At first, See A Darkness was going to complain. After almost six months on Elba, the return journey was grueling. But then spending time at Brazil’s airports is always fairly arduous (a little joke). It threatened rain for most of Wednesday and Thursday. There was much consternation over how tickets might be procured (55,000 might seem a lot, but not if the game in question is Santa x Recife B). Ray Winstone and Tim Roth were both backed up in fim do mundo traffic jams on Agamenon Magalhães.
While our hardy troops huddled in the Arruda social club bar, the hordes swarmed up Avenida Beberibe and along the canal and the Rua das Moças, and up the stairs to the Anel Superior. Another few minutes and the corridors would become impassable – the wounded would be passed from arm to arm across the Boschian nightmare below, the weak and the lame would fall bravely in battle. Worse still, Francis Begbie, who weighs in at 50k soaking wet, would be attending her first game at As Republicas Independentes, and might not live to tell the tale.
In the end though, it all went smoothly enough. The getting in and out, that is. The game itself, of course, was a copper bottomed nightmare – Santa old and weary legged, feeble in the tackle, pitiful when going forward. Role reversal from last year, when Sport’s manic egos and creaking joints were undone by young tricolor bucks. This year’s first clássico felt like the Twilight of the Never Were Gods for Dutra, Luciano Henrique, Denis Marques, and Charlie Bullet. With nary a stirring from the Santa masses (45,000 watched it), Begbie declared herself unmoved.
Worse was to come the week after, while enjoying a recifense Last Supper, when the news came over the airwaves (from a radio in the restaurant kitchen, more specifically), that Santa had gone down 2-1 to Petrolina in the far interior, and were now four points off the G4! Caramba! (Looking back, there was a fabulous kind of symmetry to it all – 2,000km, 2 defeats, R$2,000 poorer, probably).
And of course once SAD had headed back to Elba, crusty old Zé decided to restore Renatinho and Léo to the team, Super William Alves made his debut at zagueiro and scored, and Santa stuffed the same Petrolina 6-0 at Arruda.
SAD was not a happy man. But things could be worse, he told himself. Think of the starving kids in Africa. Think of those born rubro-negro. Think of Antonio Luiz Neto.
Antonio Luiz Neto. President of Santa Cruz. Hirer of Zé Teodoro, schemer behind last year’s Campeonato Pernambucano win, and promotion, finally, from Serie D. Now, hidden away in a locked room at the Real Hospital Português in Recife, struck down by a terrible illness.
ALN’s doctor, Dr. Sou Tricolor Doente, was on the news just yesterday, explaining the condition.
“The situation of the patient is very clear,” he said. “Antonio Luiz Neto is suffering from a severe case of Patience. He is president of the best supported club in the nordeste. The current champions of Pernambuco, with a squad bursting with talent. But the team has already lost four games in 2012! Four games! It’s madness! Obviously, any team that loses four games in just a few short months must fire its coach immediately!”
Here the good doctor stopped for a moment to light a cigarette and take a quick swig from a bottle of Pitu he had stashed in his pocket.
“Even worse,” he continued, wheezing only a little, “the tecnico, some guy called Zé Teodoro, is as stubborn as a mule! It’s like he doesn’t want to listen to the fans at all! And everybody knows that the fans know plenty, after all, they watch one, maybe two games a week. Not like old Zé, who stands around at training all day doing nothing. Oxe!”
Another pause, this time to watch a heavy-hipped nurse swaying her way down the corridor. When she had gone, Dr. Sou Tricolor Doente went on, drooling only a little.
“Now, the symptoms. In the middle of this crisis at Santa Cruz, the president seems utterly calm. He hasn’t visited the dressing room to scream at the players. He hasn’t called his coach a donkey in the press. He doesn’t even have a fever, or bulging eyes, and his heart rate is normal! In a situation like this! What a cruel disease this Patience is!”
Suddenly, Dr. Sou Tricolor Doente lowered his voice. He looked straight at the camera.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying this on TV. The man is very sick. I don’t want to humiliate him as well. But a few minutes ago, I was talking to him in his room. I don’t mind telling you I ended up more worried than before. He seems to be delirious. He would only repeat one thing, over and over. The priority is Serie C, it’s a long term project. We trust Zé. We trust his judgment. Madness, né? I feel terrible for him, and his family. Summing up – I’ve never seen a case of Patience as bad as this!”
The interview ended there. Later that day, though, in his capacity as a top professional sportswriter, SAD received a phone call from the good doctor.
“Listen, SAD,” he rasped, “can I tell you something in confidence? Not for the papers? You know I’m tricolor, right? Maybe the name gave it away. Anyway, I wanted to tell you, one tricolor to another, and God forgive me for saying this, but perhaps it would be better for the club if the president didn’t recover. This disease is serious. When you have Patience, it’s almost impossible to be totally cured afterwards. You’re never the same again. Even when he’s better, Antonio will continue to bear the scars of the disease.”
Here the doctor stopped again. There was the sound of ice tinkling and a glass clinking against dental braces. He continued.
“And just imagine, SAD, if ALN and Zé left! We could get that fantastic president from Serra Talhada, José Raimundo, instead! He sacked Reginaldo Sousa after five games of the Pernambucano. Now that’s a real president! He won’t accept a single defeat! He’ll soon take Serra Talhada to the Libertadores, you wait and see! And maybe he could get us a better tecnico? What about Mauro Fernandes? Or even better, Givanildo again? If not, if this disease called Patience continues to spread in Brazilian football, we’ll end up like those gringos over in Manchester, stuck with that joker Alex Ferguson for 25 years. And what’s he ever done? Deus me livre!”
And then, finally, wheezing and gasping, still murmuring about the terrible disease Patience, Doctor Sou Tricolor Doente hung up the phone.
NB. SAD would like to make it clear that the President of Santa Cruz, Antonio Luiz Neto, has not been taken to the Real Hospital Português, Recife, and his doctor is (probably) not called Dr. Sou Tricolor Doente. However, it seems as though Antonio Luiz Neto really is suffering from the terrible disease Patience, and this can only be good news for Nação Tricolor. It’s just a pity that more presidents and directors working in Brazilian football don’t have the same disease. Isn’t it, Mr Odone?
This piece is dedicated to Caio Junior, who suffers like a true tricolor.