* Text and images at large provided by the department of history of Palmeiras, except for chapter “2008 – New Arena, New Era”. All material edited to fit the post.
1914-1915 – The Palestra is Born: Opening Game
At the beginning of the 20th Century, a group of young Italians decided to form a club whose main goal would be to start up a football team that would be representative of the enormous Italian colony and be able to face the big names of São Paulo’s soccer elite. Just over three decades earlier, Italy had been reunified – a fact that was not very clear to the vast majority of those that were already living and working in Brazil.
There were numerous Italian clubs at the time, but each one represented an Italian province or was geared toward activities other than football. At the time, the game was starting to take hold and drew many players and fans.
They group of young Italians sought out the Fanfulla newspaper, which was the media mouthpiece that defended the interests of Italians in Brazil, and entrusted young Vincenzo Ragognetti – another supporter of the idea – to draft an invitation to those interested in forming a sports club.
After several meetings and in the presence of 46 interested individuals who had gathered at the Alhambra Room on what is now Rua do Ruachuelo – led by the gentlemen Luigi Marzo and Luigi Cervo – a sports club was founded for all Italians and given the name “Palestra Italia”. The historic date: 26 of August, 1914. Ezequiel Simone was named club president. The Italian Consulate in São Paulo became interested in the new club because it would help spread the word among Italians that their country now had one flag and one anthem. In other words, it was one country.
After some initial difficulties, Palestra Italia played their first game in the town of Votorantim (São Paulo State) – beating Savoy 2-0 with goals from Bianco and Alegretti, winning the Savoy Cup.
1920-1930 – First Title and Purchase of the “Stadium”
In 1916, the team joined the city’s main sports league and played their first official championship match. The following year Palestra Italia would be runner-up in the São Paulo State Championship, facing Corinthians for the first time. Palestra won that initial game 3-0 with three goals from Caetano; iPalestra also won the rematch 3-1 against what would become the main rival. In 1920, Palestra Italia captured the São Paulo State championship with a victory over the rugged Paulistano squad in the deciding match.
Palestra continued to grow as a sports club and also began acquiring more assets. The Palestra Italia Stadium, purchased in 1920, was remodelled and expanded in 1933 – when it became the first Brazilian stadium with concrete grandstands and barbed-wire fences. Starting in 1964, the playing field would be suspended, which gave fans a complete, broad view and also created space in the lower levels.
The club continued its victorious march, won more championships, and at the outset of the 1930s became three-time São Paulo State football and basketball champion – a feat which prompted Palestra fans to chant in celebration: “With the feet or with the hands, Palestra is the best in the land.”
1942 – From Palestra to Palmeiras
In 1942, during World War II and because of a decree by the government of President Getúlio Vargas banning any organization 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 that did not violate the government measure. The change did not soothe political and sporting pressures. Under the threat of having to forfeit all the club’s assets in addition to being expelled from the championship that they currently led, Palestra was forced to change their name a second time. The night before the last game of the State championship, scheduled for 20 September 1942, the Palestra board of directors held a heated meeting and changed the club’s name. When the debate reached its peak, Dr. Mario Minervino took the floor and asked club Secretary, Dr. Pascoal W. Byron Giuliano, to note in the minutes:
– “They don’t want us to be Palestra, so then we shall be Palmeiras – born to be champions.”
Tensions flared during that final match, where the opponent was São Paulo Futebol Clube (SPFC). Tension was peaking because of the team-name episode; SPFC was laying claim to the assets of the former Palestra Italia.
Palmeiras entered the field carrying the Brazilian flag under the leadership of Army Captain Adalberto Mendes. The game started and Palmeiras was soon winning 3-1. Next, a penalty was called in Palmeiras’ favour. At that moment, SPFC ordered their players to consider the Palmeiras squad an enemy of the homeland and pulled their side off the field amid jeers from all spectators, even the club’s own fans. Then, celebrations began on the spot. The next day, newspapers sold out. Everyone wanted to see the photograph of Palmeiras entering the field with the headline: “A Leader Dies, A Champion is Born.” After this incident, 20 September is considered Palmeiras’ 2nd birthday.
1951 – First World Championship
In January 1951, the Brazilian sports newspaper O Globo Sportivo ran a lead story reporting that FIFA President Jules Rimet would grant unconditional support to holding the world club championship in Rio de Janeiro.
And so it was that the first World Club Championship came about in 1951, with the participation of eight squads, divided into two brackets of four teams apiece: Vasco da Gama (Brazil), Austria Vienna (Austria), Nacional (Uruguay), and Sporting (Portugal), seeded in Rio and Palmeiras (Brazil), Juventus (Italy), Red Star (Yugoslavia), and Olympique (France) seeded in São Paulo. As it happened, FIFA would adopt this same number of teams, seed-city system, and tournament model for the World Club Championship in 2000.
The zeal to compete in this contest was such that the Uruguayan Soccer Association issued a directive signed by all first division team bosses on 15 June 1951 suspending its national championship from 25 June to 27 July, so that a sufficiently strong national team could represent the 1950 World Cup champs.
Palmeiras and Juventus played in the final, held over two matches. Palmeiras won one game and tied the other to win the Rio Cup – the first ever World Club Championship.
60s and 70s – The Academy and Palmeiras-Brazil are Born
In the 1960s, the standard of quality of Palmeiras play – led by Ademir de Guia, the man who would come to symbolize this period of football excellence – rendered Palestra Italia the nickname “The Academy”, as in the academy of Brazilian football.
Headed by Filpo Nunes, Palmeiras players won the most important national competition of 1965, the Rio – São Paulo championship, with stand-out performances. Blow-outs against top rivals included 7 goals scored against Santos, 5 against Botafogo in their home stadium of Maracanã, 5 against São Paulo, and another 4 scored against Vasco. The title came to Palmeiras in another lopsided victory against Botafogo at the Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo.
That same year, the Brazilian Sports Federation (CBD) invited the entire Palmeiras squad to represent Brazil in an official match against Uruguay for the Inconfidência Cup, coinciding with the inauguration of the Minerão Stadium. On the day that Palmeiras’ players put the green and white aside to pull on the yellow yersey, Palmeiras-Brazil beat the Uruguayan blues 3-0.
In the previous year, Palmeiras had won the Rio de Janeiro Quadricentennial Cup by beating the Paraguayan national team 5-2 and besting Peñarol of Uruguay in the final.
At the end of the 1970s, Palmeiras won the Brazil Cup and the Roberto Gomes Pedrosa tournament – the Brazilian Championship equivalent at the time. These victories laid the groundwork for the second Palmeiras Academy.
Led by Oswaldo Brandão, the team captured a slew of titles in the 1970s. It was three-time São Paulo State champion – emerging undefeated in one of those tournaments – two-time Brazilian Champion, three-time winner of Spain’s coveted and prestigious Ramón de Carranza Trophy, winner of Argentina’s Mar Del Plata Trophy – considered the South American Club Championship – as well as other achievements.
The 1980s – The Lost Decade
Accustomed to great victories by “The Academy” in the 1960s and 1970s, Palmeiras fans saw the 1980s come and go without championships or titles. In 1986, Palmeiras fielded a good team, thrashing Corinthians 5-1 and later playing a historic game in the semi-finals of the São Paulo State Championship against that same rival, prevailing 3-0. The team had arrived at the final of the State Championship – 10 years after winning its last State title – but lost to Inter from Limeira.
The year 1986 ended up being emblematic. On 29 October, Palmeiras fans adopted the pig as their mascot. During a game against Santos, the rival supporters were feebly chanting “pig” at the palmeirenses; the Palmeiras crowd responded with “Come On Pig! Come On Pig! Olé Olé Olé” and “Go, Piiiig!” A few days later, the Placar sports magazine sealed the change when it published an issue with Jorginho Putinatti – the symbol of that generation – holding a pig in his lap.
There were two additional noteworthy facts during this decade: In the 1983 State Championship against Santos, referee José de Assis Aragão scored a goal for Palmeiras in the 47th minute of the second period. That’s right: the ref scored a goal. Striker Jorginho kicked the ball inside the penalty area, the ball was on its way out but it hit Aragão – who was on the goal line about a meter from the goal. The ball bounced off Aragão and came to rest in Santos’ net. The game ended in a 2-all tie.
Another unexpected event occurred on 11 November 1988, when striker Gaúcho defended two penalties against Flamengo in a game for the Brazilian Championship at the Maracanã. Gaúcho was put on goalkeeping duty after Zetti broke a leg in the final minutes of the match. The game ended in a tie and advanced to the penalty shootout phase. During the shootout, Gaúcho defended two shots – from Aldair and Zinho. To cap off the evening, he scored his penalty.
In 1989, Palmeiras had another chance to celebrate a title – undefeated until the home stretch – but was eliminated when losing to Bragantino in the semi-finals of the São Paulo State Championship.
Even without the club winning any titles, Palmeiras fans filled stadiums and were always behind their team during the “lost decade.” The 1980s ended without significant victories, but the 1990s would make up for that.
The Parmalat Era – 20th Century Champions – Libertadores
In the 1990s, Palmeiras enjoyed countless sporting achievements – thanks to a well-planned and successful partnership with Parmalat.
For the length of that partnership, Palmeiras won numerous important titles. In the first full year of the relationship, the team won the São Paulo State Championship in 1993. That same year, it also capped the Rio-São Paulo Championship and the Brazilian Championship. The next year, it achieved the unprecedented feat of becoming two-time State Champion and two-time Brazilian Champion.
Palmeiras also won the Mercosur Cup and the Brazil Cup – both in 1998. In 1996 it handily won the State Championship, scoring more than 100 goals. Also during the partnership with Parmalat, it would win the Champions’ Tournament against top Brazilian clubs (in 2000).
Featuring players with tremendous technical prowess like Edmundo, Evair, Zinho, Rivaldo, Alex, and Cesar Sampaio, Palmeiras won other international tournaments – culminating with the triumph of the Libertadores de America Cup in 1999; an accomplishment ranking among the biggest in the club’s history.
Having won key national and international competitions, Palmeiras was proclaimed Brazilian football CHAMPION OF THE 20th CENTURY by the São Paulo State Football Federation (FPF).
2008 to current – New Arena, New Era
In 2008, the planning phase for the most modern sports arena in South America kicked off, preparing Palmeiras for the social and sporting event of 2014 – the Palestra/Palmeiras Centennial. The completely covered New Arena, scheduled to stand ready in April 2013, was conceived to seat 45,000 supporters and receive up to 60,000 people at concerts.
Palmeiras played the last official game at the Palestra Italia in May of 2010, and demolition initiated two months later. As the club had received authorization for a renovation of the Palestra Italia – not a complete demolition – part of the old stadium was left untouched, underneath the structure to become the New Arena.
Internal political turmoil, bad management and not having a stadium to call home contributed to Palmeiras’ relegation in 2012, the second in the club’s history. Curiously enough, the same year Palmeiras also won their second Brazil Cup trophy.
In 2013, Paulo Nobre took over the presidency and conducted nothing short of an administrative revolution at Palmeiras, modernizing and professionalizing management and adopting the strictest of financial policies. In addition to the reforms, in order to salvage the club from bankruptcy, Nobre also injected some R$ 200 million (US$ 60 million) of his own wealth into the club: a loan set at much below market rates, allowing Palmeiras to renegotiate and eliminate expensive short-term bank arrangements and improve cash flow.
The medicine was bitter to the extent of almost having Palmeiras relegated a third time, in 2014, permanency only secured in the last round of the championship.
Came 2015, the year future generations will recognise as a turning point in Palmeiras’ history. In addition to the continued healthy administration, re-elected Paulo Nobre brought in remunerated professional football management. Combined with rocketing revenues from the New Arena – now under the name of Allianz Parque – and the expanding remodelled club membership programme Avanti, Palmeiras were elevated to a new level. The results were immediate: a 2015 Brazil Cup title and, in 2016, after 22 long years, a Brazilian championship title – the club’s ninth.
Palmeiras have taken a leading position in Brazilian football and have all the necessary tools to maintain that position for years to come.