The Best Of Brazilian Football
Palmeiras turn it around. Clarence Seedorf conquers hearts. And Ronaldo still has it. Today on the blog Jack Lang returns to take us through the best (and worst) in the last month of Brazilian football.
The Team – Palmeiras
You may recall that we celebrated the exploits of Mirassol in last month’s round-up. The minnows recorded an incredible 6-2 wins against traditional powerhouses Palmeiras – a result that threatened to start a whole new wave of finger pointing and uncertainty at a club that has already had its fair share over the last year.
Yet Palmeiras sailed through April with barely a care in the world. Coach Gilson Kleina kept his job and led the Verdão to five consecutive wins and qualification for the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores. A brief wobble saw them eliminated from the Campeonato Paulista at the hands of Santos (no great shame in that) but a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Tijuana leaves them well placed to reach the quarter-finals of South America’s most prestigious club competition.
The key to the turnaround? Crisis talks following the Mirassol game. "We made a pact to overcome adversity," said defender Wendel. Pint-sized creator Tiago Real chimed in: "We said that we had to start from scratch. The results show that we've done that." With the Série B season approaching, things are suddenly looking up for Palmeiras.
The Player – Clarence Seedorf
Clarence Seedorf must have set up hundreds of goals over the course of his distinguished career. But few assists will have earnt him the praise that he garnered after Botafogo’s match against Nova Iguaçu this month.
The reason? His play in the build-up to Nicolás Lodeiro’s header – a wiggle of the hips, a sumptuous left-footed cross – called to mind the bandy-legged brilliance of the Rio club’s most famous son, Garrincha. “Mané Style!” read one headline, while Botafoguenses wiped the drool off their chins.
It takes a lot to be compared to the Joy of the People (seriously, Brazil just gets nicknames), but Seedorf has conquered hearts and minds since coming to Brazil last year. With his methodical, committed approach on the pitch, as well as his right-minded attitude off it, he is enjoying quite the Indian summer.
The Goal – Ronaldo Fenômeno (Maracanã exhibition match)
Still got it.
The Villain Victim – Bernardo
Once more, ‘villain’ may be the wrong term here (Writing 101: choose subheadings carefully) but there can be no doubt that Vasco forward Bernardo is the month’s most controversial figure. Reports emerged last week that the 22-year-old had been captured by gang members in a Rio de Janeiro favela and subsequently tortured (beaten up and electrocuted).
The reason for this (alleged) kidnapping? Bernardo had been spotted romancing Dayana Rodrigues, the girlfriend of an infamous drug trafficker. (She, incidentally, got shot seven times in the leg. She is now recovering. Her family lawyer says she was hit by “stray bullets”. Seven of them.)
At time of writing, the details of this sordid affair remain somewhat murky. Bernardo has laughed off the whole matter, possibly through fear of further recriminations. He is not the only footballer to be kidnapped in recent years; only last year Chilean midfielder Jorge Valdivia suffered a similar fate, albeit without the added horror of torture.
Unfortunately, this kind of social violence is all too common in Brazil. It should be no real surprise that being a famous sportsperson does not guarantee escape from its nefarious tentacles.
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