Welcome to the final piece in what was a truly incredible week for me in the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo. I still live here, and will do until June, but I will never forget my first week and the footballing adventure that it took me on. This article covers the final game of the week before I headed back to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, so it needed to be of a suitable occasion.
Fortunately, the Football Gods (and Brazilian fixture men) had placed a Clásico on my final day in São Paulo. Not just any Clásico either, but a battle between fierce rivals Corinthians and Palmeiras that would commemorate 100 years of the fixture. It was a big occasion in the city and a big occasion for me and the blog (kinda). The newspaper covers and TV channels were hyping the game up for a few days previously, so I already knew this was going to be a good one. Enjoy the finale…
Corinthians vs Palmeiras, Campeonato Paulista*, Arena Corinthians, 22/02/2017
The game was a 9:45pm kick-off, which would be enough to make the average tourist squirm slightly; the stadium lies in a more modest outskirt of the city, where crime is more prevalent than in the centre. It didn’t bother me too much though and I set off on the metro as the night set in. The Corinthians-Itaquera station sits on the other end of the line to the Palmeiras-Barra Funda station, making it a direct 1 hour trip between the two. I subsequently christened this the ‘Red Line Derby’, and hopped on at my station, Santa Cecilia, for the 40 minute trundle towards the Arena Corinthians.
The atmosphere was electric and as I got off my metro, I was greeted with the sight of about 50 Corinthians fans (seemingly ultras) who were going through the motions of their singing ‘routine’. If the late kick-off team risked any doziness among myself and other fans, these lads certainly perked us up. As with all the games, the fans passion was transferable and my sensors immediately lit up and ignited the buzzing feeling that football seems to impose on me. I made the 20 minute walk up the hill in a sea of white shirts and approached the unique structure that they call home.
The Arena Corinthians is a 50,000 seater stadium built initially for the 2014 World Cup. Its short history is already drowned in controversy and sorrow, after two people were killed during construction in 2013. The infrastructure is distinctive to say the least; the pitch is slightly sunken into the ground, and the two stands behind the goals are practically open to the outside. This creates an amazing view on the walk up, as not only the stadium comes into view but glimpses of the whole pitch. You could probably watch the game from the outside if you weren’t too picky about the ball. The outside, similar to Palmeiras’ Allianz Park, is covered in shimmering materials; this time provided by thousands of LEDs that were coloured to show a mosaic to represent the 100 years of the fixture. Having enjoyed the ruggedness of São Paulo’s Estadio do Morumbi the night before, it was a stark and intriguing contrast that greeted me at Corinthians’ fortress.
The only downside was that I spent about 50 minutes, from leaving the metro, walking up to the stadium, walking around to the ticket office, queuing to exchange my ticket and then realising my block was right back where I had started. I must have racked up a good 3km minimum trekking around that stadium. I said it was nice, but I was sick of it after a while. My mammoth stroll meant that I only got into the stadium as the teams were coming out – not bad timing I suppose – and I was welcomed with a scything roar (albeit probably not for me).
This was by far the most hostile atmosphere I had seen so far. The corner to the far right from myself was full of the nutters that South America is famous for. I imagined that the group from the metro station was probably right in the thick of it. The rest of the ground wasn’t too shabby either and the stands were rocking. During the Brazilian National Anthem – which is always played before-hand but never respected – the crazy boys in the ultras’ stand let off a massive flare, disrupting the crisp white floodlighting with an intrusive but complimentary red flame. This is what I’m talking about, I thought to myself. Everyone loves a flare, providing you’re not under it.
The passionate message of support was clearly received by the players, as the first 5 minutes was an attacking onslaught by the home team. They hit the bar and had a couple of feisty long-shots go close. The reaction was unlike anything I’d really seen before. Fans leapt around like excited animals ready to be fed. They banged their seats like angry monkeys. Their eyes menaced and their noses smelt blood and vulnerability. At this point, any affection that had accumulated for Palmeiras the week before was brutally wiped away. I don’t pride myself for individually supporting three massive rivals in one week, but at the same time it’s impossible not to get caught up in the whirlwind of a football crowd. For now, Palmeiras were the villains of the piece.
The game calmed down and the chances of a riot drastically decreased as the two higher-quality teams cancelled each-other out. The star player for Corinthians? One Colin Kazim-Richards, who has had a fascinating career that kick-off with Brighton and Hove Albion buying him after a fan won a Coca Cola competition. He has gone on to play for Fenerbahce, Celtic and Galatasaray, as well as the Turkish national team. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you read this brilliant recent interview with him in The Guardian. He’s been tipped as a journey-man throughout his career – rightly or wrongly – but if that was the case, I certainly think he’s found a home at Corinthians. The fans audibly adored him.
The game was actually quite boring until chaos ensued on the brink of half-time. Palmeiras went on the break from a corner and the pacy Keno was hacked down by a Corinthians player . The referee – who had already caught my eye with Mike Dean-esq dramatising of every decision – charged over and whipped out first a yellow card quickly followed by a red. Fans went crazy, fights started on the pitch, and the game was in complete disorder. I soon learned that Gabriel – ex-Palmeiras – had been misidentified as the perpetrator and given a second yellow card for no reason. No wonder he was fuming. He was so incensed that he lashed out at a riot guard as he stormed down the tunnel. Braver bloke than me.
With Palmeiras already superior quality-wise, the game was looking inevitably tragic for the home side. However , the second half was again quite a dull affair and the teams slogged it out like two tired boxers scared of being knocked-out. When Kazim-Richards went off injured and was replaced by ex-Manchester City flop Jô, all hope seemed gone that there would be a winning goal. I’d had a good time but I was disappointed that the last game of this adventure was to end in a 0-0. Yet, once again, the Football Gods were looking down on me…
Corinthians were suddenly on a two-on-one counter attack. One of those was Jô. Oh God no. He bottled one chance. The ball fell to his teammate. He could have gone alone but set Jô up again. OH GOD NO. The keeper came rushing out. Jô slipped the ball under him. Pandemonium. I blacked out. I went so crazy it was like Chelsea had just won the league. I was so into it I didn’t film the goal – regretfully – and I just freaked out, jumping around with the fans around me. Some people were crying. Shirts were being waved over 80% stadiums heads. Watching the goal on YouTube brings back the chills. This was the first time Corinthians had beaten Palmeiras in a while, and it meant the world to every single person in that stadium. And it was Jô that did it!
So that was that. An 87th minute winner for the home side in the 100th year celebrations of the Clásico. Now THAT is how you end the ‘One Week, Three Matches’ series. It was unbelievable and I couldn’t quite compose myself. I was marching back to the metro singing along with the jubilant crowds as if I’d been one of them for my whole life. That’s the beauty of live football though. When it goes right it can be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. A boring 0-0 was ready to file itself away into the obscurity of my brain, until a Premier League joke wins the game and propels the memory into ecstasy.
I love football.
Ticket Price – BR$93 (£23.25)
Players on Show – Colin Kazim-Richards (ex-Celtic, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray), Jô (ex-Manchester City and Everton), Felipe Melo (ex-Juventus, Internazionale and Galatasaray), Michel Bastos (ex-Lyon and AS Roma), Yerry Mina (highly tipped to move to Barcelona in January 2018) and Zé Roberto (ex-Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich).
Game – 9/10 (would’ve been about a 7 but who can begrudge a last minute winner in a derby!)
Stadium – 8.5/10
Fans – 9.5/10
Safety – 9/10
Overall – 9/10
FOR A COLLECTION OF FANS GOING MENTAL AND FLARES CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM VIDEO HERE – https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ23oNOA5wC/?taken-by=jack_colman&hl=en
TO READ THE OTHER PARTS OF ‘ONE WEEK, THREE MATCHES’ PLEASE CLICK BELOW
*The Campeonato Paulista is a pre-season tournament that takes place in São Paulo (everyone region has their own version) and involves every team in the area. Every team plays eachother before the best-performing teams head to the final knockout rounds and subsequent final. Whilst not as serious as the league, it’s taken very seriously by every team and spreads across over 2 months of action. You often see the the strongest possible squad put out by the big boys (São Paulo, Corinthians, Palmeiras and Santos) and the will to win the competition is visibly evident.