Tremei! Tremei! Part II
Some find that second birth in Christ or some other ethereal figure, some otherworldly experience of fire or water. But some of us need something concrete, something tangible that we can sink our teeth in.
For Thiago Neves, it was the Flamengo jersey.
Sure, he was a star player for Fluminense a few years back, and was even thought as a possible National Squad player. But he was despised by a Nation, a Red and Black Nation, and a player like that will have an unfortunately incomplete life if he has never worn the magnificent colors of Flamengo. So after going to the Middle East to make boatloads of money, he came back and joined the light side of the Force. And in his second game, did a goal so magical, so beautiful that much of the old rancor and distrust was shed away from the minds of millions of flamenguistas in an instant.
The game was again our ex-rival Vasco, a team battered by three losses in a row against teams significantly inferior in resources both financial and of skill. The coach had just been fired and two players were suspended (for sucking so bad). A shadow of the team that was fun to beat – now it’s almost sad.
Flamengo played a decent first half, which looked a lot better because Vasco was practically not in the pitch. The Scarlet&Black squad danced around what passed for a defense for the other team, but without incisiveness, without bringing heat. But the superiority of Flamengo was so that even without really trying the opportunity came knocking with a pass by Thiago to Leo Moura. Our winger and Captain kicked the ball violently, as if just aiming at the general direction of the goal, but Deivid, finally in the right place at the right time, pushed the ball into Vasco net.
Then with a touch of geniality, Renato sees Thiago ready to jet and taps the ball gently over Vasco’s discombobulated defense. Thiago bolts, the ball firmly in his possession as the baffled defenders just look at him. Vasco’s goalie Fernando Prass ran desperately at Thiago, only to be humiliated by Thiago tapping the ball over his head and push it nto the net with his thigh. Flamengo 2-nil, and Vasco destroyed – end of the first half. The TV camera showed the Vasco fans, many of them leaving the game right then, heartbroken.
But we got complacent, believing that the third goal was right around the corner. We would try always one extra dribble, got negligent with the passing and by sheer desperation, Vasco grew on the game. At 30min. of the second half (75min. for the americans), they scored, and some of the their belief returned, and for fifteen, nay, twenty, for the ref gave another five frikkin minutes, the game got tense and open, with Vasco charging and Flamengo counter-attacking. When it was over, Flamengo coach allegedly berated his players in the locker room.
He was right. This game should have easier.
Fla-Flu. If you haven’t seen one, you have not yet experienced football.
There was a lot of expectation built up for this Fla-Flu. While Botafogo and Vasco played the first derby of the year, Flamengo and Fluminense was the more expected game of the beginning of the year. Fluminense, for the miracle they performed last year escaping relegation, and Flamengo, last year’s National Champion, promised a great spectacle. And they didn’t disappoint.
The first 10 minutes of the game where even, with a slight dominance by us. But the Fluminense is really young, really fast and our defense, while experienced, is old and slow. Alan moved faster than our defender to score Flu 1×0 Fla.
The goal destroyed our team. Fluminense played easily, sliding between our defenders like they weren’t there. And when they were, the Fluminense kids would dive, and that’s how they got the ref to give them a penalty shot. Conca didn’t wasted it – Flu 2×0 Fla.
Flamengo went on, trying to attack, but with Petkovic in a bad day, and a midfield weak in defensive power, didn’t scare much the Fluminense goalie, and left Bruno absolutely open, fending for himself. It was a bad strategy, but it wielded results, with Juan getting tackled in the Fluminense box. A penalty that Adriano did not waste either, Flu 2×1 Fla. We were back in the game.
But only for a minute. Fluminense went to the attack once more and, with the help of Lady Luck, scored a third goal, burying the hope of any kind of reaction in the first half. Both teams went to half-time, but only one thought the game was over.
Come second half and Andrade make two substitutions that woulkd change the story of the game. He takes out Petkovic (tired and out of shape) and put in Vinicius Pacheco. And he took out Fernando (a decent midfielder, just a shitty defensive midfielder) and put in the unstoppable Williams. Flamengo woke up. At the 5th minute, Vinicius sent a warning shot that hit the post so hard that its seemed to scratch the paint out of it. Then, at the 6th, Williams crossed a ball into the box, where it bounced around for a while, until Vágner Love shoved it mercilessly into the Fluminense net. Flu 3×2 Fla. They should have noticed what was happening.
So, at the 8th minute, Vinicius crossed another ball into the Flu box. This one pass through everybody, until Kleberson the Pentacampeão* kicked it with such strength that you barely saw the ball moving until it was inside the net. Flu 3×3 Fla.
That could have been it. It would give enough ammunition for Flamenguistas to make fun of tricolores the next day. But this is Flamengo, and with Flamengo, there is always more and is never easy. Alvaro, our fullback, got a second yellow card, and got sent off when the tide was in our favor. That emboldened Fluminense, and they came, disorganized and wild, to the attack, while Flamengo held their own. Playing possum and waiting for the chance to kill them.
Until, in a lighting fast counterattack started by Vagner Love (who was, at this point playing everywhere in the field, from fullback to center-forward), the ball landed in front of Adriano, who had only the work of tapping it in. Flu 3×4 Fla. The horror in the Fluminense’s fans faces was not visible, as they slowly started to trail off the stadium.
But, in this brutal class-war that is FlaxFlu, we must hurt them as much as possible. Fluminense’s defense was badly positioned all the way in the midfield; Adriano was not offsides, but for a hair; and Vinicius Pacheco had the ability to realize that and pass a sweet, sweet ball to Adriano, leaving him all the Fluminense’s field with nobody but the goalie. Unforgiven, he score, as Maracanã was finally cleansed of the stench of “the elite”. and us, Black, Brown and Red, celebrated our home once more for ourselves.
Because against them, victory always taste sweeter.
*Pentacampeão= Five times champion. Kleberson’s nickname is an allusion to him being in the Brazil squad in 2002 that won the fifth World Cup for Brazil.
I was originally going to refrain from commenting on the Rio State Tournament. It is a relic, like all the other State Tournaments, from the time there was no National Tournament, but we Cariocas love our little relic. We just feel other people don’t understand the appeal.
Then, something like this happens.
The first derby of the year: Botafogo vs Vasco, the Friendship Derby. That name will have to change soon if Vasco keeps beating on Botafogo like a rented mule every chance they get (Thanks for the metaphor, German.) This time it was 6×0, inside the beautifully built but perpetually empty Botafogo’s stadium the Engenhão. Dodô, who used to play for Botafogo, and who was suspended for two years for steroid use due to some nutritional supplement given by the team, had his revenge this weekend, scoring a hat-trick in the first half and opening the floodgates for the historic thrashing of the Lone Star.
All the while, in Flamengo…
Vágner Love is home, but the home is not yet complete.
Our defense is shaky, since the midfield is where we lost most players since last year (Aírton and Everton -sold; Zé Roberto – loan expired; Maldonado, Williams – injured). So, while we have won the past three games, we got scored on 4 times total, a worrisome number.
Love, who has nothing to do with that, played his first game and was the happiest man I ever seen score a goal for Flamengo. And then he scored another one, guaranteeing our victory for 2×1.
It’s the beginning of a new year, we can expect much more than the little pleasures…
” It has been five or six years of Flamengo, in which I had to endure some situations, and in a moment like this, I have to say something. I suffered a lot of injustice in here, unpleasant things, that I wouldn’t even like to mention now. (…) Those people now have to bow down to my work, because the results came, and they came fast.”
These are the words of Jorge Luís Andrade da Silva, the most victorious man in the history of Brazilian tournaments. He is the only person to have ever won six Brasileirões – five as a player, in 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1987 for Flamengo and 1989 for the poor thing and now 2009 as a manager. He is also the first out of very few black coaches to win a Brasileirão, and has a speech impediment that has got him the nickname of Tromba (elephant trunk).
Andrade, always the sportsman, takes the high ground and doesn’t go on detail about the humiliations he had to endure in Flamengo as the as the coach for the Junior teams and then as assistant manager to the main team. But just like our memory serves right to remember the great accomplishments of this man, it should also serves us right to not forget all the shit that it was thrown at him by the same institution that he made great.
His return to Flamengo as part of the club’s staff was marred by the constant humiliation inflicted on him. Andrade recalls that when he and Adílio were incorporated into the staff, one of the Flamengo’s directors complained about the move to the “vulture Flamengo,” a racist snide referent to the original usage of the word vulture as a derogatory term against Flamengo’s fans, associated with Blacks and the poor. Or when he was made stand in the searing heat of Rio’s summer sun for hours as a barrier so the players could train free kicks. Or having a little upstart like Bruno cuss him out in from of the cameras and deride his accomplishments over a perceived bad call in a playful game between the players.
He had his value questioned, he saw his friend Adílio being thrown out of his charge as manager for the junior team without explanation or reason, and took over as interim coach a couple times when the high-salaried prima-donas where sack from the manager’s bench one after the other. He had players that didn’t knew him and his history, and attacked him cowardly and with pettyness, mocking his speech behind his back.
All this he endured. When signing the contract for next year, Andrade tried to get restitution for all in monetary form, asking for a R$ 250,000 monthly salary. He didn’t get it, but I think mainly because there’s no way Flamengo can afford that. He did get a decent package. Maybe not worth what he’s worth, but, Andrade being Andrade, that would be impossible.
… And before celebrating, we must talk of serious matters.
For some stupid reason, Flamengo’s Presidential election was held the Monday after the last game of the season. So instead of being here talking about the Greatest of Events, I’m here talking electoral politics.
Like most major clubs in South America, Flamengo is a multi-sport athletic association, not privately owned but run by an elected official, normally in three-year terms. Patricia Amorim, a former swimmer for Flamengo, surprisingly dethroned the situation the day after a major victory for the football team.
Patricia had already been part of Flamengo’s administration for over three years, but she was forced to resign from her position as Olympic Sports Vice-President during a major financial crisis in the club earlier this, that left the basketball team with over six months of overdue salaries, not to say about other sports like swimming and gymnastics and the staff.
Delair Dumbrosk, who was running for the situation, was the Executive Vice-President at the time, and has been running the club for the great part of this year, due to President’s Marcio Braga chronic hard condition that had him in and out of surgery. His victory was given as certain in case of a Flamengo title. He shunned the debates and other forums and run on a “you don’t wanna risk changing things now” campaign. It didn’t work.
The problem is that Patricia, a member of Rio de Janeiro’s city council, ran a very “political” campaign, full of nothing and some more nothing. I listened to the debate for 2 hours and not once a heard a single concrete proposal coming out of her mouth. There was a lot of buzzwords like “professionalism” and “21st Century”, but nothing relevant.
Not that the other candidates were much better. Pedro Ferrer sulled, Clóvis Sahione screamed like a madman about nothing important, Lysias Itapicurú was as charismatic as John Kerry (and as relevant, too). Plínio Serpa Pinto did present some ideas, some good, some bad, but all very concrete. If I could vote, he would have been the one.
But Patricia was the one with the most supporters. I got to give it to her, in the minefield that is Flamengo politics, she had always been able to aggregate instead of divide. Now the question is if that was because she wasn’t in power.
There is a lot of fear that she will sink football, because she is more worried about the olympic sports, her home base. Or that she will bring us something akin to the terrible disorganization and corruption of the 90’s, when, from being a club with a budget that ran on a surplus, we became a club with a debt of over 170 million dollars. If any of that is substantiated, I don’t know. I am, surprisingly, giving her the benefit of the doubt. She has three years to prove herself.
Godspeed, Madam President. A nation is in your hands.
Second to last round of the Brasileirão 2009. Seven Games that changed the history of the tournament.
1 – SPORT 1 X 2 INTERNACIONAL
After getting behind one-nil in Recife, Inter was able to turn it around it the last minute with a free kick from Andrezinho. The team that was meant to win this tournament hands down, as it was professed in the beginning, is now in second place, two points behind the leader. They face Santo André at home in the last game, a Santo André clinging to its 1% change of escaping relegation.
Fred, Conca and co. made the impossible possible. From virtually relegated, with 98% chance of having to play in the second division next year, they went on a winning streak worth of champions, and dragged Fluminense out of the relegation zone. With two goals of the Argentinian Darío Conca (a player that, even in the worse moments of Fluminense, was always a beacon of great football) and a beautiful goal from Fred, Fluminense is now in the 15th place, and could escape relegation if they tie their last game against Coritiba on Sunday.
It seemed, for a moment, that the Evil Empire was going to do it again. São Paulo scored first, but it believed that Goiás, with nothing to win or lose in the tournament, would not try hard to win. Big mistake. São Paulo fell asleep, and when it woke up, Goiás was winning 3×1. São Paulo tried to react, but it was too late. In the end, São Paulo dropped from 1st place to fourth, and now has only 3% chance of taking the trophy home, and may even drop out of the Libertadores classifying zone next Sunday.
Coritiba fell asleep in the tournament way too early, lulled by the belief that it was secure against relegation. Now, with this loss, the abyss stares at it. Not winning the last game will most likely relegate Coritiba in the year of its centennial. Cruzeiro, that cares nothing for it, trounced Coritiba and kept its hope to still enter the Libertadores zone in the last game.
And Botafogo tried so hard to make it into the relegation zone that they finally got there. With the rise of Fluminense, Botafogo and even Atlético could eneter the relegation zone. It was Botafogo, who heroically sacrificed many of its players against São Paulo last weekend (sorry, no post for that). It is not that bad, but it must win against Palmeiras at home next weekend if it wants to stay in the first division.
What is beauty?
Beauty is the flash of the unexpected, the poetry rising from the banality. Is the change, is the unbelievable, is what makes us still hope for life and love. Helen Keller said that : “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” Maybe. But then again, Helen never seen a goal by Diego Souza.
Because before all this, beauty was this goal by Diego Souza.
And Palmeiras is now in third place, and still hopes with the trophy.
As with all things Flamengo, this came with extreme difficulty. But, for the first time in this tournament, Flamengo took the lead of the Brasileirão. Not since 1992 have we had such a good chance of taking the cup home for the six time. (fuck off, Sport!)
We wasted the chance to take the lead last weekend, when São Paulo lost to Botafogo, but we stay 0x0 against Goiás at home. Now, we would have to face Corinthians of Ronaldo in a away game.
Then Adriano burned his foot in a weird accident in his garden and was out of the game.We put in Bruno Mezenga, a kid that in 6 games have never scored a goal.
Against all odds, we march.
Flamengo is this, is passion beyond reason, is a feeling that cannot be explained for those of other dispositions but that it recognized each other in a look and in a smile, in a sigh and in a shout.
Against all odds, we believed.
Before the game, with all the negative news, all tickets for the game of Sunday Dec. 6th were sold out by Nov. 24th. The tickets reserved are still parked.
And on we went, into semi-hostile territory. Because the Corinthians fan didn’t really wanted the team to win that game, because that would help their arch-rivals São Paulo and Palmeiras. Ronaldo, for all his faults, took a dive in the first 15 minutes, faked a pain in the thigh and sat down to watch the rest of the game. His blood showed that still runs a deep red and black.
One more game. One more win. And 17 years of wait will have Rio bursting in a great party, every red-and-black heart will jump and will experience heaven. One week that feels like a lifetime.
I cannot stop believing that this year is the year.
Sunday Flamengo did what no other team had done so far in the tournament – they played a game worth of a Brazilian Champion. At the home of another one of our greatest rivals – our great enemy of the 80’s – Atlético Mineiro, Flamengo showed that it has the will and the football to take back the Cup home after 17 years. This was THE game of this tournament.
This tournament, with no finals, came really close to having one in this game Sunday. It was a great football game, reminiscent of the confrontations between the Atlético of Reinaldo and João Leitte, and the Flamengo of Zico, Júnior Nunes and Andrade. Not technically, but in raw emotion and in the confirming of the absolute supremacy of the Flamengo over its old rival.
Much like back then when Zico led the charge from the midfield, this victory was constructed by the old warhorse Dejan Petkovic, scored his eight olympic goal in his career, the most of any player. The goal, that happened in the beginning of the first half, shook Atlético to its core.
And then the invisible man attacked. The Chilean defensive midfield Maldonado, nicknamed “the invisible man” for his effective and subtle style of play, decided to go towards the goal, passing the ball to Zé Roberto and receiving back face to face with the goalie. Mercilessly, he dribbled the defender, and, with the same skill and coolness that Andrade had when he was a player, kicked a cross ball that filled up Carini’s net. At their stadium with 60.000 of their fans watching, the first half ended Atlético 0x2 Flamengo.
On the second half, Petkovic could barely walked due to a recurring pain in his thigh. The wounded lion refused to leave the field. Aírton, our great Spartan and first defensive midfield, was also limping due to cramped legs. Atlético took the cue to advance; we lost the midfield and stayed back, only defending. But the fatal mistake of only defending is that one will eventually go through. A unpretentious ball was crossed into Flamengo’s penalty area, and danced in front of Ricardinho, their attacking midfielder. A former Would Cup winner (in 2002 with Brazil), Ricardinho did not miss that chance. Atlético 1×2 Flamengo.
But then Andrade was forced to substitute both Pet and Aírton, both from injury. And the game that seemed to be going now in favor of Atlético, switched again towards us. Toró, a defensive midfielder with a forward’s background, and El Joven Pistolero Fierro came into the game and soon we where in the offensive again. The game became frenetic, with both teams getting close to scoring goals. Then, after receiving a ball from our right-winger Leonardo Moura, the Chilean Fierro moved further along the right wing and sent a millimetric pass right into Adriano’s head. And then it was over for them, the memory of the horror they suffered in the 80’s came back and, while they desperately tried to show a reaction, the absolute silence of their 60.000 fans and the roar of the two or three thousand Flamenguistas decreed that once more, the Rooster became prey to the Vulture.
We are now perched in third place, breathing down the neck of the new leader of the tournament, the Evil Empire, São Paulo. The difference is of two points. If they fuck up, we take it in one round.
P.S.: Go get it in the net, Carini!
Forgive me a fan’s rant, but there wasn’t anything else of consequence that happened this weekend. Some times lost, other won, and some even tied, but Atlético and Flamengo was an absolute masterful display of football. If you care who won or lost, here are the scores:
Grêmio 1×1 São Paulo
Santos 3×1 Náutico
Vitória 0x1 Avaí
Sport 2×3 Cruzeiro
Corinthians 2×0 Santo André
Fluminense 1×0 Palmeiras
Atlético-MG 1×3 Flamengo
Barueri 1×1 Internacional
Atlético-PR 2×0 Goiás
Botafogo 2×0 Coritiba