Imagine how it might be, if you will, to be Santa Cruz Futebol Clube of Recife. Only three short years ago, you win a game in front of 60,000 fanatical supporters, and guarantee your return to the Brazilian First Division. A few months after that, following a rocky start to the year, you beat, in glorious, comedic, cartwheeling style, two of the giants of Brazilian football, Flamengo and Corinthians (to give some idea of perspective, for anyone who cares, Carlitos Tevez and Javier Maschereno play for Corinthians that day), again in front of vast throngs of fifty and sixty thousand people in the mundao Arruda. Your city rivals, if they can be called such things, cuddly Nautico and preening bantamweights Sport, are skulking in the anonimity of the Second Divison. Such adventures lie ahead for you, such glories are laid out for the taking!
And even though things do not go so well after that, and you do not win many more games, and you are relegated at the end of the year, no matter, you think, you'll soon be back. After all, you are the biggest football team in the nordeste, the oldest, most storied, most Brazilian part of this teeming, ramshackle, wonderful country. You are Santa Cruz Futebol Clube of Recife!
But this is not how it works out. Instead, although hope glimmers patchily throughout the year, towards the end of the season you begin to tumble, and your tumble becomes a plummet, and finally, shamefully, you are ignominiously relegated, for the first time in your history, to the muddy, uncharted waters of the Third Division. Worse still - Sport and Nautico are now prospering amongst Brazil's elite, and openly mock your agonies.
By now you are spinning dizzily, your freefall out of control. You have bequeathed your heritage to an arrogant oaf of a president, one who seems hell bent on destroying your very soul. You are led by a choo-choo train of managers with clowns' feet and rocking horse heads, and some of the worst football players ever to have someone help them tie up their bootlaces. You are R$50,000,000 in debt, and the upper deck of your stadium is categorised as unsafe and closed to the public.
And yet still they come, the people, the faithful, to watch you, although they probably do not know why they do, other than there is not much else to do in Recife on a Sunday afternoon. It will be alright, you think. It will take a long time to find your way back, but you surely have fallen as low as you can. People carry banners to your games that say and even if you fall, and I cannot stop you from falling, I will be there to help you back on your feet again. It will be alright, you know it will.
But, as it turns out, it will not be alright. As you begin your toils in the Third Division, rumour reaches you that the Brazilian football authorities are to create a new division for 2009 - a Serie D. You laugh, at first. Who on earth will play in the Brazilian Fourth Division, you wonder, imagining teams of mongrel dogs chasing a punctured football around scrubby dirt pitches. And even when you start off ropily in the Third Division, and you lose 3-0 to a team called Potiguar, from Rio Grande Do Norte, and for two weeks in a row to a team called Icasa, from Ceara, neither of whom you have ever really heard off, you do not worry overly.
In fact, it is almost as though you have no time to worry, and when it happens, when you fall again, maybe for the last time, for who will follow you now into such depths, you almost do not feel it. One moment you are dreaming, if not of the stars then at least of climbing back up and finding solid earth once more beneath your feet, and the next minute you are tumbling again, into this strange darkness called Serie D, and your year is over before it has begun, and your players are leaving, one or two to better places but most to simply look for work and a team wherever they may find it, and next year you do not know where you will be or where you will play or whether you will even be here at all.
Mr X tries not to take any of it personally, even though along his peregrinations he has also served cheering witness to Manchester City's hurtling crash from England's First Division to somewhere in the lower half of the Third, and, fresh off the boat in South America, Atletico Mineiro's tearful descent into the Brazilian Second Division for the first time in their storied history. Both of these disasters, like that of Santa Cruz, seem to have had their roots in Mr X’s arrival in Manchester/Belo Horizonte (and now Recife), and both City and Atletico have undergone impressive positive transformations following Mr X's departure from Manchester and Belo Horizonte respectively. He senses a pattern is developing here, but refuses to accept it may represent any kind of metaphor for mishappenstances in his life as a whole. In any case he has calculated that, assuming miracles still walk among us and Santa are promoted to a higher division in each of the next three years, he will be almost 40 years old by the time the team are back in the First Division, by which time (relying on the same assumption of the presence of miracles), he hopes he will have more substantial things to worry about (a wife, children, a career, for example) than the blinded alleys he may be led along by Santa Cruz Futebol Clube.