Saturday, 9 October 2010

Brasão, Tutti, Menezes, Jackson, Leandro Cardoso, Paulo César, Gilberto Matuto – the flickering heroes and villains of Santa’s disastrous Serie D campaign are gone now, their memories as hazy as Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the phantom baseball players who came creeping in from the corn in Field of Dreams.

It is the strangest of diasporas. Santa have no proper football left to play this year and therefore no crowds and therefore no money, but with wages still to be paid on contracts that run until December or beyond. Renegotiation is a swift process –the day after the defeat to Guarany de Sobral the players are back at Arruda haggling over their exit deals, in return for which they allow their contracts to be cancelled and Santa freed from further obligation.

And then the players are off to points east, west, south and north. Brasão, who has moved to Vitória de Setúbal in Portugal, seems to have struck shiniest gold, switching running around like a headless chicken against Potiguar in the Estádio Leonardo Nogueira, or the Nogueirão, for running around like a headless chicken against Benfica in the Stadium of Light. It is an odd career highpoint for Brasão, whose CV until now has included stints in India, South Korea, Fluminense (Bahia) and Atlético Goianiense.

It is a sad moment too for I See A Darkness, for it looks now as though Ivan Fíel Da Silva will not be back at Arruda any time soon. For all his faults (referring to himself constantly in the third person, a penchant for De Jong-esque chest high kung fu tackles, not scoring very many goals) Brasão’s short time at Santa was nothing if not memorable – from his awesome debut against Sete De Setembro (scored one, created three, and thumped two against the bar) to his thrilling late double in the clássico against Nautico, without forgetting his constant chest thumping, Hulk impressions and tearful eulogies to Santa’s baying support. He will be missed, which is not something that can be said for many of ex-tricolor alumni over the last few years.

Many have gone in job lots – Tutti, Matuto and Osmar all found the triple-strength lure of playing for ex-Santa coaching prodigy Dado (Doogie Howser) Cavalcanti, Natal´s beaches, and the biggest cashew tree in the world irresistable and upped sticks for América, currently battling against relegation from Serie B. Far from ageless veteran Jackson, reportedly a major influence on the career of Garrincha when the latter was a youngster, couldn’t bear to be left out of all the fun and signed for city rivals ABC.

The lure of charque and dobradinha is strong – Dedé is another who has decided to stay in the nordeste. He will play for Icasa (Ceara), the team who battered Santa twice in a week back in 2008 and practically condemned O Mais Querido to the bottom division. Joelson has headed for Nautico, which shows that maybe Santa aren´t quite as far behind their Recife rivals as they might have thought.

It is an odd time of year for hundreds of players linked to teams eliminated from Serie C and D. These divisions become knock-outs in October, leaving players from the losing teams with time (if not a lot of money) on their hands until the state championships start in January. Their own impoverished teams rarely want them to hang around – it´s hard to pay wages with no gate receipts. And so they cast themselves into the footballing winds, usually being forced, rather than choosing, to take the road less travelled.

As for Santa, at the moment the future is youth, in the shape of unpolished diamonds Natan, Everton Senna and Renatinho. A few hangers-on still hang on – centre-back Sidrailson, who hardly played after coming back from China in mid-season, the permanently injured Léo, skittish midfielder Elvis, and Osmar, sent back from Natal with his tail between his legs after falling foul of transfer regulations that prohibit a player from playing for three clubs in the one season. Add to that the signing of Juninho Silva, who dazzled during Santa’s other disastrous Serie D campaign in 2009, and there are at least a few breadcrumbs scattered around an otherwise entirely bare cupboard.

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