At one point during my Palmeiras & Corinthians dilemma I considered making life easier for myself by ditching both of them and following one of São Paulo’s other teams instead. To fill you in on why I didn’t (kind of) here’s the lowdown on what else São Paulo had to offer this intrepid football explorer.
São Paulo FC
I have to be honest and admit that I never really considered opting for São Paulo FC. Firstly, they have, by Brazilian standards, a pretty boring name and their kit isn’t particularly inspiring either. Secondly, whilst they are one of Brazil’s most successful teams and play in one of the country’s biggest stadiums, it’s bloody miles from where I live and frankly it’s a pain in the arse to get to. God, I sound shallow.
My impression of São Paulo was not helped further by the palava I experienced when I tried to go and see them play against Portuguesa during the São Paulo state championship*. First, it took us nearly two hours to get there then when we finally arrived there were huge queues to buy tickets – queues that did not move beyond kick-off. We eventually gave up 15 minutes into the game.
The most frustrating thing about the whole episode was that they play in a stadium that has a capacity of over 65,000. The attendance that day? 16,883.
Santos never really took my fancy either. Ok, so they might be the team that Pelé once graced and they may currently have Neymar, Ganso, Elano and co., but Santos is not actually within the city of São Paulo so getting to games regularly would be quite difficult. Also, being a Gillingham fan I’m not sure I could ever get used to their level of success and glamour. Supporting them would just be too easy.
Portuguesa are far more intriguing. I’m pretty sure that many football fans outside of Brazil would be able to name one, some or all of Palmeiras, Corinthians, São Paulo and Santos if asked to name the main football teams from the state of São Paulo.
However, no-one, I would be willing to guess, would be likely to name Portuguesa and that’s despite the fact that they’ll be playing in Serie A of the Brazilian national championship this season.
One problem is that they don’t really seem to have any fans despite being one of only two teams in the city that currently plays in their own stadium. Part of the problem is that, as the name suggests, they’re the team of the Portuguese community and the Portuguese are, well, considered a bit of a joke in Brazil. Ditto Portuguesa in São Paulo.
However, given that I’ll normally always root for the underdog this just made them more appealing to me and even more so when I found out that they’re offering entrance to all their home games this season for R$40/month (£12.50). Seeing as it’s guaranteed that they’ll play at least two games at home each month (and sometimes up to four) this strikes me as being a bloody good deal – especially as I’d get to see the likes of Neymar, Ronaldinho, Luis Fabiano, etc for the price of a pie at Gillingham.
Another bonus? Their stadium has the most bizarre looking floodlights. Made entirely out of concrete they wouldn’t look out of place in deepest, darkest Eastern Europe circa 1958.
Less appealing is their kit which has to be one of the most god awful things I’ve ever seen.
But, if we forget the kit then Portuguesa have the potential, given the above, to be a serious alternative to both Corinthians and Palmeiras this season – in terms of which teams I’ll be going to watch most regularly.
Juventus (not that one)
Whilst there are plenty of other teams that play within the state of São Paulo (e.g. Ponte Preta who play in the Brazilian Serie A), the one that really stood out when I heard about them is Juventus.
Juventus are a charming little club that play their home games at the cosy Estadio Conde Rodolfo Crespi in the Mooca district of the city.
They are, as you’ve probably guessed, a team with an Italian heritage and they have a very loyal and local support base. Unfortunately, whilst they used to compete alongside the big boys in both the National and State championships, they were this year plying their trade in the third tier of the Paulista (and they don’t even compete nationally).
Nevertheless, they draw relatively big crowds for a small team – quite a feat given that smaller teams in Brazil are genuinely ignored and that even the bigger teams in São Paulo struggle to fill their stadiums. It’s even more remarkable that they can attract crowds of up to 500 on a Wednesday afternoon – yes, that’s correct I did say Wednesday afternoon (they don’t have any floodlights). When they played a deciding game towards the end of the season they drew over 2,000.
Entrance is R$10 (£3.50 – but half that for students) and they have a lovely kit as well.
To top it off Pelé claims that the greatest goal he ever scored was at the Estadio Conde Rodolfo Crespi. Unfortunately, like significant parts of Pelé’s career in Brazil, it is not recorded for posterity although there is a statue at the ground to commemorate it.
In the end, I went to see them play three times towards the end of their Paulista campaign, including one beauty of a game. Needing a win to keep their promotion hopes alive they fell 3-1 behind against the bottom team. And, despite pulling one back everything looked lost when they went down to 10 men in the last ten minutes. But, they only bloody went and did it! Check-out 4:18 for the spectacular finale to their comeback.
Put simply, it’s a cracking little club and it was great that having secured promotion they’ll be in the second tier of the Paulista next year where they’ll be playing against the likes of Portuguesa (who were, unbelievably, relegated from the top tier despite competing in Serie A of the National Championship this year).
And whilst the Paulista won’t start again until 2013 they will be competing in another local competition during the National Championship, and I’ll definitely be back.
*In Brazil the football season is divided in to two. From January until May teams compete in state leagues whilst from May until December they compete in the national championship.