Monday, 17 January 2011


Which would make this Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part II.

On Sunday I am one of 23,000 at Arruda for this year’s first home game against drylands mid tablers Ypiranga. Fireworks and hissing drums and thunderous applause welcome the team. Things go quite well for a while then get worse. Santa´s sole tactic seems to be to hoof high balls into the opposition penalty area. These balls drift as harmless as fireflies into the glass jars of the Ypiranga goalkeeper and defenders. Then Ypiranga score just before half time. For the remaining few minutes of the first half the crowd boo Santa´s touches and cheer the opposition’s. So far, so business as usual.

Things get bouncier after the restart when Thiago Cunha comes on and slots home an equaliser after neat control and running from midfielder Weslley. Fifteen minutes later Thiago Mathias heads in what turns out to be the winner. With Sport and Nautico melting their way to draws under the backlands sun against Petrolina and Araripina, Santa are the early league leaders, which is not something that has been said for quite a while. Four years and 93 games, actually, which is the time that Sport have occupied top spot in the Pernambuco. We all go home happy.

And what of the players? Starting with the good. All tricolor babies born in 2011 should be named Thiago Mathias, who puts me if no-one else in mind of 1980s and 90s Heart of Midlothian center half Classy Craigie Levein, and as well as being captain has scored two goals in two games. Mário Lucio and Weslley at least appear to have played football before, perhaps even at a professional level. Alex Silva at left back might not be as bad as Alysson, 2009´s full back fiasco. Thiago Cunha and Landu could make Santa fans forget the folclorico Brasão soon enough. Thiago Cardoso didn´t make any mistakes. Renatinho Little Pants (of whom more later) will have Chelsea and Man City scounts drooling in the near future, though by that time he´ll probably be playing for Santos or São Paulo and it will be they who will get their hands on a fat cheque and not Santa.

On the flip side, I´d bet that ineffective will soon seem like far too kind a word to describe centre half Leandro Souza and the aforementioned Bruno Leite. Memo is the only youth product in the starting lineup, presumably as a result of winning some kind of dressing room raffle. Jeovanio, at 35, is this year´s yes he can´t really run anymore but look at the experience he brings, following the rich tradition of perpetually out of breath wonders such as Amaral (47 years old) and Jackson (61).

Lastly, Brazilians love their days, such as Teachers’ Day and Bus Drivers’ Day, in which various sectors of the workforce get a day off or at least an easier than normal day at the office. Opposition teams coming up against Santa forward Laécio will feel it is Central Defenders’ Day.

But we shall see. What matters for now is that we have begun, which is the best thing of all.

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