São Paulo FC Away Day

Hello everyone. Firstly, if anyone that hasn’t read the Palmeiras piece (HERE), I suggest you go there now to see a full briefing of what’s going on with this little series. As a quick recap, I am currently living in São Paulo, and in my first week here I found myself going to three matches in the space of seven days.

For any football fan this is an exciting, stimulating experience, but considering I have this platform to write about my experiences, I watched every gave with an especially keen eye on the quirks and traditions that make Brazilian football special. This match especially set itself aside from the two fixtures that had sandwiched it into the centre of my week. It was edgy, alternative and a very raw exposure to the beautiful game. I hope you enjoy the read…

São Paulo FC vs São Bento, Campeonato Paulista*, Estádio do Morumbi, 21/02/2017.

So we march onto the next fixture and to the following Tuesday, as I took a trip to watch the city’s namesake in action. One may assume that this gives them the title of the main team in São Paulo, and trophy-wise they are, but in terms of supporter-ship Corinthians are the darling of the city with over 26million fans (compared to 16million São Paulo fans and 13million Palmeiras fans). Out of the three matches this was definitely, on-paper, the least appealing, but the ticket cost about £5 so there was no-way I was turning that down.

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SE Palmeiras Away Day

On arrival in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, there was one thing that stood out to me. The financial hub of Brazil brings less touristic hot-spots then its glamorous sister Rio de Janeiro, but as a fan of football it’s a pot of gold. I did my research and had a look at what clubs called São Paulo their home, finding three big names: Palmeiras, Corinthians and São Paulo FC.

Three big teams brings an abundance of riches to mind. The stadia of the city is impressive, and includes a brilliant fusion of modernity and tradition that represent both the history and developing future of the sport in the country. The paulista people are football-mad and every taxi driver or guy in a bar will be able to discuss and debate with you for however long you wish – there’s no better way to improve my Portuguese. The city’s heart is pumping with football-infused blood.

The final, and most important, benefit of a city with such footballing heritage is the potential to go to games. However much football you watch on TV or online, nothing compares to the live experience. This is especially relevant in South America where the atmosphere created by the fans is a cauldron, wherever you go whenever you go. Having been to see San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors in Argentina and already seeing a Brazil international in Rio de Janeiro, the consistency is clear; the fans make the experience.

The quality is far inferior than that in Europe’s top leagues, there’s no contesting that, but the support is in a league of its own. As a Chelsea fan, I can hold my hands up and bow down to the home-support that they offer over here. We’re watching Eden Hazard and they’re watching Jô (ex-Manchester City flop) but we’re clapping and they’re screaming.

SIMG_7326.JPGo I had a 10 day period in São Paulo before heading back to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, and I ticked off the main tourist hotspots in my first few days. So what’s a football fan to do with themselves? Well, I wanted to see some football. I knew that I had arrived in a time of the year when football is most accessible, with the Campeonato Paulista* in full flow. I checked the websites of the ‘Big Three’, and selected three games for the next week. This schedule would take me to the stadiums of Palmeiras (Allianz Parque), São Paulo (Estádio do Morumbi) and Corinthians (Arena Corinthians) in each corner of the city. Despite all ‘travel advice and warnings’, I would go alone to every match and experience a match-day as the locals do it. First up was a trip to see the champions of Brazil – where else to start – and I was off to watch Palmeiras.

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Arsenal.

As Thomas Müller stroked in Bayern Munich’s 5th goal of the night, it seemed familiar and practically routine. In what world are we living in when it is considered more inevitable than a shock when a top German side beats a top English side 5-1 in the first leg of a Champions League knock-out tie. I remember Premier League flying the flag valiantly a few years back, with epic European nights at Old Trafford, Anfield, Stamford Bridge and even at the Emirates. Now we’re grateful to even have a team in the quarter-finals. For a league invested with such a mountain of capital, it’s frankly a disgrace that we’re in this position – it’s a shambles. With relegation candidates Leicester City and stuttering Manchester City still to face off against two of Europe’s most in-form sides in Sevilla and AS Monaco respectively, it’s not out of the question that the English flag will soon be withdrawn from the Champions League turf.

That’s not why we’re here though. Why we’re here is to discuss the cowering disappointment that is Arsenal Football Club. I can only feel sorry for their fanbase because season after season the same scenario is played out. Promising start of the season up until November brings talk of a title surge and the fate-sealing ‘this is our year’ chat. One or two weeks from hell either side of Christmas push Arsène Wenger and his side away from the leading pack. Then the rest of the season is played out in a lukewarm rollercoaster of form that is just about sufficient enough for a top 4 finish and maybe a cup win. No league progress and certainly no European progress. Summer arrives, Wenger pledges his future, tepid transfer window and repeat. Unfortunately it’s reached a point where it’s less of a talking point and more of a running comedy.

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Any team that loses the same European fixture 5-1 in consecutive years has a deep-lying problem. We’ll witness the classic, outraged song and dance from pundits, journalists and fans alike but they now know this routine like the back of their hand. The spitting eruption of anger has been replaced with cries of pure frustration and deflation. The infamous ArsenalFanTV interviews now invoke an increasing sense of sympathy from fellow fans (after the initial humour of it all). Everyone can sense that something toxic and weak is ingrained in the club’s DNA and, without a doubt, it’s time for something to change. Fingers will all point to Wenger, rightly or wrongly, but even if he does go there’s major work to be done by whoever takes the reigns.

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Dear José

Dear José,

I know the last couple of years have been a rollercoaster for our relationship. As my boyhood idol, I was ecstatic when you returned to Chelsea as our new leader on 3rd June 2013. Your return brewed all sorts of nostalgia in my mind. Gluing myself to the television as Frank Lampard scored twice in Bolton to win our first title in 50 years, and watching you on the phone to your family. Revelling in your cheeky and antagonising press conferences; most notably in Europe as you squabbled with Barcelona’s Frank Rijkaard. I was at the 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge over the Catalans, and your comments had boiled a passionate atmosphere as we felt like soldiers in your army. How times have changed…

Your return started relatively well. A a 3rd placed finish and a Champions League semi-final appearance in your first season back was encouraging progress. A stunning squad over-haul in the summer transfer window of 2014 set you up for a steamrolling title win, running away with it and swatting away any competitors in only the manner you could. Our leader was back, and everything pointed towards a bright, blue future. You spoke openly about youth, contracts and the futujose-mourinho-barcelona-real-madrid_3475841re directing both media and fans towards a paradisiacal image of a legacy. The rest is, unfortunately, a dark and grim history.

Fast forward through a whirlwind of physios, losses and Papy Djilobodjis, and here we are in 2017. We’ve broken up. Your colours are now red, after leaving your blue robes in a puddle of mud back in London. Luckily Italians have a way with fashion and we’ve found one of the best. He’s called Antonio and he’s taking us back to our best after seeing the embarrassing state in which he picked us up. You also picked up a limp former giant in Manchester United and were given a nice, healthy budget in which to rejuvenate your former enemies. Since then it’s fair to say we’ve experienced various levels of success.

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Gabriel Jesus: The Second Coming

At the beginning of January, as England was caving to the New Year blues, I saw a video on Instagram that really caught my eye. A 19 year old Brazilian was on the streets of Manchester, dancing along to a busker playing the saxophone. This was a Brazilian teenager that had only spent a matter of days in the North of England, and was supposedly in the teething phase that has engulfed so many of his compatriots that came before him. This post was followed a week later by a beaming smile in the snow accompanied by the caption (translated): “Getting to know the true MANCHESTER”. To the naked eye it’s an over-enthusiastic tourist, to the trained eye it’s a new star.

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-01-03-29  This nature is what makes Gabriel Jesus unique. “What makes him special is that he’s so humble,” says Gabriel, a die-hard Palmeiras fan, “he’s always with his Mum, taking photos and he doesn’t go-out clubbing.” Whilst it seems strange and under-whelming to begin a football article with such psychological analysis, in the case of Jesus it’s incredibly apt. Having seen so many young Brazilian ‘wonder-kids’ arrive timidly through the British border, it’s refreshing to see someone greet the grey and the cold with open arms and with a smile.

When the £27million signing was announced in the midst of a busy summer at Manchester City, it’s safe to say it wasn’t the top of the agenda. Pep Guardiola was still wiping his shoes on the welcome mat and was followed by high-profile arrivals of Ilkay Gündogan, Leroy Sané, John Stones, Nolito and Claudio Bravo. The young
gabriel-jesusBrazilian was due to arrive in January and was subsequently put on the back-burners. When City started the season strongly, any thought of the teenager was scarce. As Guardiola’s luck started to fade further down the line, the flame started to flicker in the engine of the Gabriel Jesus band-wagon.

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Kick-Off

Hello everyone, and welcome to my brand new blog. I know most of you initially reading this are going to be absolutely sick of seeing my writing on the internet. I’ve had a football blog before (Let’s Talk Football) and I’m currently writing a blog for my Year Abroad (Time to Make Some Mates). I’m a consistent spammer of people’s social media timelines and thanks to this that’s only going to get worse!

Anyway, why exactly am I resurrecting my football-writing career? Well primarily I’m a big reader of all things football. My Twitter timeline is a pub full of ex and current pros, journalists, pundits, chairman and every possible niche expert from Klopp tactics to Argentinean football. It’s actually quite embarrassing to show a non-football loving acquaintance a glimpse of my TL. Either way, I see it all on a daily basis and my brain is fed a bulging conveyor belt of world football news and opinions.

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It’s kick-off time….

This would lead the everyday man to question how I plan to fit myself into that already over-populated crowd. It’s naïve to think I’m going to stroll in and ‘break the internet’ or any of that rubbish, but that’s not the aim. As I mentioned I’m currently living abroad, in Brazil and previously Argentina, and I see that as a huge luxury and honey-pot for football material.

 

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