Tuesday, 11 August 2009




Goodbye to all that, said Robert Graves, and after Sunday, 9th August 2009, the supporters of Santa Cruz Futebol Clube are left feeling as if they’ve just spent a couple of years in a WW1 trench. Goodbye then, to Santa for another five months, out of Serie D after six games, and goodbye to the Serie D galaticos, Neto Maranhão, Gobatto, Juninho, Alexandre Oliveira, Thiago Laranjeiras and the rest, all of whom will pack their bags now and wander off in search of a game somewhere else. Cruel as a cat baiting a mouse, it was, on Sunday – the 30,000 inside Arruda raising the roof four times – twice for Santa goals, twice for Central goals far away in Sergipe. When the last Central goal, the winner, came in the last bloody minute, when Santa’s game was 2-2 and there were still ten minutes left, the old republicas fairly shook – of course we’re going to win now, look, it’s fated.

And Juninho hit the bar, and Paulo Rangel headed softly to the goalkeeper when he couldn’t not score, and in the very last minute everything pinballed around in front of the CSA goal, and a woman in front of me screamed, and (I learned later on the radio) another woman in the expensive seats suffered a minor heart attack, and one of the CSA supporters fell over the wall up in the anel superior and broke if not his neck then at least his hands, and fingers knees and toes, knees and toes, before the ball plopped gently into the hands of the CSA goalkeeper. And then the referee blew his whistle, and everyone just stood around looking at each other, thinking no, no, this can’t be right, we haven’t scored yet, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Before drifting home, silently, silently.

A final word, then, on tricolores and the Inferno Coral. Three home games at Arruda saw approximately 120,000 people roll up to watch Santa, the highest average crowd in Brazil this year. More than Flamengo, Sao Paulo and Corinthians. 6,000 followed the team four hours down the coast to Maceio. Another 3,000 went further still, to Sergipe. 7,000 hopped the short trip over to Caruaru for the away game against Central. The Inferno and Brazilian torcidas organizadas in general have a tremendous reputation for ultraviolence, but other than a small kerfuffle on the terraces in Caruaru, in Serie D Santa´s fans have given an impeccable demonstration of how to support a football team with great heart and passion and vibrancy (and could teach the fans of big European teams a thing or two about this) and without violence or mass destruction (despite, of course, the performances of the team providing much incentive for both).

I will remember all of it, for a long time. I will remember standing mouth agape as Arruda shook under 90,000 feet against Central. I will remember the bus trip down to Maceio and the six hour bus trip back and standing in the rain outside a sugar cane plantation somwhere in southern Pernambuco after the bus broke down drinking cachaça and eating clube social crackers. I will remember the big iloveyouido party between the fearsome Inferno Coral and C.S.A´s hardcore Mancha Azul in Maceio (the two being allies under the Brazilian football mafia’s complicated we like them but we don´t like them network). I will remember other things too, but I can’t remember them now, because that’s the way memory works, at least for me.

Ps. Now that Santa are RIP, normal pseudo intellectual service will be resumed shortly. Hooray, says everyone (both of you), who cares not about Santa or the Inferno. Though how, really, can anyone not care about Santa or the Inferno?

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