, Renato (Andrei Girotto, 22’/2ºH) and Alan Patrick; Kelvin (Juninho, 43’/2ºH), Ryder (Cristaldo, 21’/2ºH) and Gabriel Jesus.

I admit to having expected more. Of course nothing levelled with what we’ve seen from Dudu, Rafael Marques, Robinho and Cleiton Xavier, but at least better than what was presented by Kelvin, Ryder, Alan Patrick and Gabriel Jesus. In addition, none of the flanks worked. True, the heat was a contributing factor to the stale performance, the tall grass another. Also, of course, the fact that these men might have trained together but actually never played a game together, not a real game at least.

The positive is that we got a draw and an away goal. Moreover, that Cristaldo found his way back into the net. Also that no one was injured. Return game, in two weeks’ time, should be a piece of cake.

— ooo —

Santos, at the Vila Belmiro, 4pm on Sunday. Today a video of Santos forward Robinho, rapping a “victory song” of sorts, appeared in social media. The santistas seem confident. They are in their right. Nevertheless, the advantage is Palmeiras’. A draw, and the title is ours.

Arouca is undergoing special treatment but I cannot see him ready for Sunday’s clash. Valdivia however should be ready, although it’s exactly when he should be that he isn’t. No use in speculating.

I consider Arouca’s absence the only negative in the squad at this moment. That being said, Palmeiras did just fine without him last week. I believe his cool and experience is being put to good use off the pitch these days, mentally preparing the younger ones.

The heat is rising by the hour, unfortunately triggered further by the death of a lone Palmeiras supporter at the hands of a gang of santista cowards earlier this week. The day after the attack, Santos announced the ticket vending spot for Palmeiras supporters: smack in the middle of Santos ultras territory. I’m still unsure of that’s only plain stupid of if there’s actual evil involved.

Eliminating Corinthians in the semi-finals, on their home ground, was magnificent.

Trashing cocky Santos at the Vila Belmiro for the Championship title will be epic.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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CAMPEONATO PAULISTA 2014: SANTOS FC X PALMEIRAS.
Conrado Cacace of the Verdazzo, currently one of the most influential voices in the universe of opinion-making palmeirenses, attended yesterday’s game at the Vila Belmiro. Half an hour after the final whistle, Palmeiras supporters were allowed to leave the stadium. While making his way out, checking his smartphone for information on other game results, Conrado received a hard blow to his face and hit the ground before receiving several kicks. He managed to get to the bus waiting outside, his phone stolen, and upon returning to São Paulo underwent medical exams. With multiple fractures to his face, he’s scheduled for surgery today (Monday).

Outspoken, uncompromising, always backing his positions with compelling arguments. A strong personality that sometimes annoys even those agreeing with his views. “He had it coming”, some argues.

He had it coming, only if we accept violence as a legitimate form of argumentation. Without the shadow of a doubt, Conrado was cowardly assaulted by someone coming from “our” ranks, someone calling himself a palmeirense, someone who disagrees with the editorial line of the Verdazzo. Fists and kicks were chosen as a means to punish him, and to silence him. Stealing his phone was just a bonus.

The right to expression is fundamental, at any and every level of society. The use of violence to combat ideas is nothing short of fascism. As such, it must be condemned without hesitation, without fear, and without personal preferences in regard to the identity of the victim and his views.

Reflect on that before uttering another “he had it coming”: that kind of mentality is, directly or indirectly, the breeding ground for what happened to Conrado. And could happen to you next.

Conrado, I wish you a speedy recovery, both physical and mental. Hope to see you back in the saddle as soon as possible: your work has never been more important.

— ooo —

Difficult to analyse yesterday’s clash against Santos. True enough, Palmeiras did not seem quite awake, allowing Santos not one but two goals before half time. On the other hand, Palmeiras would likely have reached the draw had the game continues for another ten minutes. And personally, I liked Bruninhos debut. Game highlights below.
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I’d say Palmeiras have more to give. And possibly Kleina opted for not revealing all his cards, especially as yesterday’s result actually means Palmeiras have a theoretically easier path to the finals, avoiding SPFC in the semi. In any case, the Paulistão truly starts now, in the knockout phase: Thursday night we welcome Bragantino, with the one game determining who face Ituano or Botafogo/SP in the semi-finals.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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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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Yesterday the 2013 edition of the Brasileirão ended. Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, founded in the city of Belo Horizonte in 1921 as “Palestra Italia”, were crowned champions with 76 points – 11 points ahead of runners up Grêmio – compiling 23 victories, 7 draws and 8 defeats. Congratulations to Cruzeiro for a job well done throughout the season.

Third and fourth places were occupied by Atlético Paranaense and Botafogo respectively. The teams making up the quartet have not all guaranteed their spot in next year’s Libertadores Cup: in case Ponte Preta beat Argentine Lanus in the upcoming second leg of the South America Cup final (first leg at home 1-1), Ponte Preta grab a spot in next years’ Libertadores at the expense of Botafogo’s. Expect many a botafoguense, not least a certain Clarence Seedorf, turn hardcore argentines overnight.

2013-tabela_finalThe relegated four are Náutico, Ponte Preta (yes, the same), Vasco da Gama and Fluminense. Thus, two out of four major Rio de Janeiro clubs will play in the second division next year, with Fluminense being the first club in the history of Brazilian football to be relegated the year after becoming national champions. In 2014, the state of Santa Catarina will have more clubs in the first division than Rio de Janeiro: Criciúma, Chapecoense and Figueirese. A disastrous year for carioca football? Well, let’s not forget Flamengo’s Brazil Cup title. A likely 2014 scenario would thus be two traditional cariocas in the second division, with other two competing in the Libertadores Cup.

Sunday’s Atlético Paranaense vs. Vasco da Gama was interrupted for more than an hour as supporters of both teams clashed violently in the stands. Disgraceful scenes unfolded, while helicopters landed on the pitch to pick up injured for transportation to hospital. As always, what followed were calls for more police, more control inside and outside of stadiums, the banning of organised supporters, heavy fines for the clubs, having clubs play behind locked gates, the list goes on and on. In the end, the solution is there and is strikingly simple: apply the law. How? By identifying the perpetrators – and God knows there’s plenty of footage to facilitate the task – taking them to court and locking them up. Stop treating crimes committed inside and around Brazilian football stadiums as something special. Just apply the law.

With the end of the season, the transfer market goes berserk. As earlier mentioned, this year Palmeiras seem to be very actively scanning a broad range of possibilities both inside and outside of Brazil. And with the clearly not-so-good relationship between Coritiba midfielder Alex and club president Vilson de Andrade, there might be room for just a little bit of expectations.

Scoppia che la vittoria è nostra!

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