Wednesday, 28 December 2011

See A Darkness is worried about Santa Cruz.

Christmas was spent constructing a football pitch on the abandoned lot at the end of the street, after our hero, out walking Flup the idiot Pekinese on Christmas Eve, heard the voice. If you build it, he will come. True, SAD had been watching Mr Costner’s finest moment just a few hours before, but this was no trick of the imagination. SAD stood and watched the light drain from the midwestern sky for a few minutes, just to make sure. Goias. Iowa. Suddenly it all made sense. And the voice came again.

If you build it, he will come.

He, SAD knew immediately, could only be Brasão, stranded far from his tricolor roots in Feira de Santana, Bahia. So SAD set to work, knowing that if he built it, Brasão would come. And in a bit that wasn’t in the original film, SAD also knew that Brasão would not only come, he would then take SAD back with him to Recife, just before firing Santa to Campeonato Pernambucano and Serie C glory in 2012. As well, of course, as helping to repair SAD’s fractious relationship with his father.

So SAD built it. And waited. But Brasão did not come shuffling nervously out of the corn. And neither did Fumagalli. And neither did Thiago Cunha, who in fact did the opposite and disappeared into the corn. Branquinho appeared for a moment, then just as quickly stepped back into the shadows. There were rumours that Vanderson was wandering around in the middle of all the corn stalks, unable to find his way out. Luciano Henrique turned up, true enough, but by that time SAD had gone home.

Which leaves the cast of the Rogers and Hammerstein (or Garota Safada and Aviões Do Forró) musical that will be Santa Cruz 2012 looking pretty much like it did in 2011, minus Thiago Cunha and the fantasmas listed on this page a few weeks ago.

ThiagoCunhagate is as good an example as any of life in the footballing darkness, where, in case anyone was confused, Santa Cruz still dwell. Still outside the top two divisions, still excluded from the cosa nostra of Brazilian football that is the Clube Dos 13 and its TV money carve-up, still with debts of R$70 million or more (a large chunk of which is imminently payable to the Justicia Do Trabalho for non-payment of former players’ wages), still the menino pobre from Brazil’s footballing interior (or in other words, anywhere north of Belo Horizonte).

It was announced on December 14th that atacante, and specialist in weak shots to side netting or goalkeeper’s midriff, Thiago Cunha (who has previous in the world of contractual duplicity) was set to stay at Santa for 2012. All had been agreed, and oor Thiago just had to sign his contract extension. Tricolor enthusiasm was muted, though generally favourable. We’re pretty shit with him, imagine how bad we’d be without him? gushed one anel superior loyalist.

Except that on December 22nd Thiago announced that he wouldn’t be grazing on the Arruda turf next year, but instead would be strutting his dubious stuff on the greener grass of Guaratinguetá, in the interior of São Paulo.

Guaratinguetá were formed in 1988 and have been since 2004 the glove puppet of the sports management company Sony Sports. The club spent 2011 in the neighbouring city of Americana, changing their name in the process, after Guaratinguetá city council refused to stump up R$6 million to keep the team in town. Both Garça’s supporters were very upset by these events, though they will have been assuaged by the return of the club to Guaratinguetá for 2012. The club survives almost entirely on private investment and the support of their city council, whichever city it might be. 

Santa Cruz, as everybody knows, were formed in 1914 and are one of the most storied clubs of the Brazilian nordeste. In the last two years, despite playing in Serie D, the team has boasted average crowds of around 40,000.

All of which means, obviously, that Guaratingueta can afford to pay oor Thiago around three times what Santa can. Adeus, Sr Cunha, née Capixaba.

Unfortunately, ThiagoCunhagate is just the tip of the new signings iceberg. It is fair to say that Papai Noel did not bring Santa Cruz all that he was asked for. To recap:

Ex-Sport craftsman Fumagalli is wooed by the diretoria as a form of bringing back the wiry elegance that has been lacking in the tricolor midfield ever since Rosembrick lost his heart to a bottle of Guaraná. Recife B leap into the hunt at the last minute. A bidding war ensues between the two Recife big dogs. Fumagalli signs for Guarani of São Paulo.

Branquinho, who had been on loan at Sport from América PE, will provide next year’s goals. His signing is announced. I’m really chuffed to be playing for such a big team, Whitey says. Only nobody has told América. Santa have signed Branquinho without telling the team he plays for? That’s clever, snaps América president José Augusto Moreira. Contractual chaos looms.

In an attempt to make up for the Fumagalli debacle, the traditional Pernambuco proverb that states one aging ex-Sport midfielder is much the same as another is invoked. Except there are a few distinct differences between Fumagalli and Luciano Henrique, most evidently in the areas of work rate, motivation, and talent.  An airport welcoming committee and ticker tape parade up Avenida Beberibe will probably not be forthcoming.

At least Vanderson, an admirable volante who tugged opponents’ shirts across 241 games for Vitoria, saying in 2010 that he loved the club so much he’d even work there as a janitor, is rumoured to be on the way. Only this particular rumour has been doing the rounds so long that it has assumed almost mythical status. A number of Recife churches have replaced their hopeful Jesus Is Back signboards with Vanderson Signs for Santa posters.

Tricolor natives, a hot headed bunch, are restless. These directors are a bunch of clowns, scream the Twitter feeds, sack them all! Perhaps it is the news that Santa players will only return from their holidays on January 2nd, while Recife B players are already sweating under the Pernambucano sun, that has so incensed the mob.

But it is early yet. The defence of the Campeonato Pernambucano will not begin until January 15th. Vanderson may yet come. The return of 2010’s hapless hitman, Joelson, might be avoided. Maybe Papai Noel is just late. There may still be surprises in his sack.*

Though there probably won’t.

* One such surprise, in the talented shape of ex-Recife Jr striker Geílson, has just been announced, partly, though not entirely, scuppering the whinging tone of this piece.

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