Monday, February 21, 2011

Sweet days in Buenos Aires; dark ones in Rio de Janeiro: the title went elsewhere. Again. This time to Porto Alegre.
Now, Internacional were neither new – the club was founded on April 4, 1909 – nor unknown – they were traditionally strong at the championships of Rio Grande do Sul, their native state, where Inter enjoyed massive rivalry with Gremio. But in the grand scheme of Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo they were somewhat lesser club and not well known abroad, since foreigners generally associated Brazilian football with the legendary clubs from Rio and Sao Paulo. One of the nicknames of Inter is ‘O Clube do Povo’, meaning ‘The Folks’ Club’, but in Brazil such name is more appropriate for Flamengo, so I prefer to use another – and simpler – nickname: ‘Colorado’ or ‘The Red’. Colorado were just one more club cracking the myth of supreme clubs as Flamengo, Santos, Botafogo, Fluminense. They played differently too – somewhat a hybrid of the artistic Brazilian football, associated with Rio and Sao Paulo’s clubs and the physical unattractive game of Palmeiras in the early 1970s. As for stars, the Red had plenty, thus suggesting another change of Brazilian football – an economic one. ‘Provincial’ clubs apparently had more money and better financial management than the ‘giants’. At the end of the season Inter played the final against Cruzeiro and a goal scored by a defenseman brought the national title to Porto Alegre.
Elias Figueroa scores and Inter wins its first Brazilian title.
Top, left to right: Valdir, Manga, Figueroa, Herminio, Chico Fraga, Falcao.
Bottom: Valdomiro, Cacapava, Flavio Minuano, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, Lula.
Not bad at all… some national players, compensating for the World Cup fiasco – Figueroa (Chile), Valdomiro, Carpegiani; a major Brazilian star, somewhat never really included in the national team – Lula; high scoring striker – Flavio; and a young player who later became one of the most famous players in the world – Falcao. But perhaps special attention should be reserved for Manga, now 38 years old: the goalkeeper was infamous for been part of the ‘worst ever’ Brazilian team, the one of World Cup 1966. Two years later, when an attempt of investigating wide-spread briberies in Brazilian football, Manga was one of the accused. His accuser, the famous coach/journalist Joao Saldanha, became so annoyed by Manga’s refusals, he shoot him with his revolver. Manga run all the way to Uruguay… whether scared or disgraced. Won championships and Libertadores with Nacional, and returned to Brazil to become a champion. His career was checkered, yet he achieved something Pele himself did not. And Manga was by no means finished yet.
This was the 5th national Brazilian championship and so far only once club from Rio was victorious. Four different champions in five years, only Palmeiras winning twice. From the cold statistics, it looked like exciting, highly competitive, and unpredictable championship – as a Brazilian one should be. In reality, it was not quality, but lunacy on the rise. This season 42 clubs competed in the ‘league’. The schedules were Byzantine and so were the backroom machinations. Was any club relegated? It depends… may be at some time there were relegations; at other time – no.