Friday, 16 December 2011

Now that See A Darkness is a veritable internet smash hit, with over 100 followers on Tweeter, or something equally foolish, difficult decisions must be made.

What to do with such an army of disciples? Lead them into a David Koresh style mass suicide at Arruda, while Recife choque troops blast Achy Break Heart (or more appropriately, something by Naughty Wesley) from six foot high speaker stacks lined up along the canal bank?

Although thinking about it, given SAD’s secret Galoucura past, perhaps the reference should not be Koresh but Jim Jones, who spent a year in Belo Horizonte* in the sixties, and, given the way things later turned out, must almost certainly have been Atleticano.

Better by far would be to invest in a bit of brand marketing, and here too SAD has previous, thanks to his days selling his soul to something far, far worse than the devil, as legal department tea boy at a certain London based club and record label complex whose name cannot be mentioned here but who we might call Ministry of Sound. So just in time for Christmas – prepare yourself for SAD branded skimpy speedos, SAD flip-flops, SAD cachaça etc, etc. Maybe Neymar will be free for a bit of TV advertising.

Someone who was no stranger to cult fandom, or, for that matter, a bit of self-marketing, was a certain Mr Ivan Fiel Da Silva, better known in these parts as Brasão. Our hero has been in the news in Brazil this week (quite hard to find news, admittedly), having returned in a blaze of glory to the club where he made his name.

Unfortunately, anyone expecting a triumphant cry of O Glorioso Santa Cruz Do Recife at this point will be disappointed. Brasão will play not for O Mais Querido in 2012, but for Fluminense de Feira, of Bahia.

For some, such news will bring with it a sigh of relief and a mutter of thank Ana Maria Braga he’s not coming back here. For some, a gnashing of teeth at a potential answer to Santa’s chronic failings in front of goal having slipped away. For the vast majority, a shrug of the shoulders and a quick mouse click away from this page and on to something much more interesting.

But we are, after all, in the middle of Santa’s 2938 days in the wilderness (if you’re counting, and yes, SAD did, the clock started on 12/11/2006 with relegation to Serie B, and will run until a return to Serie A is clinched (possibly, but almost certainly not) on 30/11/2013).

In short, these are barren times, and heroes are thin on the ground. During his time in Recife, SAD can remember precious few. Carlinhos Paraiba, despite looking a bit like one half of Milli Vanilli, strived manfully, almost entirely single-handedly, and ultimately fruitlessly to keep Santa from falling into Serie C in 2007. Marcelo Ramos scored a bucketload of goals in the Campeonato Pernambucano in 2009. Gledson, and a year or so later, Tuti, were good, if not particularly great, goalkeepers.

That, really, is pretty much your lot. At least until this year, when a veritable George Lucas film set worth of heroes rolled onto the Arruda stage. The magnificent Gilberto. The dazzling Little Pants. Canny Weslley. Superfly Leandro Souza. Brazil’s best keeper, Thiago Cardoso.** The best thing ever to come out of Goias (and unfortunately, SAD should know), comandanteI Love You.

But this year doesn´t really count, because all the above are still here (apart from Gilberto), their legends still in the making. Hopefully, there will be more to come from all of them.

There won´t be more to come from Brasão, at least not with Santa. Looking back, maybe there wasn’t that much there in the first place. But back in 2010, for a few months at least, watching Brasão play was about as much fun as there was to be had with the lights on. Or off. Or flickering between on and off because the rickety nordeste power grid was on the verge of keeling over again.

Like a footballing Littlest Hobo, he turned up at Arruda without much fanfare. Then, and even now, players arrived, and left, Santa in their droves. The Brazilian footballing calendar is effectively made up of two seasons – in the first half of the year teams concentrate (to a greater or lesser degree) on the state championships. The national championship runs from May or June onwards. The problem is that Series C and D are structured something like the World Cup (and the similarity ends there), with just a couple of group phases, followed by knockout rounds.

As a result, and also because they were rubbish, from 2008 to 2010 Santa didn’t play more than twelve or fourteen games in the latter half of the year. And after each failed Campeonato Pernambucano, or each disappointingly early exit from Serie C or D, the players would pack their bags and head off into the sunset. A new bunch of steers would be rustled up for the following year. SAD remembers turning up for games at the start of the season with the names of that afternoon’s first team scrawled on a grubby piece of paper, peering out at the field and trying to match eleven unknown names to eleven unknown faces.

As regular readers will know and new ones will guess, most of the arrivals were of questionable quality. Brasão himself didn’t promise that much. There was a clip on Youtube of a cheeky chipped penalty for Atlético Goianiense in 2010. The usual vaguely surreal CV of the journeyman Brazilian footballer (four years at Fransa Goa in India, three clubs in one year in 2009). That was about it.

A low key debut was made as a substitute away against América in sticky Manaus in the Copa Do Brasil in February 2010. Three days later, an equally low key home bow against Sete De Setembro.

The Brasão sort of low key. Our hero`s end of game report: hit bar (twice), goals created (two), goals scored (one), over the top goal celebration resulting in yellow card (one), seven minute end of game interview proclaiming his love for Santa, the club`s fans and his new teammates (one).

That would set the scene for most of Brasão’s time at Arruda. Everything was splendidly over the top. A shot like a mule. The occasional ludicrously dangerous kidney high challenge on an unsuspecting opponent. The goal celebrations, which ranged from shirt off, muscle-flexing strongman, to waving of unfurled poster of daughter.

There were a few truly memorable performances. The clássico against Nautico/Recife Jr at Arruda in March was one. Santa had led 2-0 in the second half, courtesy of goals by Edson Miolo and Brasão (a preposterous 25 yard chip over advancing Nautico keeper Gustavo), before the jitters kicked in and Nautico scored two sloppy goals towards the end. Nigh on 40,000 tricolores sobbed into their Pitu, while at the Nautico end, a few thousand pink clad Barbie dolls were waved in wild celebration.

But cometh the hour, cometh Brasão (a quote the player himself, a great fan of referring to his exploits in the third person, would appreciate). With four minutes left, close to goal but with a defender and goalkeeper in front of him, Brasão swayed left, then faked a shot, dummied again, waited until both defender and goalkeeper were on the ground, then rolled the ball into the corner. Jackson added a fourth, and the top deck of Arruda shook under all the stamping feet. Brasão, of course, was sent off for over-celebrating his goal.    

Then there was the epic Copa Do Brasil victory over Botafogo in Rio De Janeiro on, appropriately enough, April Fool`s Day. Santa had lost the first leg 1-0 at Arruda, but played their little white socks off at the Engenhão. Léo hit a long ranger that slipped under Jefferson’s body for a 1-0 lead, before Botafogo equalised through Herrera. Brasão put Santa 2-1 up for an away goal lead. With just five minutes left, Herrera equalised again, putting Santa out and breaking tricolor hearts. Until, that was, Souza scored Santa’s winner  in injury time.

There were the never a dull moment, endearingly demented third person interviews: it’s not about Brasão. It’s about Santa Cruz. Only God is bigger than Santa Cruz. Brasão's car, parked up outside Arruda with a for sale sign stuck to it in protest at Santa`s slothful (putting it kindly) wage payment policy. The 75 tickets bought for fans for the Serie D game against Potiguar.  The fact that, for the first time in a long time, Santa had someone to get excited about. Brasão é esperanca, as one of the fans in the queue for the free tickets said, though his judgement may have been slightly coloured.

Brasão is hope.

This being Santa Cruz, however, hope springs eternal before being dashed almost immediately afterwards. With Brasão, fans were nervously optimistic that Santa would win the clássico against the hated Sport/Recife B at the Ilha De Retiro. But Santa lost 1-0, Brasão was feeble throughout, and was sent off in the second half for hacking down Eduardo Ramos.

There was the Campeonato Pernambucano semi-final exit against Nautico, when Santa failed to score a goal over two legs, and Brasão was taunted by Nautico`s Carlinhos Bala: the king of Pernambuco is Carlinhos Bala, not Brasão.

Worst of all was the defeat away at Guarany de Sobral which eliminated Santa from Serie D that year, and meant another awful year would be spent in the basement in 2011. Brasão had failed to score in the home leg, and missed the decider through injury.

After that defeat Brasão packed his bags, somehow wangling a move to Vitoria Setubal in Portugal`s Primeira Liga. There are a handful of newspaper stories on the internet about his first few months in Europe, but after that nothing, until his return to Brazil this week. With a career trajectory that reads Serie D to Primeira Liga then back to Serie D (or not even Serie D, as Flu de Feira will have to qualify via the Campeonato Baiano), SAD can’t decide whether the player has the best, or the worst, agent in the world.

In the end, as his CV will tell you, Brasão is probably not quite good enough to be a top flight footballer. Serie C or D is probably his true level. Even during his time at Santa, for every barnstorming show there would be two anonymous displays and one bloody awful one. He is a little bit too slow, and a lot too volatile, to be the player he would like to be.

But this is not a criticism. There is nothing wrong with being Brasão. He is better, after all, than thousands of other professional footballers around the globe. He continues to make a living from the game, and, without wishing to sound like a testosterone pumped high school American football coach, gives everything he`s got, almost much all the time. Sometimes, a bit too much.

And for a few months, during a period when it was not very much fun at all to be tricolor, Brasão gave a great many people something to smile about, even if only for a short while. And so SAD says, marketeering or not, thanks for the (brief) memories, and good luck for the future, Ivan Fiel Da Silva.   

* Give or take 40 years, Jones was almost a drinking buddy of SAD. According to Jaime, owner of the finest bar in Belo Horizonte (and once SAD`s local), the imaginatively titled Jaime`s in Santo Antonio, Jim Jones would drop in from time to time during his year in BH. Jaime reports that, like most suicide pacters/mass serial killers planning the death of 900 people, Jones was quite a pleasant chap who generally kept himself to himself.  

** If you can’t show your love like SAD can, even in the face of cold hard reality, then SAD feels sorry for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment