Monday, July 27, 2009

And Brazil? Judging by the second national championship, the samba of the World Champions from 1970 was gone. Palmeiras (Sao Paulo) won the national title, but it was a team playing unattractive football. Unattractive to most Brazilians, that is.

Back, left to right: Eurico, Leao, Dudu, Luis Pereira, Alfredo, Zeca
Front: Edu, Leivinha, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, Ademir da Guia, Nei

Palmeiras are one of the biggest and most successful Brazilian clubs, of course. They were not well known to Europeans – largely due to the fact that the club is from Sao Paulo and apart from Santos, best known to Europeans clubs were Rio de Janeiro ones. Naturally, people from Rio are not terribly fond of Sao Paulo clubs. On top of it Palmeiras is the club of the Italian immigrants, originally named Palestra Italia. During the Second World War the club was forced to change its name for political reasons (rather arbitrary exercise of state political correctness, because clubs with German names were not forced to change theirs) and became Palmeiras. As an ethnic club, it is seen as elitist and exclusive, although neither fan base, nor players support that – and not in the early 1970s either. The whole ethnic issue is ambiguous – fans hardly draw fine ethnic lines, but still tend to support clubs along ethnic lines. Club administration claims both ethnic pride and ethnic-blindness, often at once, so it hard to tell. Palmeiras were both lucky and unlucky, though. Their champion team was solid: Leao, the best Brazilian goalkeeper in the 1970s and most of the 1980s, Edu, Luis Pereira, Leivinha, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani (not to be confused with Paulo Cesar Lima, World champion of 1970), and the captain Ademir da Guia played for the national team. Eurico was considered a great promise. But… Eurico ended as a promise; Leivinha, proclaimed to be the next Pele never came even close; Paulo Cesar Carpegiani was never considered a real star, Edu was invited to the national team, only to be dismissed immediately, Leao refused to play for Tele Santana’s Brazil’82, Luis Pereira is not a name readily mentioned by Brazilians, and Ademir da Guia… was one of the most underappreciated players in history of football.
The trouble of Palmeiras was in part timing, and, in part, their radical tactical change. Palmeiras decided to follow European tactics and approaches – the club felt Brazilian football was no longer supreme and new concepts were to be adopted. It was not total football what they decided to coppy, but the German physical game. And Palmeiras played disciplined, tough football, where the defenseman Luis Pereira was more or less the key player. Brazilian fans did not like such bland and businesslike football. But Leao, Luis Pereira, Leivinha, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, and Ademir da Guia were the core of the Brazilian national team for World Cup 1974, which was to play European football. It was miserable failure and as a result nobody (with the exception of Leao) was ever considered great. Not only that – again with the exception of Leao, nobody else was invited often to the national team after 1974. As for Leao, he was the only decent Brazilian goalkeeper in the 1970s, and as a goalie, he wanted strong defense in front of him. Most likely his refusal to play for Tele Santana was based on Santana’s attacking football, to which defense was secondary at best.
Paulo Cesar Carpegiani probably fell out of favour by association – he was inventive and technical midfileder, not at all dull, but been part of the terrible 1974-team, he was discarded with the rest. Ademir da Guia is an entirely different story of ill luck. The son of legendary Domingos da Guia, one of the biggest world stars of first half of 20th century (who are generally lost to us, because of the World War II), Ademir started his career with Bangu, the Rio-based club where the elder da Guia played most of his own career. Ademir was 17 years old in his first season, 1959. The age suggest plenty of talent – quickly noticed by the bigwigs of Palmeiras, who bought the young attacking midfielder in 1961. Ademir da Guia played for Palmeiras to the end of his career in 1977, and is perhaps the biggest club legend. He was a big star of Brazilian football as well, the world heard very little about him – Ademir da Guia fell victim of plentitude: between 1965 and 1974 he played only 9 games for the national team, most of them in the ill-fated 1974, when he was already 32 years old. Unfortunately for da Guia-son, Brazil had too many great players almost to the end of his career. He coincided with Didi, Pele, Zagallo, Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson, Rivelino, to name but few of his competition, who either older and more experienced than him, or younger and therefore more promising than him. If Ademir da Guia played at different post, say left winger, he would have been constant feature of the national team. But he was attacking midfielder… Brazil was exceptionally rich there and Ademir da Guia most often was not even considered. He was elegant and clever player, but when finally invited in the national team, he was getting old and it was horrible team. Ademir da Guia did not impress anybody in 1974… His consolation were the two titles Palmeiras won before the horror. What consolation? The horror of 1974 was blamed on the boring ‘European’ football Palmeiras played in 1972 and 1973… or so think the fans.