During Sunday’s derby between Corinthians and São Paulo, I was Eduardo Galeano’s beggar for beautiful football. Arms outstretched, pleading for “one good move, for the love of God!” Unfortunately, seeing me writhing in desperation on my living room floor, the two teams ignored me completely and proceeded to play one of the dullest matches this year.
Being a clássico, the first half was overly physical and unsightly. There were far too many sneaky off-the-ball kicks, shoves, arguments and complaints. The referee struggled to keep a lid on the match, but thankfully did not resort to giving out too many cards.
Corinthians were marginally the better side by the virtue of defending intelligently. Neither team looked comfortable or effective coming forward. The home side’s defensive security was enough to win them the three points.
Corinthians took the lead after a comical error in communication between São Paulo centre-back Lucão and his goalkeeper Denis. With the latter expecting a simple back pass to his feet, Lucão made the strange choice to pass across the São Paulo goal. Denis could not get there in time and Corinthians winger Lucca arrived to score. The centre-back will surely take most of the blame, but both were at fault for not communicating.
Two-nil came from a second-half set-piece, with Yago escaping his marker to head into the net. Again, Lucão and Denis were the guilty parties.
As usual, Corinthians were compact and organised, but their attack needs work. Despite losing a host of their championship-winning squad from last season and having severe cashflow problems, Corinthians have managed to rebuild admirably. Playmaker Giovanni Augusto debuted in this match and looked threatening.
São Paulo have a promising side this season, with plenty of talent and an intelligent manager in Edgardo Bauza. Jonathan Calleri, their six-month loan signing from Boca Juniors, is extremely able and will be successful in Brazil once he settles. His movement was good against Corinthians, but he received poor service, with São Paulo insisting on trying useless cross after useless cross. Central midfielder Thiago Mendes, who has been the pulse of Bauza’s side so far this year, was quiet, constantly hurried by Corinthians’ busy midfield zone.
The most interesting aspect of the match happened in the stands. At the beginning of the second half, members of Corinthians’ largest torcida organizada (organised fan group) the Gaviões da Fiel (Hawks of the Faithful) unfurled four banners protesting ticket prices, TV giant Rede Globo, the Brazilian and São Paulo football federations, and state legislator Fernando Capez.
Being informed of the protest, referee Luiz Flavio de Oliveira stopped the game and summoned Corinthians’ captain Felipe to go to the fans and have them take down their banners. The Gaviões did take them down, but only briefly, unfurling them again later in the half. As all of this was going on, television pictures (from Rede Globo) did not show the banners, leaving the commentators with the difficult job of dancing around the subject while the game had been stopped.
Firstly, the censorship exerted by Globo and the football federations in trying to conceal these protests is shameful and frightening. Secondly, such protests from torcidas, groups that were originally created to defend the rights of supporters but have (in many cases) descended into organised crime and violence, are completely welcome. I hope the Gaviões’ counterparts at Palmeiras, Flamengo, São Paulo and other big clubs follow suit.
On the other hand, while this was going on, the home fans chanted homophobic slurs at São Paulo’s goalkeeper whenever he touched the ball. This is a shamefully prevalent practice around Brazilian stadiums and it is hard to think of any club whose fans have not been guilty of it over the past few years. But why didn’t the referee stop the game to get the fans to stop? Why didn’t the Gaviões bring a banner denouncing homophobia? Will either club speak out about it? Am I asking too much?