Monday, 21 March 2011

The first half of the Classico Das Emoções is both expected and not expected. It is expected because it is harum-scarum and chaotic and filled with bad passing and bad defending and a shortage of cool heads. It is not expected because there are about a hundred goals. Nautico score after three minutes through Ricardo Xavier, then Landu, ex-Remo folclórico turned impotent Santa goal-flop, equalises, his first for the club, and Wesley curls in a tricolor second. Nautico go up the other end and help themselves to two more, making it 3-2, before Thiago Mathias heads in an equaliser.

In all the drama a Nautico fan falls off the wall between terrace and pitch and lands on his head in the (waterless) moat. He is rushed to hospital where, sadly, he does not recover from his injuries. See A Darkness, feeling more and more as though such excitement is behind him, watches agog from his sick bed.  

But really it is what happens in the second half that is more interesting, at least from a Santa point of view. O Mais Querido, who during the game field no less than five youth team products (Gilberto, the hypnotic Natan, Renatinho Little Pants, Memo and Everton Sena), for a brief period manage to lift themselves above the hurly burly and play some controlled, at times even attractive football. For twenty minutes or so they seem to be in no immediate danger and disaster does not lurk around every corner. The sense that no matter how well the team are playing, the opposition are bound to score in a minute, evaporates almost completely.  

One moment remains in the memory. Natan scurries forward out of defence, before twisting and turning his way through two challenges. An exchange of passes sets the same player free down the right. He hauls over a deep first time cross, which Gilberto, throwing himself peixinho (little fish) at full stretch towards the goal, meets perfectly. It is the goal of the season, of the decade, or at least it would have been had it flicked the inside, and not the outside, of Douglas’s goal.

Cool heads, few moments of panic, the sense of a goal inevitably coming (even if it doesn’t), careful passing? From Santa Cruz? In a clássico? Someone somewhere puts on a Bob Dylan record. Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown...

It doesn’t last long – técnico Ze Teodoro takes Natan off with fifteen minutes left and without their metronome Santa lose rhythm. But, even allowing for the rosy glow that strong antibiotics and flu medicine give everything, while it lasted it was, well, quite a beautiful thing.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon comes a few minutes from the end, when both sides of the 35,000-ish crowd erupt at the news that Sport have conceded a second goal in Vitoria De Santo Antão, and the same cheer echoes around Caruaru, where Central are playing Porto in the clássico matuto (and hats off to Paulista, four goal hero of Porto’s thumping 4-0 victory), from which it can be deduced that Sport and their supporters are not skilled players at the how to win friends and influence people game.

And now it is the season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and calculators for those wishing to predict what would be the hilarious failure of Sport, and their close to r$1 million monthly wage bill, to qualify for the final phase. With five games left Recife’s Unhumbles are four points behind Porto, who sit in fourth spot, the last of the semi-final places. And Sport still have to play Porto, Central, Nautico and Santa, the current top four. Assuming a defeat against Nautico at Aflitos, and a draw against at least one of Central away or Santa at home, three Sport wins in their remaing three games would leave Porto requiring the same three wins from their last five games to qualify.

And old friend moral dilemma will thus raise its tiresome head next Sunday. Should Santa take their collective foot off the pedal against Porto, helping the team from Caruaru to a vital three points, so increasing Sport’s chances of being outside looking in when the final round of Pernambucano pass the parcel kicks off in a few weeks?

I See A Darkness thinks long and hard. Such actions would be morally reprehensible, up there with the Germany v Austria Spain 82 stitch up. There is no place for such behaviour in professional sport. And so after much consideration, I See A Darkness can only cry, yes, Santa, a thousand times yes, throw in the towel, give up the ghost, and do everything you can to help the plucky little team named after a port even though they´re from a city 130km inland!

NB: Thanks to coralnet for the photo.
  

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