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This will be the 4th installment of my story of 'The Manager', taking him far away from the usual comforts of his home nation or the globetrotting of international management. It is going to be much more light hearted and whimiscal in its atmosphere, so quite a change from that last England one.

As always I'll state the same: You do not need to have read all of the previous achievements to read this chapter, just see the chapter titles below and know that the Manager has by now won quite a lot in his career, giving him something of a reputation in the world of football management.

Chapter 1: http://www.fm-base.co.uk/forum/foot...-english-riviera-brighton-hove-albion-fc.html

Chapter 2: http://www.fm-base.co.uk/forum/football-manager-2013-manager-stories/112719-warrior-king-ghana.html

Chapter 3: http://www.fm-base.co.uk/forum/football-manager-2013-manager-stories/113955-immortality-england.html

So, the face for this (I don't know why I'm still doing this...), couldn't possibly be bothered to find a famous Sao Paulo fan, maybe the Manager is so famous now that anyone will do.
He might look creepy when he's Xeres in 300, but crucially he speaks English, it's Rodrigo Santoro!

View attachment 341843 View attachment 341844
 
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Now I didn't see that coming! Looking forward to this :D
 
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2030 – 2035: Reluctant indolence

View attachment 341946

((Neon Genesis Evangelion OST 1 - Ritsuko - YouTube))

Each man took a breath, just a moment afforded to their needs as Italy was left behind. They arrived back in England, anticipation and suspense the whole journey had been slowly laying waste to their nerves, heads systematically hoisting their expectations of what lay in store when the plane came down from its slow arc in the sky. To relieved and ecstatic grins the arrival was just as their expectations had built it up to be; the barriers were heaving with the overjoyed dancing and cheers of the nation's supporters, from the airport to the cities.

Home and relaxed, the subsequent celebrations saw them atop their buses, the England team proudly carrying their gleaming idol through the streets held aloft for all to see with their own two white orbs; to Wembley where it would stay for at least a little while until it was time for the trophy to prepare for the next outing.

European and World Champions and the next Euros were theirs to host, England were in dreamland.

The squad and staff all fulfilled their duties of talking to the media, appearing before this audience to rapturous applause, showing up at that arranged function. Once it was done, a round of golf with his closest staff, just one final afternoon to relax in each others company before they went their seperate ways. Gerrard gave him a few kind words as they finished their tour of the 18, his job at West Brom would occupy him well enough while the Manager disappeared for a short while.

Journalists from all over Europe gathered, he had his press conference to break the news. He had enjoyed his time with England but it was time to call it a day. Half of them had expected the decision; he looked so weary and beleaguered when not smiling from celebration. Others had believed he would stay for decades; the home tournament would be incentive enough to continue driving England on to success.

His decision was made. Returning to his DB5, instead of heading south toward his home near Brighton he travelled north. His family already having packed what they needed and gone on ahead, they were tucked away from the protruding lenses, nestled in Scotland staying with his brother’s family. His own home instantly became a wall of huge scores of reporters all camped outside, their cars and vans blocking nearly all entrance as neighbours bemoaned quietly having the now former England manager live so close in the rich rural area.

View attachment 341948 Turning up at the door, the remote Scottish countryside house would suit him perfectly until he and his family carried out their next plans. Meeting his wife, the pair shared a kiss as she thanked him for his decision to quit, now executed with no going back. Sat with his family he felt assured that it was right to spend some time away from the game to once again devote his energies into making a success of his home life rather than directing that on the pitch.

They stayed hiding away from the press and their intrusions for a little longer, perhaps a little fearful of the moment they might be discovered, or maybe it was that going abroad would undoubtedly result in the pictures turning up of them on their holidays. It was a price they would have to pay at first, but soon those armed with cameras and no news at all would forget all about them. Before leaving behind British shores for the first of many holidays and adventures, he travelled south to show his face at the funeral of Aaron Towler’s mother. The occasion was just what it needed to be.

With that, the Manager and his family set off for the Caribbean, and Frank de Boer of all people became the England boss.
What the FA were thinking appointing him to follow their World Cup winning manager was beyond him, but, he got he job all the same, and joining the rest of the nation once again the Manager turned to his television screen to view what would unfold.

((Yo-Yo Ma Bach Cello Suite 1 Allemande - YouTube))

View attachment 341950 Bliss in his environment as he would stroll down beaches with his family and soak up the slower pace of life; he was only called back once from his family’s island hopping indulgence as Douglas Maximo retired from his playing days that summer, the match at Brighton where he had spent nearly his entire career one of many which would follow in the coming years as the old team he had put together retired one by one.

A reunion with Yalcin Akarsu and Aaron Towler since they had ended their England duties together, the pair both doing wonderfully now, smiles abound as this life in England as heroes suited them both very well indeed.

And then the time skipped by. Akarsu won the Ballon D’or for 2030, along with World Player of the year, following his teammate Aaron who had managed it in 2029, one last great personal triumph for the most sensational year of his career. What was more impressive: 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] and 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] for the Ballon D’or were Kieran Rowney and Nathan Hull; and the World Player of the Year 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Nathan Hull and 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] Danny Edgerley.
A 1 2 3 with 4 English players filling all spots of both awards. Surely the world would have nothing to say beyond envy and admiration of English football, such was the strength of it now.
Brighton won the 2031 Champions League, and Antonio Conte called time on his role at Brighton, swapping it for the position at Barcelona and another challenge. Joanthan Menichini still at Brighton and Norberto Tradito who had been there all throughout the Manager’s years both retired; and Slaven Bilic was appointed the new man in charge.

View attachment 341952 The Croatian took them to the league title and FA Cup, and then it was the turn of Aaron Towler and Yalcin Akarsu to end their playing careers. Roel Djik too retired, arriving after the Manager had left Brighton he had been constant for them throughout his years; yet unfortunately retained the memory of missing Holland’s final penalty, perhaps unfairly it was what the man would be best known for.

The Manager made an appearance again of course, but he didn’t stick around for England’s moment to host the continental tournament for the first time since 1996. Frank de Boer hadn’t had to progress through any qualification, his skills at leading England remained largely untested.

England had their hopes built up, to the final at Wembley; only for the Turkish to beat them and steal the celebrations.
Exasperated fans felt betrayed, how on earth could they lose at home as the current reigning champions?
De Boer jumped before he was pushed, retiring altogether. Probably for the best, his face was not so welcome as the ugly side of English international football exposed itself once more.
Rather than look to a home man for the next appointment, Andre Villas-Boas took the position. He was more competent at least, a good record to his name. He’d take them to the World Cup in Australia without any problems.

2033 and Slavan Bilic retired; ending with the league and league cup for the year. Just 2 years in the job at Brighton but winning a few trophies was clearly enough to assuage the man’s desire for some last silverware before putting his feet up. Brighton fans were a little unsure when Michael Appleton took charge, but they had to trust their chairman and get behind the team at all times.
Still the Manager’s lifestyle was one of meandering weeks and months. The summer was enjoyable, Villas-Boas delivered the confederations cup, proving that he was clearly capable of putting together some tournament form. Optimism was high for the year to come.

Graciously the country had forgotten almost completely about the Manager by now; of course his exploits were still heralded just as his name with the Brighton faithful was held in the highest esteem. But the media had backed off, new targets to heap misery upon as they intruded wherever was inappropriate.
The long holidays continued at each opportunity, Canada, South Africa, India, Burma and China. Wherever his wife decided would be a new experience they visited; he was still at least for the moment content to merely while away his days viewing the struggles of his contemporaries in the game he passionately adored.

The phone had stopped ringing by now with job offers, his agent given up trying to persuade him that each time a club came calling it was the right post for him and his family.

Villas-Boas took England to the Semi-Finals in Australia, but sadly found no way beyond the Italians who had romped through the competition. There was some consolation as a 3-3 draw with the Spanish for third place saw England on the winning end of another penalty shootout. Argentina took the glory when the curtain came down, their team matured and their stars the new generation for the South American’s to worship for the coming decades.

Nathan Hull took the Ballon D’or and World player of the year in 2034; Ghana won the Africa cup of nations in 2035 – and became the most decorated team in the competitions history.

5 years. He had really been out of the game for as long as that, what before had been a routine of just watching the game march on, suddenly it was the realisation that he was letting it simply slip by without his involvement anymore.

As Ghana lifted the cup, the Manager sat back in his chair and began to finally feel the pangs of longing once more. At first it had just felt like the years were a few months off, the enjoyment of privacy and time to enrich his loved ones lives filling his days blissfully.

But there it was again at last, that desire….it had returned, he always wondered when it might.

In the summer of 2035, family in tow they travelled to Brazil. Yet another holiday, he kept his renewed urge to make a foray into his chosen profession to himself, not wishing to spark an argument so early into their latest adventure.

((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxiHXdOYfDg))


View attachment 341961 Rio de Janeiro was spectacular; it reflected just how much Brazil as a nation had come along as its strength in the world had been climbing for years. The mixture of ordinary and beautiful people packing the perfect looking beaches, he’d seen plenty of glorious sandy shores yet always his comparison remained the pebbles of Brighton, uncomfortable to tread, the often suspect looking hue of the water nothing compared to the azure of tropical climates.
View attachment 341962 People seemed happy wherever he went, be it the sunshine or just that they seemed to keep to the tourist areas, old buildings mixed between the new, it seemed poor were adjacent to the rich down streets which held little pattern in his mind; vendors all over, so many handcrafted goods or foods to try, this little English family were perfectly willing to sample them all.

Wife and child perfectly content, he sat back at the dinner table with a light sigh, a whole day of sightseeing with another to come, at least at their quiet table in the dwindling sun on the hotel’s balcony he could give his feet some respite.

The waiter made his way over as the coffee he and his wife had ordered sat with its heat gently easing away into the evening air.

“Jornal, senhor?”

He looked up at the young man, not expecting the handful of newspapers to be offered at all. Perhaps it was because he thought it was what the English did with their evenings.
Looking over the selection, the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph…he didn’t much fancy reading something on where he was from or the states. Not speaking or reading a word of Portuguese he pointed to and accepted the day’s edition of Brazil’s Jornal O Globo.

A cursory glance at the main news, his wife lifted an eyebrow over why he was bothering when he couldn’t understand a word of it. Making little sense of the pictures of politicians and the odd building which was for some reason important he turned to the back pages, you didn’t need to speak the language to often understand what was going on in football.

The main headline of the last page immediately jumped out at him.

'Crise: Técnico do São Paulo FC é demitido, e o clube passa por sérios problemas!'

A picture of who as he understood it was the current Sao Paulo FC manager looking glum in his bench as it was clear the run of results under his charge had been below the standard expected.

Rising out of his chair, he wandered over to the waiter who had yet to reach the kitchen doors.

“Excuse me” The man turned around, his arms carrying only his tray containing some of the tableware not used all night as he was clearly nearing the end of his shift. “Could you tell me what this says?” The Manager pointed to the headline; the waiter immediately looked up with an apologetic expression.

“Eu não falo Inglês” He gave it a second before continuing “Ah,…bar..” A finger pointing as he carefully balanced his load with one arm. Looking to where it was, he thanked the man and quickly trotted to the bar and the lady behind it winding down in her duties.

“Excuse me, do you speak English?”

“Yes sir” Her accent wasn’t too strong that he had trouble understanding her, just that light hint of her Latin nationality and surroundings.

“Smashing! Could you tell me what this here says?”

Holding the paper across for her to see, she lay a hand on its edge to afford a better view before translating. “It says: ‘Crisis: The coach of Sao Paulo FC is fired, the club has problems’ or there abouts.” She smiled, feeling her version was good enough.

“Just as I thought, would you mind reading just a little of it to give me the jist? The situation at the club or something like that?”

“Of course….are you a big football fan?”

“Umm….something like that.” He grinned lightly, listening intently as she described to him the article.

Sao Paulo he already knew was one of the biggest clubs in Brazilian football. The nation's domestic league had been slowly climbing in the eyes of the world’s game for some time, recognition that for countless generations the nation had been producing global stars who didn’t all set sail for Europe, many enjoyed the comforts of home and the panache of the local game, its emphasis on skills and dynamic dribbling producing some eye catching performances for the crowds to coo over.

As the article stated, the manager had gone, and the club were really struggling. They hadn’t won their state championship for 5 years, the national league for 7 years, and the Copa Libertadores for a staggering 15 years. For Sao Paulo, this was totally unacceptable, and the revolving door of managers in recent years reflected it.

The players were disgusted with the atmosphere at the club, the fans were in agony…the big club had turned rotten, and according to the paper it didn’t seem a solution was available to stop that decline, speculation from the journalist saw the club slipping right away from all prominence, a humiliation it would never recover from as rivals Corinthians, Palmeiras and Santos would all cherish the encounters.

Thanking her he returned to his wife, her curiosity peaked as he sat down wearing a visible smile, one that stretched further than it had all day.

“Go on, it must be important so what’s it say?”

“It says that I’m heading to Sao Paulo in the morning” He enthusiastically grinned.
 
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Loving this, whens the next update likely to be?
 
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Loving this, whens the next update likely to be?
Not too long, just needs my slow laptop to grind its way through the rest of the season. Unfortunately both the posts and my seasons always take a fair amount of time.

Edit: This next post is a little different, felt with it being the first proper time to go for a job I'd add in the Manager's attempt. If you just wish to read the actual football-related content then the following post will contain the first season or what is left to play of it.
 
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July 2035: Enterprise and Suits

View attachment 346353

((Piano de Bossa / One Note Samba - YouTube))

The Manager felt good as he left the city limits of Rio, heading on toward Sao Paulo in the South of Brazil. A dry morning where the streets had already shown the tasters of what their day would hold as locals began to set up their livelihoods, his family would continue to enjoy their holiday whilst he conducted his little adventure. Peering out of the vast train window he relaxed as the buildings became smaller, towers giving way to favelas and fields.

What a whimsical and almost mad move it was to just head to the largest city in South America, to one of the biggest football clubs in the Southern Hemisphere and simply ask for the job. He didn’t speak or read a word of Portuguese beyond those which clearly derived from the exact same word the English one did, how on earth he would even communicate with these men in charge if they didn’t speak English…

His haggard leather sports bag on the seat next to him, he reached across with a clumsy movement as the few people in his early morning carriage drearily woke themselves up to the day. Plucking his phone from within, the number wasn’t hard to access quickly.

It rang only a few times, four hours difference at this time of year…the man would be into his working day by now.

“Well well, not a call I was expecting! You’re about 2 years too late to apologise”

“Yeah….I was just thinking it over in my head that I might not need an agent…I mean he hasn’t helped me to get any particular job or negotiated any contracts I couldn’t have…”

“So you called me up to say you’re retiring for good?”

“Nope, I’m calling you up; from Brazil –“

“Brazil?!”

“- to give you a chance to earn your money. Get me an English speaking translator in Sao Paulo for lunch time.”

“Wha….why? What are you up to? I hear you’re on the move…you on a train out there or something?”

He could hear his agent tapping away on a keyboard, a little smile creeping onto his face as he waited for the penny to drop. “Can you do it?”

“Holy ****!! You’re going to try and get a job?!!! Yes- YES! Sure I’ll get onto a few people…don’t…actually know anyone out in that part of the world, but I’m sure I can find someone who can help. Where should they meet you?”

“I guess the stadium, at 1 O’clock BRT if possible, they’ll likely have someone in the club who can speak English but I don’t want to chance it…and I haven’t got a clue where their offices might be or the Chairman for that matter, only got so far as looking up his name.”

“Right right, well I can call you with some information that might help with the interview if you even get it…but then surely you’ll get their attention at least, **** you don’t win 2 World Cups without getting the attention of the entire footballing world.”

“Stop trying to make this sound like the contract should be bigger than whatever they offer…”

“—ah….haha, fine…I suppose this one is really in your hands initially. If you do get somewhere then make sure they send me a copy of the contract so I can advise you, I’ll get someone who can deal with contracts in Portuguese here and be in the office all day until I hear from you.”

“Cheers man; hey, do you know who the best agent in the world is?”

“I’m 55 mate, and you’re nearly half a century….”

Who is it?” He chuckled.

“………me”

The pair shared a laugh before they each hung up. He turned his attention to the speeding hillsides as he recounted the reports he had managed to find on the internet the night just passed; hours spent sitting staring at his computer screen trawling through grim article after another.

View attachment 346356 The last three managers had got the sack; since Ney Franco had led the club for twenty years from 2012 to 2032 when he retired no one had been able to take the club forward. The first two who tried lasted 15 months each, the last fella just 7 months. Expectations were huge, so high in fact that it was evident no man in charge had been given the proper time to reshape the squad as results had gone against them and silverware eluded their efforts.

View attachment 346357 It was a sorry state of affairs; beyond what he had already read in that initial article of the sacking, the players were blatantly unhappy with most of the senior and key figures rumoured to have handed in transfer requests which may have been accepted, the staff were lacking all morale and the fans were bordering on a revolution at the club such was their distrust and anger over the mismanagement of their beloved team.

The only person associated with the club who must have been smiling throughout all the chaos at the Brazilian giant had to be Ney Franco, his legacy was the days the fans all pined for, though even he hadn’t won anything for the last few years of his tenure.

To put it bluntly, from everything he had seen; the club still had money backing it, had fans that remained passionate and dedicated as though the exploits on the pitch dictated their very disposition week to week, and they still had players on the books who were incredible with a ball at their feet.

But the club was in ruins.
View attachment 346360
'A cry can be the difference between victory and defeat'

All he saw in that though was the challenge he had been craving! Brighton had been a heady rise like none other to the top of the world of club football; never again would the feat likely be repeated such was the fluke like nature of it. Ghana they had just needed to pull it together for two tournaments, and England it was just getting the stars to play together. What he saw in this crumbling dynasty of an eternal title challenger in the exciting Brazilian league was greed and sheer arrogance gone too far, left unchecked for too long, and as the pillars were falling no-one seemed to know or want to rebuild what had stood for decades.

((Nova - "Triste" - Bossa Nova - YouTube))

Little by little the carriage began to fill with the day’s commuters and passengers to the metropolis, businessmen and women who had some work in the city for the afternoon as phones rang out regularly; newspapers unfurled at the great discomfort of whoever sat alongside them, the knack for folding a broadsheet still eluding some individuals.

In his own world, he ignored the grunts and noises of a fat gentleman once he had politely requested the bag be moved from the seat alongside the Manager and sat down, though the words made no sense it was clear enough. Staring out into the ever changing scenery, the hours passed as he ran over and over in his head just what he would do when he arrived; how he would convince these probably deluded rotund men in suits that he could steer them back on course.

His mind wandered, back those years when he had stolen the courage from somewhere in his late twenties, at the club as a nobody…he had found his way into Tony Bloom the owner of Brighton’s office. The man looked up from his screen, the rumour of Poyet’s exit abound, it was evident immediately that they had been based upon truth.

The gangly looking young Manager had not offered his apologies at once like his head was telling him to do so, how dare he quietly barge into this busy man’s lair, where all the decision making was conceived and finished. He knew he shouldn’t apologise, he was there to show the man what to do, not to intrude or waste his time.

The gambling man behind his desk smiled at the sheer brass of the brave entrance once established the young man was here for the big job, motioning for a seat. They talked; the chairman quizzed him, at first out of sporting fun to humour the lad, then with some conviction.

Tactics, ideas, ethos, mentality, knowledge of the club and players. Ambition. As the questions became more tailored and specific, the qualities showed themselves. It was only when he re-emerged from the owner’s office than the realisation set in that he had probably just nailed the interview of his life, dressed in a £12 shirt with a borrowed tie.

A test game with the youngsters followed, passed as a few clever moves quickly worked on beforehand paid off before the all-important eyes. Hurdles jumped one after another, the club made the risky move and appointed him in charge as the management wheel turned. Maybe had it been anyone other than Bloom the professional poker player then no doubt the gamble would never have seen beyond that bold first meeting.

View attachment 346361 Recounting his foray into management he smiled, the buildings outside growing in size rapidly once again as announcements he hadn’t a clue about signalled over the tannoy, ‘Sao Paulo’ all he made out for now. When people told him Bloom and Brighton had been mad to hire him he just smiled, not so arrogant as to list off his achievements since. He simply told them a young Harrison Ford had once just been in the right place at the right time; a carpenter with the talents needed and some fortune. Sometimes you get a lucky break, and everything just goes from there.

The skyline climbed higher still until they were cutting through the concrete, steel and glass, surrounded by the wall to wall prison that was the city proper. Beyond his transparent shield laid endless reams of traffic and people, every street it seemed as they whipped by just another corridor of cars hemmed in by the looming maze of towers.

Próxima estação: Estacao da Luz, São Paulo. ------ Próxima estação: Estacao da Luz, São Paulo.’

That was him, the name ringing an important bell. Pulling up into the vast structure, he gave a forced stretch in his seat as the bodies of everyone in the carriage had leapt to their feet in a rush he was sure happened the world over; men forgetting to let ladies out first unless they batted their eyelashes; the elderly staying seated realising the futility of attempting to join the fray.

A crush of passengers waiting to get on to sidle through, clutching his bag he brought his watch up: the middle of the day, a little time then to check his surroundings before hopefully meeting his help for this adventure. He started by looking up to the high brown arcing roof. No different inside really to any other grand station he thought.Come 1 O’clock, his taxi armed only with the knowledge of ‘Estadio do Morumbi’ pulled up at the vast stadium, an obscene fee for the 4 mile journey, perhaps the driver with his yellow stained smile had seen the Manager coming the moment he hopped into the cab with his ivory skin tone.

View attachment 346364 Pacing the expanse of the carpark to the entrance (for fear it would cost another $10), the site was dead. Not a match day; it was to be expected that little would be seen save hopefully a shop or some offices he could make himself known at. A glance to one side as he faced the red bold high letters ‘Sao Paulo Futebol Clube’, he set off about the coliseum-esk behemoth of a structure.

Not a quarter of the way around than there stood a young lady, out of place somewhat in the quiet early afternoon sun in a black knee length skirt, jacket to match and inch heels. Even if she wasn’t, she looked like a translator at a glance. Approaching to see if his agent really had arranged as he informed, the girl looked over, smiling politely and closed the distance.

“Pleased to meet you sir” Her accent was light, easy to understand English with a latin edge to it. She offered a hand, his shaking it immediately as he felt relieved to no longer be drifting through an alien land unaccompanied.

Smiling to her, she returned the expression; pretty thin lips with soft brown eyes to match her almost light tan hair. Her pale skin was something he hadn’t been expecting of a native, assuming she was; and the first thought in his head was that his agent if intentionally done so had come through, her obvious looks might help in the exchange to come with the rich individuals heading up the club were they easily swayed by a pretty face.

“Likewise, a pleasure to meet you. I’m-“ He began.

“That’s alright” She grinned briefly “I know who you are. I’m Sofia.”

“Just Sofia? Like Ronaldo…or Kaka are just one name?”

Her head shook swiftly, the short neat shoulder length cut whipping left to right. “No no, they have long Brazilian names. I’m Sofia Thais Letitica Araujo de Moura.”

“That sounds a bit more what I was expecting” He chuckled “Right, lets see if we can’t find someone and set this all in motion! Did my agent inform you of the details?”

“I only heard from my professor, I attend Sao Paulo University, but he said that the job paid a full afternoon’s wages and would take as long as it would take. Anything beyond today you were to tell me if needed and I’ll fit my course around it.”

The Manager nodded in agreement “Sounds fine. Just to check though you sound as though you are, you’re fluent in English and Brazilian Portuguese?”

“Yes sir, I lived in England for 3 years but grew up here so neither are a problem. I can also translate Spanish and a little French.”

“Just the Portuguese will do today.”

“Can I just say-“ She started as the pair started to walk toward the nearby staff entrance she had been waiting close to, he motioned her to go on “I really hope you get this job, not just for a possibility of translation job for me, but I’m a fan of the club also. It’s why I took this today.”

He grinned “You know who I am beyond what you were told then?”

Her face turned sour “I was at Wembley when Brazil played England in both November 2025 and 26. I hated you until today I heard you were going to try for the Sao Paulo job.”

“Haha oh dear. Sorry about that, 6 – 2, must have been hard.”

“Just promise me you’ll rescue my club; my father has been depressed for months as we just slipped down and out of the race.”

He didn’t answer, just smiled as they approached what must have been a front desk.

“Good afternoon” He started, the chap on the desk understanding it yet unsure how to respond already as he clearly didn’t speak the language. Sofia began her job, and within minutes the face of the receptionist had changed from mild curiosity for the distraction in his sleepy shift to sheer wonder as the name of this man sunk home.

He hadn’t a clue what to do about it however, a call bringing a woman in a suit to their conversation. She smiled formally, very businesslike as she appraised what situation she had been dragged to, looking over the Manager as she herself realised what was going on.

The exchange was a brief one before she had the phone in her hand, her tone changing from surprise to rigid respect for one’s superiors. Two minutes after the phone had been put down it rang again; a car had been arranged to take the two to the club offices. He had their attention, yet the atmosphere wasn't anything close to what he had hoped. There was a tense air about everything, as if he had just entered into some closed world uneasy at his arrival...an unwelcome interloper afforded such measures due to his stature and name.

Waiting outside, little was said as the formal lady knew not what to say to this Englishman, the medium perhaps of speaking casually through a translator too strange for her sensible tastes. In no time a smart looking silver modern Mercedes had pulled up, a gent looking the part hopped out to open doors.

“Did you get anything else from talking to them that I might know about?” He said, turning to her once away from all other ears.

“I heard a little of what the man down the phone was like, he seemed quite strict with her…I don’t know if it was because she was a woman or perhaps tension because of the situation at the club”

“I see, well we’ll find out soon I suppose.”

It seemed it didn’t matter how rich you were when driving the streets of Sao Paulo, the only difference your car made was how comfortable you were when inching through the gridlock traffic of the inner city. Taking the time to learn what he could, he asked his new assistant of any business customs he should know of, mannerisms or way to greet important people.

Almost caught unawares of when they arrived, the car came to a halt before their destination, the light education a fine distraction from the sound of horns and city life. Stepping out, he took a cursory glance up the building to see an almost elite looking structure climb towards the clouds, as if competing with all the other lances angled at the sky.

((Casino Royale OST 27th - YouTube))

Two sharply dressed men showed him inside, a front desk bypassed as they moved into a broad chrome lift. One spoke in broken English, his attempts to bridge the gap earnest as the Manager welcomed the effort. As the doors opened, there stood an assemblage of businessmen, half of the contingent balding and making careful expansions with their waistlines.

A smug smile from the middle reached out.

“Bem-vindo senor!” he exclaimed, hands reaching out in a gesture belying friendship as the Manager saw it. Hands shook, the tanned broad chairman’s wrapping both about that the Manager offered.

He had looked him up briefly, one Jose Antonio dos Santos, ascended to the position of chairman in 2013 from within the club when the previous man Juvenal Juvencio had stepped aside.

View attachment 346366 Through to a crisp looking board room they stepped, nothing like what he had been expecting. Images of old English FA’s rich wooden chambers were shattered as he looked over the achingly contemporary surroundings, an image of modern progression rather than something steeped in wonderful history.

Sat across from the half dozen aged gents now as they took their seats, he looked to Sofia as the proceedings started; the first question…just what was he doing coming to Sao Paulo at the drop of a hat?

All semblances of a jovial optimism quickly died out, his spontaneous decision to approach them having read of their day old vacancy garnered only brief smiles; they cared little for his mood or impression of Brazil it seemed, the questions probed why now? Why them? Why 5 years without a job?

Scepticism was evident in their information hunt on this man. They knew precisely who he was, they also could see he spoke no Portuguese and yet seemed eager to take control of their esteemed club. Problems which could be solved both temporarily and in time, but obstacles to their revealing of any joy. The young girl at his side kept the exchange flowing, yet the senior figures were unwilling to let up in their attempts to judge just why he had been without a job for so long.

Shaking his head with some frustration, he turned to Sofia. “Can you just tell them something like: At work, I wear the trousers. At home, my wife does.”

She nodded in a professional gesture, relaying it at once. Immediately all parties concerned erupted into roars of laughter, their eyes changing in a flash to see this middle aged Englishman, brow beaten it would seem as they sympathised it became apparent quickly; short addendums to the explanation shot back and forth between them as they no doubt discussed their own wives.

The chairman Jose slapped a hand to the table in line with the prevailing mood, offering what sounded like condolences. Sofia looked across to the Manager.

“He says he had no idea that the spirit of the ‘Iron Lady’ still lived on in British women.”

How the **** did anyone take such a statement from their potential employers? Smiling to show some teeth, he pretended to give them a little mutual laugh, shy of the real thing. Satisfied at last, the men talked real business; they wanted him in charge…his record second to none for a man his age in the game, there were just the details to discuss. Sofia took a breath to ready herself before the onslaught.

Hours later, the Manager was on the phone to his agent, a returned slight adjustment to the contract was printed out for the men to tear into. A few light frowns from those not quite in charge displayed their sentiments, but they would have offered such expressions over any changes, such was the almost aristocratic feeling he had been given by the individuals when their own club was concerned.

It went back again, his agent talking him through his thoughts. The transfer budget was fine, the wage budget was fine. But his own wages were almost insulting to begin for a man of his reputation and experience. The money wasn’t the greatest concern, but there was an underlying feeling to it, a lack of respect almost that these men wanted someone in the position they could control. Perhaps a puppet to an extent, someone flexible to their own wishes and demands whilst he contended with the rigors of the job. Easy to dispense with should things continue to go sour, any potential payoff for a sacking not too steep.

It crept up toward what his agent would be happy with, but the Manager lost patience. The wage was fine, over £30,000 a week he already was a multi-millionaire, and as things stood he had a mightily impressive amount to work with on the squad which is where if asked he would always have placed the lion share of the money.

Speaking up to the Chairman as he sat clustered with his board-members, two separate parties in the same room for the exchanges to London and back, he raised his voice to get their attention. Half a sentence behind, the young girl translated.

“This isn’t a problem of money so much, I’m happy with the wage gentleman; though my agent will always try to force it higher I’m sure. The contract suits me now I believe, but the key issue here is respect.”

He waited for her to catch up. Jose lifted an eyebrow; perhaps he perceived it as insolence.

“I need you all to know that I’m not going to simply carry out all your own instructions when doing my job. You’re hiring me to run the team, and that means I am the one in charge of doing so. Yes, you’ll tell me what finances are available and suitable; you’ll tell me what you believe are appropriate targets to be reached and what levels of competence in the team’s performances are acceptable. But ultimately, the team will be mine – the club yours.”

Arms folded, a few sat back in their chairs to take it in. Two of them at least disagreed with the firm statement openly; he couldn’t read the others as they measured the Chairman’s own thoughts.

“Ok” Jose stated, a half smile with closed lips partnering the syllable. Sofia translated what followed.
“He says they expect the team to achieve Continental football to the level of the Copa Libertadores in the league standings; and they expect the team to reach the final of the Brazilian Cup. They also state that you will need to dismiss any staff members you wish to today once the contract has been signed as they will not permit payoffs for them afterwards. You will have a period of two weeks to bring in any staff members you wish with a set amount they will inform you of for each role.”

The Manager puffed out his cheeks. They certainly weren’t lacking in ambition. The state of the club and squad was horrific, such lofty targets would be nigh impossible to reach- save for some good form and luck. Sitting in 9[SUP]th[/SUP], they had a string of tough games to be played which would almost certainly result in a rough start to this journey; and who could predict the cup?

Staring up at the ceiling, the Manager saw all the problems that he faced with such a monumental challenge. But then as he looked back down, the hand of Jose Antonio dos Santos reached out across the spotless table, the documents between sitting ready as he gave a stern look to the Manager.

Five years he’d been out of the game. It was time for a ****** good challenge. Leaning forward he shook the man’s hand with some strength, the two sets of eyes locking as they smiled together.

“Maravilhoso! Bem-vindo a Sao Paulo FC!” He boomed, the board members offering a light round of applause for the breakthrough. The papers pushed across, he signed on the line without anymore hesitation, 4 years.

“Smashing!” The Manager grinned. A shirt produced to the scene, he held up with Jose as a camera snapped the moment before he got to really take a look. Holding the badge, he took in the white black and red, the tricolor. With any luck he'd be seeing it for some time.
 
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Was finishing degree and seeing family. I'll pull my finger out now, the first season or what there was to play of it is finished. A bottle of wine to help, this post might get a little sketchy towards the end me thinks. Excelente!!

Edit: As I'm writing this I've sort of realised that no one will really have much of a clue as to who is playing for Sao Paulo when I mention the players since I'm not prepared to spend too long getting them known just yet, that'll just come with time like it did at Brighton though some key ones will be known. So I'll put up here the first eleven teamsheet so people can see what I'm working with (when fully fit and available...thats important) though other random Brazilian names will be thrown about. Hopefully it will all be clear enough by the end, but certain names will feature more frequently due to their involvement to with any luck become house names.

Should mention also that part way through season I think one of those foreign players took duel Brazilian nationality which meant they could all play, but to begin it was three of the foreign players on show and a fringe Brazilian to cover.

 
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That first 11 looks more than a bit special! Update is soon I assume?
 
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2035 Season: Hubris and Fools

View attachment 360047

((In Motion - The Social Network - Soundtrack OST - YouTube))


Just an hour after the pen had graced the paper he was stood before the assembled collection of staff members. Dour faces greeted him, their demeanours less than welcoming as they clearly felt no inspiration from now being subordinates to this Englishman without even the slightest grasp of their language, or as they also felt –their football.

Looking over them, those not stood immediately before the Manager conversed lightly amongst themselves, everyone else just stared vacantly, half expecting some contrived order to gather the players despite it being a day off.

He’d said in the past he wasn’t looking to start a revolution; perhaps it was time to acquaint himself with how to conduct one. Sofia stood waiting patiently by his side, looking over when she saw a gesture to indicate he required her to convey his sentiments to the gathering.

“Tell them I’ve seen the staff roster, and I feel it is time that many of them seek out a new challenge away from Sao Paulo FC.”

She nodded curtly, engaging the middle aged men with the statement. Eyes opened wide from their self imposed sloth-like state, clearly most if not all of them had never expected such an order, raised voices calling some irritated statements out from behind the figures of those in front.

“Shall I translate sir?”

“No I got the gist of those last few. They don’t even know who I’m letting go yet….” He sighed briefly before staring down the angering faces with some conviction in his decision. “I’ll be letting go of the services of: Assistant Manager Marcos Angelo Parisi; Under 20’s Manager Marilia, Goalkeeping coach Jailton Monteiro, Under 20’s Goalkeeping coach Braion Madrid, Chief Scout Marcos Vinicius Bernstein, Head of Youth Development Chris, and finally Director of Football Peter dos Anjos Freitas.”

As he listed off the names, they needed no translation beyond Sofia telling them they were the ones who were now without employment. Immediately assistant Parisi, as he heard his name became outraged, clearly feeling that he was crucial to the continued running of the club and certainly to the Manager’s chances of steering it back on course.

View attachment 360052 Piling forward up into the Manager’s face, he dismissed them as he had seen referees do so many times, a flick of his hand as his chin lifted away from the hostile expressions pressing ever closer to his features.

“The board will deal with their contract terminations, those who I wish to still to be employed by the club have the opportunity to leave if they wish, if not then they are to report to their duties tomorrow as previously scheduled.”

The young girl hastily relayed the instructions before the Manager tapped her on the shoulder and the pair marched away from the congregation, leaving them spitting and hissing after them, wishing all the worst upon their families no less.

That might have been the first step to stopping the rot, but huge steps were still needed to get back on the rails. He’d kept the three coaches already at the club on board so he had some staff to conduct the pre-match preparations, faces that the players knew. And as he understood it they were competent at their jobs, just had never been under the right direction.

View attachment 360053 Retiring to his new office, the Manager sat opposite Sofia as she tapped away on his computer- email after email being sent out in the late afternoon. Negotiations with all of the clubs concerned who currently employed the staff members he had earmarked he wanted to help turn this sorry mess about. As she went from one to the next, office members briefly to-ing and fro-ing to assist, the Manager got on the phone.
“Gerrard speaking” said the scouse, his heavily ingrained accent impossible for foreigners to understand he was sure.

“Hello Steven, how have you been?” The pair talked for some time; their recent exploits and such though they had met up with their wives from time to time. Ultimately though it came down to the all important question.

“Erm….wow….” He paused. “No, no I don’t think I’ll join you this time.”

“Ok, I didn’t think you would, but wanted to offer all the same.”

Assistant Manager at West Brom still, he had been making good progress with the club, taking charge briefly as interim manager whilst they changed leadership. The main reason however was it just seemed too radical a change. Brazil had some opportunities, it was a beautiful place and the football was a style apart from European…great to watch when it flowed brilliantly. But the culture, the language, the sheer climate difference; to live there would be uprooting his family which was a step too far.

Saying their good lucks and farewells, the Manager looked over to Sofia. The last email and contract offer sent as the evening was closing in; he spoke up to her from over a cup of tea.

“You know what your duties are then?”

“I’m to show up tomorrow in time to travel with the team for the match, translate for you there and then should your staff signings come through I will move to just translating press conferences.”

“That’s the one. I think you’re going to have to wear some tough skin tomorrow, rich young men often have no respect for women, and with you being a trespasser in their territory you’ll need to deflect some attention to remain focused on the job. It’s not an ideal situation at all” He sighed again, the second time that day, what on earth had he got himself into.

Seeing her off for the day, he sat himself down at his desk and looked over the player profiles. Captain Claudio Bonfante, attacking midfielder preferring to play through the middle. 27, Argentinean international. The man would be utterly integral to what hopes he had of succeeding; yet he had indeed handed in a transfer request which had been accepted.

So too there was Vice Captain Nkanyiso Sangweni, 26 and played for the Brazil national side as a front man. Both the players were lethal in their skills, and fine examples of how South American stars don’t always head abroad, the pair easily would have fit into any of the top European sides. Alberto, Jorginho Paulista – they had some real quality throughout the squad, but getting them all on board and working together would be a tough ask.
Deciding there was little else he could do, he headed for the hotel the club were putting him up in until he had found some accommodation. A part of him when at the meeting had suddenly jolted with the realisation he was a tourist, no work visa in sight.

It was amazing how quickly such things could be arranged when you were speaking to the right people, he wanted to know nothing of any palms which had been greased to make it happen; the important thing was he was no longer just a visitor, he was there to build another chapter of his career, and hopefully make an impact on one of the true organs of the game, both historically and now, the Brazilians lived for this game.

It was an early rise the following day. Away to Golas, 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] day in charge and already into a match. He looked over to his phone heading out of the hotel. ‘Good Luck!’ Read the text from his wife. Arriving at the team bus he’d need it.

“What the **** is going on?!” He could only manage as his remaining staff began to explain. Incredulously he just stared at the 12 players gathered alongside his three coaches and head physio. They’d been instructed to maintain the previous arrangements for the squad travelling, but the Manager had assumed that those arrangements would be more competently fulfilled than this.

Right away protests began to pour from the mouths of the three men who had been charged with the task.

“They say that these were the arrangements. The squad had been hit with a few key injuries, that several players are away on international duty and so these are the only players fit to participate in the match.” Sofia translated swiftly.

“Jeeeeeesus Christ” He stifled as both hands grabbed a hold of his salt and pepper head of hair, relinquishing the grey hairs to slowly scrape down his face, his eyes peeking eventually through his fingers. “No wonder this club is in the ****. You mean to tell me that despite having ample money, and the reputation to pull players in…that no one was signed to cover this monumental crisis?”

The coaches looked to one another before one responded. “He says that the management didn’t view it as a crisis, that the eleven players had been asked and were happy to struggle through the 90 minutes each time until the rest return from their countries.”

“Of course they said that!!” he let go of with some rage, looking rather exasperated over to the team all waiting anxiously to get onto the bus. “But what if any more get injured? Pick up a knock? Catch a cold even?” he turned away from them, taking a few paces before turning sharply and walking back to the three clowns he had kept on “So, all the reserves are on loan…making the point of reserves….pointless. The youth, couldn’t play because they played yesterday and are exhausted….even the subs and those who weren’t picked?”

The trio again looked to one another, but before any more excuses or attempts at staying the anger of their new man in charge The Manager held out a hand….enough. Waving to the players he ushered them onto the bus, thank goodness before he had realised the situation he had introduced himself to those in attendance – albeit it in the belief that for some reason the rest had yet to turn up.

View attachment 360057

Golas 1 – 1 Sao Paulo.

It was mad, pure insanity for a first game in charge. His fears proved correct to begin, stood in the dressing room with Sofia the players attentions were not quite fully on the Manager, and no one was so naïve to think it was because they didn’t understand the etiquette of speaking through a translator.

The eleven of the twelve they had taken then proceeded to try their best out on the pitch, half of them playing out of position however it just looked like they were mucking about at the park in their teens…winging it without cohesive tactics or a plan, just pass it to your mate and move. Golas scored first, heads dropped, and it was only the rollicking at half time the Manager had given them that got them motivated enough to stick one home.

Sofia told not to translate, their faces desperately flickered between the furious man screaming at them in a tongue they didn’t understand, and the pretty face just looking at them with disappointment, the fan in her depressed at seeing first hand what her team had become.

The bus home was melancholic, a low mood. Rightly so; the papers would no doubt tell of the Manager being off to a bad start, a bad situation inherited but his arrival not bringing the magic touch new leadership often did.

((22 - Row - YouTube))

Exhausted mentally and physically, arriving at his hotel his wife and child had made the trip to hopefully congratulate him on his first win. The plan had been they see the city, and then he and his wife discuss the details more fully, what this meant for their lives namely before they start house hunting and working out the logistics of it.

She wasn’t an expert on football, but his wife understood the reality meant that wasn’t possible. With their child gone to bed, she took him up to the roof to see the cityscape at night. Leaning on the side as he stared out to the scintillating picture slowly burning a memory into the backs of his eyes, she pressed a hand to his shoulder to give it a squeeze.


“It’ll only get better.” She smiled. He gave her an unconvinced nod. Her attitude completely changed. “What, it can’t have been all that bad?”

“I’m just not looking forward to the next few weeks. The internationals aren’t home for another two games, and we won’t be able to bring anyone in to fill the gaps in that time, or at least bring in anyone worthwhile who won’t come back to haunt me.”

“Suck it up” She said bluntly, hitting him where her hand had been. He looked across wide eyed. “You wanted a challenge, well you got one. I know it’s harder than you anticipated, not just giving the players some talk and getting instant results…you’re going to have to juggle getting used to it here and sweet talking that chairman man so he doesn’t lose his patience with you like the others. If you’re going to drop everything in the middle of a country you don’t even know and take a high profile job then you need to be able to handle that.”

He waited, thinking on that.

“Besides, didn’t you say that the next few days your staff will be arriving? That’s something to look forward to. It’s the fresh start you needed.” She smiled warmly “Think on your job for now, we can discuss the home stuff when it’s going better. And if you get sacked, you get sacked…that’s part of the game as I understand it.”

He leant over to her to plant a kiss. It was just what he needed to hear, albeit it from a source he never thought he would.

((Röyksopp - Happy Up Here - YouTube))

Day 3, the more eager members of staff who had signed the contracts almost as soon as they had been printed out started to arrive through the door:
Director of Football – Romulo de Oliveira from Internacional.
Head of Youth Development – Nadilson Ananias from Gremio.
Fitness Coach – Luander Carnargo Mendes from Internacional.
Scout – Gilton who was unattached.
Scout – Ricardinho from America (MG)
Chief Scout – Maicon Deolino from Flamengo.

As each of them arrived the Manager made a point of being one of the first to greet them, eager to get them on board with his approach. Importantly he wanted them on good terms so they wouldn’t feel so uneasy should he suggest something alien to them. None of them spoke English, but conversing through the translator didn’t seem to dampen their spirits as they were each clearly excited about working with The Manager given his record, and at Sao Paulo FC of course.

The following day came the absolute crucial member he needed to make this whole situation work.
Arriving from Nautico and his position as the Under 20’s Manager, Douglas Maximo his old centerback from Brighton strode through the door immediately wrapping the Manager in a broad hug.

“Douglas! Am I glad you’re here.”

Taking a step back, they grinned to one another, the tall Brazilian looking down slightly from his full 6’4 height. He was the perfect man for the job: spoke both English and Brazilian Portuguese, was something of a national hero after Brazil’s last successful World Cup in which his performances made the Brazil back 4 something to be feared; and earning him a spot on the team of the tournament.

He didn’t have ties to any of Sao Paulo’s rivals which ruled out so many players and staff the Manager had looked at. Apparently so much as association with any of the opposition meant an effective permanent ban on any involvement with the club…or at least that was how the fans, press and board had made it seem; which felt pretty conclusive.

And more than that, he respected the Manager absolutely; trained from the young age he arrived at by him…The Manager was the boss when Douglas had pitched up on the cold shores of the English south coast, and the friendly arm about the shoulders that had been just what was needed to set him right.

His new assistant manager and right hand man now arrived; Sofia understood her duties moved on to press conferences now that Douglas could handle the players. The two men still catching up greeted the rest coming in through the door-

Scout – Galvao, unemployed.
Goalkeeping Coach – Argentinean Horacio Tognoli who was also without a job.
Under 20’s Manager – Joseph Atangana from Cameroon for free, promises he would pick up the language quickly…though the Manager was a fine one to press that point home.
His assistant would be Aymen Ayari from Tunisia, also free; the two Africans would be in charge of the youth in the years to come. The hope was they would build up a firm partnership to take them to the next level, as the Manager understood it they had either failed to attract or failed to generate a promising star for some time now at the club, and in Brazil that needed to change.

Finally Alen Karic from Bosnia became the Under 20’s Goalkeeping Coach, also free. Having read a report on the man, the Manager wanted to give him a chance in the new start in the almost gambling atmosphere the club currently had – aside from the train wreck one still lingering.

Before their next game Douglas sat down with the Manager, educating him on the finer points of the Brazilian game. It was an education sorely needed. He understood the main rules; only 3 foreign players were allowed into a line-up at any one time, there was a foreign transfer window which coincidentally closed that day, he didn’t want to sign any foreigners anyway.
Then the Brazilian domestic transfer window ran nearly the entire season, closing for the final few months. In December when the national league finished, they had Christmas and New Year off before starting all over again after the two or so weeks off, straight into friendlies and the Sao Paulo State Championship.

As he took the Manager through the Brazilian calendar, it almost blew the mind. Foreign players complained that the English league played throughout Christmas and the winter to fit in the extra fixtures, with the two domestic cups to compete for. In Brazil they apparently laughed at that, playing year round almost, forget the scorching Brazilian sun or the insane odds that players would pick up injuries if played every game.
All the explanation he received was from his assistant was a shrug and a smile “The fat men in charge don’t like change clearly…it might be outdated and behind the rest of the world, but” he shrugged again, the smile widening “In Brazil we just love football! Who am I to complain if I get to work with it year round.”

Regardless of whether they loved it, the setup was almost sadistic in its rigors, sorely in need of a swift set of changes by the time the Manager was joining the game in 2012. It seemed utterly pointless to have a state championship when the world felt so small in terms of travel; a plane ride for a few hours and you were a continent over. It would be akin to Manchester United and City playing the likes of Stockport, Oldham and Rochdale for nearly half the footballing year before finally moving onto the main event. Lord knows what Brighton would have to play, Eastbourne Boro and the Lewes ‘Rooks’, hardly a challenge for even the development squad at the European giants.

He’d have to look at it another way; the Campeonato Paulista de Futebol Profissional da Primeira Divisao – Serie A1 (Sao Paulo State Championship) was really a cup between the fierce rivals: Sao Paulo, Corinthians, Santos and Palmeiras. It was purely about beating them to a piece of silverware for bragging rights, nothing more.

That was a task for the future though, first he had to survive this initial nightmare; it all felt as though every other runner in the big race had started whilst they were still tying their shoelaces.

His new compliment of staff by his side, his second game in charge and crucially first home game was soon upon them.
Vasco, sitting in 17[SUP]th[/SUP]. Sao Paulo FC should be beating them without breaking a sweat with the differences in wage bills, infrastructure and sheer fan base.

Emerging in the vast arena, the Manager wearing his usual of a suit from his collection strode out to the sidelines just a little bit earlier than normal, his hands raised high above his head he applauded the staunch set of supporters who in turn cheered and slapped their hands together to greet this new face.

Welcomed to the sound of cheers, he left to the sound of boos.

1 – 1. The squad was just as ravaged as it had been in the first game. The Manager hid his frustrations until the game was done, but upon collaring his Under 20’s Manager for a word, his anger abated as the Cameroonian explained that he had earmarked their best players to fill the gaps, only for the Chairman and board to instruct him to play them in their youth game – they didn’t want children turning out for the main team, leave that as the Manager’s problem.

The African man looked as though he was stuck in a most difficult position, caught between the common sense of the Manager who effectively was his boss, and his employers who ultimately had the final say. Patting him on the shoulder, it was ok; he’d speak to the board rather than lay the blame on the poor new employee’s doorstep. The high of new staff stolen it seemed.

((Chan chan - Buena Vista Social Club - YouTube))

1 substitute, it was a cruel joke. Trying his best to ignore the already increasing bad press about the poor start of two lame draws, he busied himself with the office team and Douglas, finalising the purchases of players to try and fill the gaps both immediately and looking on to the future somewhat already.

First up 18 year old Paulo arrived as the substitute goalkeeper, with both the others at the club unavailable for one reason or another. Looking at the team sheet, it might have gotten confusing to an outsider as 18 year old Paulo was playing back up to 37 year old club servant Paulo between the sticks. Perhaps an heir to the goal unless a real prodigy turned up. £625,000 from Athletico Paranaense. He would be available to play.

So too would 19 year old winger Wilcimar Kresch, arriving on a free. He unfortunately was injured upon arrival, but before long would be integrating with the squad, and offering options as the Manager would begin to look properly at what tactics to utilise; there being no real point at this stage given he only had 12 players to work with.

Finally a slightly surprising signing of £8.25 million Nikao from Vaso. 23 year old left back, he had already played much of the season for his previous club and thus was unavailable to play for Sao Paulo in the remaining competitions as per the rules of the league. However, their current left back Argentinean Jonathan Sosa was a loanee from River Plate, so unless they stumped up the funds to prize him away he wouldn’t be around beyond December. In the Manager’s eyes from what he had seen from all the footage Nikao was the better player, but most importantly of all he was Brazilian, freeing up a foreign player spot elsewhere when the time came.

Again, more issues for a later date. Really all they had gained was a substitute goalkeeper, and not a moment too soon, as whilst 37 year old Paulo was fine, their existing single substitute managed to pick up a knock in training.

With still only 12 players, they travelled away to Figueirense.

The fans groaned with utter disbelief. Five minutes into the second half, and though their side were playing with a renewed sense of urgency, they still trailed by a single goal, yet to even threaten the Figueirense goal.

“****** ****; Douglas-“ The assistant hopped out of his seat. “Thoughts.”

“Sorry boss, we’ve nothing to work with. Half of them are exhausted and we’ve only just started the second half. I guess just hope we get a lucky break.”

“Ugh. Tell me now, is this game a write off?”

“Could be….I can’t see us getting much out of it if it continues the way it has.”

“Tell me something happier at least then.”

The big Brazilian stood still for a moment, perplexed by the request. The Manager turned to look at him, finding it not terribly difficult to tear himself away from the action on the pitch.

“Puffins mate for life“

He raised an eyebrow, dumbstruck by the words he was met with.

“You said something happy; that always cheers me up.” Maximo defended with an apologetic expression.

He shook his head slowly to himself, looking down at the ground beyond folded arms; he cut a forlorn figure out there, the Sao Paulo faithful sitting quietly as they could only produce glum uninterested faces with so little to get behind. The whistle blew sharply; the Manager looked up to see what was going on, a yelp of pain from an individual out there.

Their winger, or at least the back up right back who had been drafted into that position was rolling about in some discomfort. The cameras snapped as the Manager pressed his hand to his face in utter denial of the horrendous circumstances which was now without a doubt the defining of the start of his tenure.

Turning slowly as the physio rushed out to see to their fresh walking wounded, he could only give their new substitute goalkeeper Paulo a look of sympathy, his hand lifting to indicate it was time he made his debut…..at right wing.

Maximo translated as the Manager offered his apologies that this was how he would be introduced to the fans and the Brazilian national league, perhaps he would laugh about it some day. The board went up, and from both sets of supporters who were in the know a mixture of laughter, groans and hissing went up around the stadium. The lad looked between the stands and this region of the pitch he jogged to, both alien and unknown to him.

It ended 0 – 1 to Figueirense, unsurprisingly.

His wife and child returned to England, the family holiday ended, it wouldn’t be long before they returned, but visas to be sorted and property to be bought; he truthfully had no time for thoughts on the matter, close to just telling her to buy whichever she liked…it didn’t matter.

The internationals finally returned from their national teams, though most of them were of course injured during their duties. Beggars belief. They did at least have 3 substitutes now, nothing else forthcoming in the transfer market as no one suitable for the club who was eligible to play was available thus far as the scouts scoured the planet and its multitude of leagues for those Brazilian talents nestled both on domestic and foreign shores.

14 men to take on the bus, the mood at the club had lifted ever so slightly with the return of the most talented among them, the presence of the Captain Bonfante from Argentina a huge boon despite his wishes to leave still in effect.

2 – 0 to mark their first win though they finished with 10 thanks to yet more injuries. Thankfully not long term else the squad would undergo a second rape as the Manager saw it.
3 – 0 to follow it up, 2 draws, 1 loss, 2 wins. The fans were starting to believe some success might yet be possible as the beginnings of a string of wins looked a reasonable belief at last.

View attachment 360071 0 – 1 to Flamengo. They were in 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] place however, and Sao Paulo away to boot, it was a tough ask even if he had been able to field his best players. And it was they now that he turned his attention toward as the progress on the pitch could start in earnest.

Two knocks came on his door.

“Come in”

Claudio Bonfante walked in, met with the welcoming gestures of the Manager and Douglas Maximo. With the Brazilian assistant translating as he would be for some time, the conversation started by getting straight to the point.

“Claudio, we’ve already met, but not had this chat.” The Argentinean already began to look a little uncomfortable, unsure what was about to transpire. “I need you at this club, committed to the cause and what we aim to achieve. If you aren’t and manage to force your way out, Sao Paulo FC will likely fail, I’ll be sacked and the fans will bemoan us all.”

He let that sink in, the initial unease dissipating quickly as perhaps the ego of the man took charge, hearing he was the lynchpin of everything at the esteemed club clearly felt good.

“I want to win though” He began to retort “I’ve been here a little while already, and I know I could go to Europe and earn more money, or back to Argentina, either way I can get trophies elsewhere.”

“You could, but you came to Sao Paulo, were made the club captain and brought to hearts of the thousands and thousands of loyal fans here. They love you, but they won’t if you abandon a sinking ship.”

“Is it a sinking ship?” He asked, his brow dipping slightly.

The Manager sat silently, staring with increasing fierceness at the man across from him, his eyes gradually bellying the stern belief he had inside that he could after his previous successes bring glory to any club he sat at the helm of, even one in such dire times as this.

“Ask me that again…” The Manager put to Claudio, but his voice, dipped as it did had an edge of sinister in it almost, a goading to try and push him…a dare. The lips of the captain parted, a hand lifted slightly; he met the gaze of the Manager more fully, and said nothing.

A hand reached across the table, a slight smile on the Manager’s features as he looked to close the deal and get his man on board. The Argentinean stood up with his boss, and with a swift strong slap of his hand grasped onto the Englishman’s, shaking it with a grin.

“You want me to promise you trophies? Work hard for me, and I’ll get you them” The Manager said, Douglas didn’t need to translate for the captain. They understood one another, and upon leaving the Manager knew Claudio would then speak with the rest of the team at training, convey his thoughts on this man in charge. Getting the captain meant getting the team. Within a day all transfer requests were rescinded at the behest of the players.

“Brilliant” Douglas congratulated “Now we start to get somewhere”

“Not yet” He replied as the pair strode out onto the training field, Centro de Trainamento da Barra Funda, the facilities used by the senior squad as the club owned multiple training grounds. The squad all amassed with the coaches ready for the day’s session, Douglas continued.

“So what other major steps do we need to take? We’ve got the best players back though Bonfante is still injured. Surely we can start to simply get some wins.”

“Maximo, I’ll choose my words carefully as you’re a giant. Now we have the squad back we can start to bond with them, get them to see our way of thinking and get them to play a style of football I can work tactics for more easily. That isn’t all, but it’s the next major step.”

“I see, so what do you have in mind?”

“I’ve noticed that Brazilian football loves its mazy runs, mostly through the middle. It likes players building up from the centre of the park, bouncing it about to the attacking mids – through the centre, and onto the strikers who largely play off the two opposing centre backs.”

“So….wingplay?”

“It’s what I know, and whilst I was actually looking forward to forming a whole new set of tactics, I think we’ve got a niche here almost. There are other teams that play with the wings, but not how I want us to. We’ll have to alter it from when the side you were a part of at Brighton utilised it; more fluid passing, more roaming movement to reflect the creative nature of the players we have. But ultimately, I want players getting to the byline as if their lives depended on it, whipping a ball in, and then attackers charging down the defence to make them panic as though they were under siege.”

“Sounds good; if we can get them to do it.”

“We can. But we’ll need to get creative ourselves in order to get them to understand the tactics; work on overlaps and underlaps, constant support and what I fear above all is getting most of the players to understand at least to a competent level all of the jobs on the pitch so that the fluid movement of the team’s shape can be carried off effectively.”

“You’re talking about total football now…right?”

“Cryuff taught me a lot. Yes, to an extent, I’m talking total football.”

“We’ve got our work cut out then” The assistant said, a hint of excitement in his voice.

“We sure do my friend, but we’re going to need help.” The Manager looked over to him as they arrived at the players all waiting expectantly. Douglas raised his eyebrows in query. “Haha, time to get excited Douglas! We’re going to need the help of the 80’s” He grinned.

“Wait…” The Brazilian assistant started “Oh ****….those films we watched.” The Manager laughed as Douglas realised what he meant, the players not understanding a word still waiting patiently exchanged looks. He slapped Douglas on the back firmly.

“Let’s do this!” He gleamed to the players; excited smiles greeted him still not knowing what was going on.

“I’m embarrassed to be seen with you….” Maximo uttered, met only with a louder chuckle.

((Blondie- Call me - YouTube))

View attachment 360080 The training started, players performed sprints to begin, and the atmosphere lifted as some focus began to galvanise all heads. Nicknames began to form as the Manager settled in with his new set of players; Mao the first in line, totally unsure how to respond to the names he hadn’t a clue over. The 32 year old attacker accepted in a somewhat confused muddle the regular calls across the training ground of ‘Chairman Mao!’ and ‘Lmao!’.

So too did the right back Alberto suffer. Some strange hark back to Prince Albert of Victorian times, again the man hadn’t a clue, yet the nickname of ‘Prince’ or ‘Principe’ made some sense to the rest of the squad, the player was only 21 and already marked as the solid right back future for his country such was his talent. He was one of the princes of Brazilian football one might say, if they were giving the Manager the benefit of the doubt.

View attachment 360081 A new atmosphere installed and the tactical work underway, they travelled to play Gremio for their next fixture; a huge game as they stood in 10[SUP]th[/SUP] whilst the slipping Sao Paulo rested in a precarious 9[SUP]th[/SUP] just above them. Failure to garner a result would mean trading places, and pile such pressure on the Manager that it could all be over before he even got started.

The captain still injured, everyone else was almost back to fitness and ready to play. Mao 14, Mario Augusto 22, Jorginho Paulista 42, Mao 52, Jorginho Paulista 90. 5 – 0.

The squad was back, the players were working their magic as the internationals showed their class, and the fans were cheering once again for their heroes. A big win for turning their fortunes around.

It was just a shame the rest of the Brazilian league didn’t see it that way. The Manager knew that an Englishman suddenly entering into the prominent South American league was going to make waves, but he hadn’t expected to be treated with any hostility. Those he had shaken hands with were friendly enough, but then he hadn’t come face to face with any of the clubs rival managers yet.

Douglas had entered his office to switch on the television, a little translation to explain just what the Palmeiras manager was saying, though each time the Manager heard his own name he understood it was purely about him.
The man seemed exasperated for some reason; his hands gesturing wildly before falling flat in his lap…an apparent loss for words as to how to describe his dissatisfaction over the Sao Paulo leader for some reason.

“He says that he doesn’t understand why you are forcing your team to play such strange tactics, that you don’t understand the Brazilian league or Brazilian football; you’re stuck in your English ways and don’t know how to do anything else.”

They watched on together as the Palmeiras manager continued to effectively in as unsubtle a way he could manage - verbally tear into the Manager and all his credentials, his footballing knowledge and his chances of succeeding with Sao Paulo. The final point he made was that:

“He says ‘This Englishman doesn’t even speak our language, yet he seems to believe he can manage a club in our top flight!’….” Douglas waited as the interviewer and others in attendance at the press conference had their say, and in case The Manager didn’t understand it “It seems the others there also agree, you’re not quite cut out for this job.”

What could anyone say to that? It was clearly timing on the part of the Palmeiras man as the two sides met next, but the extent he went to in his comments seemed uncalled for.

“What’s this chumps name again?” he asked Douglas.

“Bruno Rodrigo Cordeiro Ferreita.”

Sat before the press a day later, the reporter stood up, thankfully speaking English for a change as Sofia understood she could relax for a moment.

“What do you make of the comments made by the Palmeiras manager on your ability to bring success at Sao Paulo FC?”

“The man certainly made his point didn’t he?” He grinned lightly “I don’t think he’s a nasty person, nor unprofessional despite the extent of his negative feeling toward me, I just think he ate some bad eggs or had a bad wine beforehand as something had put ole ‘Bruney’ into a foul mood that day, don’t you think?” He grinned far wider, a cavalier attitude evident about him all of a sudden.

The reporter gave a laugh, prompting the room to turn his way until Sofia stepped in to translate. Another reporter stood up as the congregation smiled to one another.

“Bruney?” He said plainly, questioning to make sure he meant the man in question.

“Yup, Bruney…he’s a bit of a stick in the mud but he isn’t so bad when you get to know him.” Sofia relayed it at once, met with another chorus of laughs, the air in the room lighter as the Manager just palmed off any pressure generated from the story.
“Do you know-“ He continued once the chuckles had died down “I think he looks best when he’s wearing that look of displeasure….you know the one, sat in his bench or on the line with the corners of his mouth downturned, a little frown crowning it all.”

“You’re going to make him wear that expression?” The initial reporter called out. God the press here were much nicer, playing into the hands of the Manager with relative ease instead of battling him, but then he was providing them with a plethora of news for the weeks to come regardless of the flow of results.

“Oh I fully intend to make Bruney wear that expression come our game tomorrow.”

The papers as planned all read with the nickname somewhere in the headline; and as the two teams filed out and the managers stood before one another, the cameras were going crazy again, the somewhat less impressed features of the Palmeiras manager against the perhaps too easily forthcoming grin of the Sao Paulo man in charge.

The Choque Rei Derby, as the players got ready for the kick off the Manager called over to Bonfante who at last was starting his first game despite not yet being fully fit. They needed him for this occasion.
Capitão Fantástico, milhares olhar para você” The words were thick with his English best efforts, but the sentiment was fully understood, the Captain gave an assured nod before crashing his hands together and bellowing out something unknown in Portuguese to the rest of the team.

((WHITESNAKE- HERE I GO AGAIN - YouTube))

As the whistle went, the stands began to become a furious cacophony of noises, nothing discernable as every call merged into one powerful encompassing deafening boom; the Manager looked to the Sao Paulo contingent to see just how much more this meant to them.

The English just got nervous or angry when they played serious rivals, and delighted a little bit more when they achieved a result. Burly men always promised violence and misery to fans of the opposing side as they unlocked their cache of prepared vile words.
Brighton had Crystal Palace who whilst were scum (as a club; a fan at heart: the Manager knew good people supported them for all their fallacies) were not on the same level as the Albion, meaning it was a rivalry which was retained only due to fathers telling their sons, no fixtures to become passionate for anymore.

But Sao Paulo, with their three rivals all in the same State Championship. They hated one another, they loathed one another; to a Sao Paulo fan, anyone associated with Corinthians, Santos or Palmeiras was bordering on evil the way the sets of supporters treated one another. There were some friendly elements, children on the shoulders of their fathers learning just what this exciting crucible of passion was; but should alcohol and men collide wearing opposing shirts then trouble would ensue.

View attachment 360085 The players it seemed reflected that, as the stands gave completely contrasting choruses on a slide challenge cutting through chairman Mao as if he was a villain in its truest form.

Immediately all players besides those at the back for Sao Paulo went tearing into a mob which amassed in seconds. Arms raised as faces and chests were pushed back to clear some space, yet only making the problem worse.

The referee had the whistle bit between his teeth, bursting short sharp shrills as he thrust outstretched arms between opposing players, the muscles in his limbs working hard as he fought to push them apart.

“Christ!” The Manager exclaimed seeing the scenes, mere minutes into the game. The Sao Paulo mascot still hanging around near their technical area whipped its gaze about to the Manager at the call of the blasphemous word…….the Sao Paulo mascot for some reason, and he still couldn’t quite believe it – was God. God himself, as if the almighty to those who believed was the guardian of this football club alone.

Chuckling lightly in spite of the scenes on the pitch, the Manager went over to the mascot to trade a few playful punches, something for the crowds to distract themselves with rather than the mock violence threatening to spill over into dismissals out on the pitch. The man inside the suit thankfully played along before the Manager moved down the touchline some way out of his technical area. He’d take any fine for the action, but maybe common sense would prevail.

“HEY!!!!” He boomed, many of the nearer players looking over regardless of affiliation. “Pack your ****ing ideas in!!!! We’re here to play football not have a ****ing fight, you understand me?!!!!” His face was full of thunder, and those under his charge immediately began to back down as each realised their boss was not amused.

“It’s a free kick, that’s obvious, so make the best of it!” He continued, though the words fell on Portuguese speaking ears. He shook his head lightly as the referee prevailed in separating the mobs at last, acquiring the ball in the process. The Manager tried again.

“Training – Preparacao; Free Kick, attack…erm…- atacar. Score!” He pushed both hands out, lifting his palms as he finished. Palmeiras players smiled lightly with condescending expressions. The Sao Paulo players begun to understand he was directing them into this next move, away from fighting and scrapping. He tried one last time to get his point home.

“Score or I’ll make you ****** run to Rio and back!!! You understand?!!! RUN TO RIO IF YOU DON’T ****** ATTACK!”

The referee and 4[SUP]th[/SUP] official over now to push the Manager back to his area, the players grouped together, Bonfante took charge. Good lad. They set themselves as they had practiced, only one free kick routine so far but perhaps it would yield a result.

In it swung, the defence pushed it out; and holding back to pick up a loose ball Argentinean defensive midfielder Jonathan Galvan sprinted up to hit it on the half volley, sending it screaming into the back of the net beyond all stunned faces. The Tricolor shirts pulled away in the throws of celebration, playing to the stands as the fans went ballistic as if the match was already over. The Manager gave one look across to ‘Bruney’ and smiled, a smug, satisfied grin; met only with arms folded and the downturned corners of his mouth, framed by a frown.

Galvan 13, Paulista 18, Bonfante 45, Euandro 63, Borrincha 89. 3 – 2.

It was a close score, a few taken chances by the rivals, but in truth Sao Paulo could have buried a dozen or more such was their dominance, ruining the Palmeiras flanks in the process which perhaps gave the Manager the biggest smile of all from the afternoon’s work. Up to 7[SUP]th[/SUP] in the league with the 3 points against still 5[SUP]th[/SUP] placed Palmeiras.

The celebrations were tempered, they had some absolutely vital games coming up, utterly crucial to their season if they were to get anywhere at all so heads needed to stick glued to the goals they had laid out.

However it seemed the distractions elsewhere were not done as though a few comments had emerged from other managers which were marginally cryptic in their full intent, the general feeling was that the Palmeiras manager had tapped into a vein of feeling felt by many over this English intruder, so uncommon was it for them to have a quite ‘such’ a foreign manager in their midst’s domestically.

Fernandao the Flamengo manager joined the multiplying voices to speak out over his dislike of the English manager at Sao Paulo. His words might have carried some weight and given the Manager cause to think about how he was conducting himself, or perhaps showcase a much greater level of humility for being accepted into this league albeit it begrudgingly; but Fernandao might have held a grudge tightly.

A player at Sao Paulo for a year, his time clearly had been unsuccessful, putting him and the fans at odds when comments began to arise from both parties. But beyond that, Fernandao had been the manager of the Brazil national team when The Manager was in charge of England; meaning each time England and Brazil met for a friendly…Fernandao had to face the Brazilian press, who when it came to their national team were not at all forgiving should they not win emphatically, especially each time England saw them off.

Others clearly didn’t share The Manager’s outlook of any bias in the Flamengo manager’s outburst which supported the first from Bruney. Three or four more publically stated they thought Sao Paulo were falling short, and that the Manager couldn’t address the problem, he wasn’t right for Brazilian football and wouldn’t find success here.

Bastards. The comments all came before Sao Paulo were to play the current leaders Athletico Mineiro away; so a loss would mean they could claim vindication for such unprofessional behaviour as they had been proved right.

The leaders scored first, and fearing his team wouldn’t make any showing at all The Manager fired them up at half time to try and instil some desire to their heads.
It backfired, monumentally.

Discipline had been an issue, not the most important at the club given the circumstances, but it was there to be dealt with. Some claimed it was the passionate Brazilian game, others that with the flair of the moves and creative temperamental talents the Brazilians were, then some playacting and petulance was to be expected, they were afterall just like in England young men with big bank accounts. It was a dangerous combination for an already large ego wherever you were from.
But, however those around him dressed it up, it was unacceptable. Especially when Bonfante garnered his second yellow card for protesting to the referee over a penalty not awarded. Of all the ways to get sent off. Athletico Mineiro scored immediately after the restart, and as the temperature rose, Paulista went in hard on a Mineiro defender, lashing out to satiate some of his pent up rage and frustration.

View attachment 360088 A straight red card, and now two of Sao Paulo’s best players were facing a ban. It ended 1 – 3 as Chairman Mao rescued one back. A terrible day; one step forward, two steps back came to mind.

He fined them a week’s wages, they complained, and were met with his unwavering harsh gaze once more. Both backed down, understanding he was the boss and got back to training. With Corinthians in the 4[SUP]th[/SUP] round of the Brazilian Cup next, they had to be unified pressing on, the cup represented their only chance of silverware this season and almost sadly every player knew it too well.

New boy Kresch got a start as he wasn’t cuptied and back to full fitness, having only played in the league for his former employers this year.

Paulista 3, Balbuena 11, Paulista 23, Arrachea 56, Paulista 75. 3 – 2 1[SUP]st[/SUP] leg.

The media started to publish articles that Sao Paulo are on the up, 20 goals in the first 10 games under The Manager, with continued work they might progress.
4 key players suspended from red and yellow cards for the league game between, a disappointing draw to hamper their efforts. The game wouldn’t have been noteworthy if Bryan Soto, their 34 year old Chilean worker midfielder hadn’t bagged himself a straight dismissal, adding to the suspension problems and earning himself a visit to the Manager’s office.

“I’m fining you a week’s wages” he said the moment Bryan had taken his seat, no time to mince words. Douglas of course fulfilled his duties.

“What?! You can’t do that?!” Came back through the assistant, he didn’t need it translated really though.

“I fined Bonfante and Paulista the same, they accepted their fines realising that by getting sent off without any just cause whatsoever they cost this team vital points and any chance of winning that game. You let yourself and your teammates down.”

“No! No the referee was unjustified! I was perfectly ok! He—“ The man began, The Manager knew what he was saying, despite the language flickering between Portuguese and Spanish already.

Was justified in his decision, as video replays have shown.” The Manager cut Soto off “You lost your temper, made several rash challenges, the last of which was an obvious red card, you should have been carded beforehand but were lucky.”

“No! You’re wrong, I was fine.”

“Come again? You want to tell your boss that he’s wrong again?” He grabbed his remote and switched on his TV, replaying the scene he had just been watching of the reckless final challenge right before the Chilean had entered his office. “You want to tell me that that challenge-“ He motioned to the screen “Was a fair challenge?”

“You don’t understand the Brazilian game! The papers were right; you’re trying to make us play like the English. The tackle was fine, the referee got it wrong and you should support me as your player.”

“Right, if that’s how you want to be. The fine stands; regardless of your protests, however I am also transfer listing you until you can come up with a formal apology, and giving you a written warning. As an employee of Sao Paulo FC you’re still going to be required to play when I see fit, however until your attitude changes to one which is deemed appropriate for a professional at this club you will not gain any playing time.”

“This is bull****!” Cried out Soto in no uncertain terms, climbing out his seat.

“Do you want the fine extended for misconduct, or possible breach of contract to top it off?”

The man stood before him just paused, fuming inside but understanding that he would be forfeiting his wages entirely should he continue, he wasn’t the captain so couldn’t force a rift in the club using the board.

“Take the day off, I want you to report for training tomorrow fully committed to addressing your attitude and working as a part of the team without any sign of dissent.”

No more words, Soto stormed out of the office as Douglas relayed the order, and the assistant and manager looked to one another with solemn expressions. They knew he wouldn’t change, he was 34; and so he was off to find another club come the end of the season.

At least some good feeling came when Ney Franco, former manager and partial legend at the club had the Manager and his returned wife round for dinner, fortunately Douglas Maximo in attendance to continue translating, though the topics were equally relevant to him. Discussions of the club and its history and prominence; his dealings with the board and the relationship with the fans.

View attachment 360091 They got on well, and with Ney backing him soon after, the press would be evened up somewhat as the following week an article detailed just why the Manager should be given time to form his team, a credible voice on his side at last.

A house bought and his family with him for the time being before they headed back once more, it might have been responsible for his optimistic mood in the face of the numerous problems rearing their ugly heads to scupper his efforts at rebuilding.

Going in at half time in the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] leg against Corinthians, he didn’t shout or destroy their eardrums with a blasting torrent of words they half understood. Instead he clenched fists, held them before his body and uppercutted the air as he grinned with teeth together, exclaiming that the game was theirs to change, they had it in them!

Bucci 13, Mao missed penalty 38, Bonfante 61, Victor Pen 77, Paulista 90, 90+3.
3 – 2, 6 – 4 on aggregate against their staunch rivals. A priceless win which counted for so much more than progression in the cup.

((Queen - Under Pressure (Lyrics) - YouTube))

Yet, a big step forward, produced only a sigh.

Internationals and injuries took their toll once again, and with nothing changed there were no reinforcements to be bought or drafted in still. Should he make it through the season his job intact, it would be the primary task to solve the problem which would likely never depart.

With the youth team pilfered to fill out the ranks, he would deal with the board should they object, still only with 4 substitutes from a possible 12 though, with one lucky youngster turning out for the senior team for the first time.
Of all teams to face with such terrible circumstances it was another rival. The San-Sao Derby against Santos, who were showing some good form in the league.

View attachment 360092 1 – 2. Back down to 10[SUP]th[/SUP] in the table.

A last minute goal conceded against bottom of the league Recife resulted in a 1 – 1, the Manager rightly furious. As if the result wasn’t bad enough, the Athletico Mineiro manager Emerson (there are many Emerson’s) was in attendance, appearing before the cameras once the game was done with to state how he had long since been an admirer of Sao Paulo FC, and should his time at league leaders Athletico Mineiro come to an end he would relish the challenge of managing the rich club.

Great, so not only were the problems at his own club continuing to compound any progress, and not only were the other managers trying to run him out of town for being English, now they were trying to take his job whilst he was still in it.
It was no surprise when the following day a report emerged stating that the Manager’s job was very insecure, perilous even as the Sao Paulo board were losing patience.

He had often read that of other clubs and their positions, only to speak to someone in the know and find it untrue. In this instance however, it was well founded.
Called before the board, he sat nervously, half expecting the worst, half expecting them to just want an update and he could get on with his job.

Maximo met him outside, not invited to the meeting; he could only inquire as to what the news was to the slightly disappointed face of his friend and boss as Sofia headed off to leave them be.

“The short answer is, start winning else find another job.” He laid out. “and unless the players stay fit, the players start behaving instead of getting yellow and red cards like they are going out of fashion, and we start shoring up the problems at the back….we’re going to be out of here before long.”

“Thoughts?” Douglas asked, his lips pressed together as he mulled over their plight.

“Beyond the training ground and hammering home how important it is to keep eleven players on the pitch? Not many at the moment. But there is something for you to consider my friend”

“What’s that?” The assistant quizzed.

“Do you remember Ademelison? Brazilian striker at Brighton.”

“Of course, he was a big help in teaching me about England…how I should avoid fish and chips, English ‘slappers’ and if a lady called me love it didn’t mean she was in love with me.”

He laughed “Yup, him. Well he was from Sao Paulo FC, and I wasn’t exactly wonderful in my tactics for signing him, messing about this club to an extent in trying to engineer a way I could push through the deal.”

“Oh. So….”

“So, two of the board members now were board members back then, and they remember what I did. They were the ones who didn’t wish for me to become the manager when I came to meet with them though I didn’t realise it at the time, and they are the most vocal when it comes to my dismissal from this club now as things are going badly.”

“I see. Well I had a thought of my own on what we could do to try and help the squad, though let’s leave it for after the next game.”

View attachment 360095
An indifferent away draw to Portuguesa.

Douglas had been remembering the times at Brighton when he was a young lad, those moments when the team morale rested on a knife edge, willing to head either down into the capitulation territory of ‘oh well next season’ or build into something worthwhile where they might achieve some success to save their season.

Pushing open the double doors of the hall they had gathered in, the Manager smiled to the congregation of staff and players. The nerves he felt over such a broad speech to everyone involved only grew as he spotted the Chairman stood toward the back of the room, clearly keen to involve himself in the methods of the Manager given the uncertainty over his future.

Douglas nodded to him, ready as the pair were in this venture together, the Manager still unable to speak to them in Portuguese properly.

“Everyone” He started, his voice loud and clear to remove all chatter from the room, bringing all eyes to the front, to him.

“It’s not going brilliantly, is it?” They looked blankly at him, Douglas relaying it all with ease. “Hey? Is it? We’re struggling in mid table, a few places up, a few places down. Internationals and injuries presenting themselves whenever we build up some steam; silly red cards and individuals not understanding the difference between pressure and lunging in.

“I’ll be honest; it’s a mess right now. We’ve made some progress, but is it enough?” he looked to the back and the Chairman, who was already looking less impressed. “No, no it isn’t enough.” His eyes moved to the players amassed at the front. “This is Sao Paulo FC, I arrived understanding that to be one of the biggest clubs in Brazilian football….but it’s more than that, this club has history, and a reputation to protect!

“Brighton I had a 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] tier team to take up, there it seemed I could do no wrong. Ghana, they had never truly tasted the peak of success, and spurred on they went all the way. But England, they were underachieving, as is this club.”

Douglas looked across and said something of his own to those gathered.
-Portuguese- “England were a bunch of lazy bums until he came along and gave them a hard kick up the backside!” The room laughed as desired.

“This situation isn’t hopeless” The Manager continued, taking back the lead “But you’ve got to start thinking with your heads instead of getting ruled by your impulses. The playacting, diving, rolling around pretending to be hurt, complaining to the referee….it has got to stop.” Some faces began to look disinterested, those who were namely the chief culprits. “NOW!” He shouted, jolting them in their skin. The chairman shifted to looking with renewed interested as he marshalled them.

“You wear that badge with honour and pride; you represent the thousands of screaming adoring fans…not the paycheque you get each month. The Brazilian game is beautiful, its absolutely sensational…and you all represent the best of it with your sublime skills…the dribbling of you Nkanyiso, and the footwork of you Claudio when you weave about their defence….those are the videos that the internet readily accepts, and the youth of Europe, Asia and America all watch from afar as if they are undiscovered gems.

“You know that you all have the ability to achieve much more in this league, it just hasn’t been working until now. Well, I’m telling you now that this is where it changes. We might lose the odd game; that happens; I want to see us picking things back up for the next game – another three points, another chance to climb the table.”

He pointed to the back of the room “Jose Antonio dos Santos, the Chairman of Sao Paulo FC” the men all in their seats turned about to see the smartly dressed older individual stood at the back trying his best to merely remain an observer. “Jose put to me when I took this job that we would go far; it was a target…one of the goals in my job description in fact that we achieve continental qualification to the Copa Libertadores.”

Muttering and whispers rose up from pockets of the players in attendance, obviously mindsets which believed that was already an unreachable goal for this team in their predicament.

“I’ll be damned if you’re going to simply limp to the end of this season without anything to show for it!!!” Eyes peeled open wider as the fury of the Englishman came out in an instant. “Don’t you want to play the best of the best? To smash the Argentinean sides once more? To challenge for South America’s greatest club football prize?!!”

They sat silently as Douglas conveyed the message. No response.

“For **** sake!! Show me that you want this!! Show me that you still have the belief that we can do this!!”

Bonfante thank goodness stood up. “We can do this! We can win most of our remaining games, climb the table and show them all that we’re not finished!”

Sangweni called above the growing noise “Yeah! Sao Paulo should be winning this league! I say we take home the Brazilian Cup, and shut them the **** up!”

Mao clapped over his head to that statement “Silverware sounds nice, I say lets take it all for ourselves!”

As Maximo translated it the Manager laughed, directly a response to the last comment for the room. “You would say you want it all Chairman Mao! The dictator of Brazilian football!”

Laughs went up as the joke had become commonplace by now, they knew its meaning and loved their aged striker out on the left all the more for it. The chairman smiled, morale in the team was high again, the cohesiveness and spirit of them was evident. All that remained were the results.

Mid to late September, 15 year olds Martins and Dude both arrived in the youth setup at the club, costing £300,000 apiece. Both wingers, they were good prospects for the future of the club, especially if the Manager was able to continue to implement his exploitation of the opposition wings in the coming years. Perhaps it would be a formula all his teams would utilise, for the years afterwards when he was done with any luck.

The domestic transfer market closed, the press spent their time reporting on the transfers done in the league and how they might affect the fortunes of the teams involved. But nothing had happened for the Sao Paulo first team, it was from here on out what they already had to work with to achieve their results.

View attachment 360096
1 – 0 against Fluminese. Up to 9[SUP]th[/SUP].
2 – 1 vs Cortiba. 8[SUP]th[/SUP].
1 – 1 vs Internacional. 8[SUP]th[/SUP].

Loanee defender Jonathan Sosa tells the press in an interview that the Manager needs to be given time, that he is beginning to work his style and methods into the team, and now all they need is the coming months to put them into practice. Though there are two sides to the debate, the fans and board it seems begin to let up at last, the pressure lifting as they see the logic in giving him some leeway.

View attachment 360097
2 – 2 vs Botafogo. 8[SUP]th[/SUP]. Not the answer the supporters and board wanted. The papers all read the same: the Manager is on the verge of the sack.

He sat at his desk staring at the latest scout report for potential signings, almost with some resignation that it was perhaps pointless for him to be bothering with looking at future signings.
His phone rang, his kid.

“Hey Dad!” Came the cheery greeting.

“What do you want? Your mother said you can’t have a car yet…”

“No no no…I know, and what she says you stand by. I learned that with the TV.”

“So what’s up? Sorry but I’m a little busy.”

“I just thought I’d give you a call since Mum and I won’t be in Brazil for another month, and I read a copy of a paper out there.”

“Ah, so your Portuguese is coming along better than mine then.”

“Of course it is.” The Manager could almost see his kid’s smile down the phone “Look, Dad….don’t worry, I don’t think you’re going to get the sack.”

“That’s sweet of you, but if we don’t win this next game I will.”

“So you’ll win it. Why not? I know you well enough to know you’ll have something up your sleeve to inspire your players to getting a result, with a little luck that will become a reality. You’re going to do it; you won the World Cup with England afterall!”

He smiled, sitting back in his chair. A pep talk from one’s child the first time that it happens is both a strange and wonderful thing, catching most parents by surprise when it takes place, yet if at the right moment has more than the impact it would have at just any other old time.

“Ok, thanks…I appreciate that.”

“Also I met a really hot maybe Brazilian model out there last time who was pretty taken with that fact that I’m your kid, so if you screw this up I’ll never forgive you!”

They laughed, said their goodbyes and put the phone down. What an ultimatum.

((Top Gun - Mighty Wings Instrumental (Remake) - YouTube))


He felt the rising flow of confidence once more, but the harsh realities stayed the same. Third place rivals Corinthians, at home in the Estadio do Morumbi. The last manager had lost his job losing to Corinthians away in the league; a tougher fixture but it had been the final straw. Now he found himself in the same position almost. Win; and things will only improve. Draw or heaven forbid lose, and he was packing his bags, selling the house, and moving on to whatever challenge lay in store.

The international players were back thankfully and the line up looked good. Spirits were up, the fans were in voice. The cameras pulled everything into their lenses as they panned the scenes of flags, shirts and men who seemed to rest their destinies on such a fixture. Perhaps that was untrue of the supporters, but certainly for some it was on the money.

Stood in the tunnel, he took a few deep breaths before turning to his players. No words as many of the Corinthians setup looked over; he just clenched his fist, lifting it with a tense of his arm and face to match. The cheers echoed down the tunnel, out to the pitch as their signal came to head out, the models and mascots out entertaining the crowds made way for the emerging stars who would mark the occasion with either their brilliance, or their short tempers and villainy.

The away team kicked off with the coin toss and photos taken, and they meant business…coming close within the first few minutes. Row upon row of seats filled with cheering or screaming faces, moments into this all important fixture, a game in which more mattered than perhaps those watching understood.

Cupping his hands again at the edge of his area, the Manager gathered the attention of his players.

“WANT THIS!” He cried. They were already fired up, and at last, for the first proper occasion since the work had begun did he see the full compliment of his players bring his tactics to life in earnest, brought against a side who should any expert be asked would be beating them every time of asking as things stood.

Habyson Torres the Columbian holding midfielder collected the ball from Lima, a simple pass out from the back four to give them some space. He was ready to just stroke it back to one of the defenders, but the training was setting in. He turned, knowing that someone would be upon him within five seconds he saw Galvan, a run across to support him.

The Argentinean defensive mid brought it in with a touch, opened up his body to see the field before him and instantly spied the run from Claudio Bonfante, moved across to make the space, to create the gap and keep the flow. Two touches and it moved on to the captain.

He looked up, and there was Torres to one side, Mao out to his left, and the spectacular out on the right wing as Sangweni opened up the throttle. Corinthians were already struggling to mark up, close the space and make this a battle in the middle of the pitch.

Only a smile spread across his features as he saw his plan working perfectly. Their movement and ideas were just better.

Out to Sangweni it went in a fantastic soaring pass of the ball, bending as it arced through the air, bouncing ahead of the chasing winger and left back before the Sao Paulo man got ahold of it, the outside of his right boot pushing it onwards as he circumvented a challenge with a cheeky hop over the outstretched leg.

In went the ball, the goalkeeper claimed it as it strayed too close to him; but it was promise of what they could produce.

Lofting the ball out of his area, the Corinthians keeper might have waited a few moments to let his side settle. The opposing midfield were suddenly overwhelmed as Lima galloped up from the back to win the header, a commanding leap from him both knocking down the ball to Torres and sending the attacker sprawling out onto the ground to the delight of the home support.

Turning on it again he saw his options, good lad; across to Sosa making a run. The left back took a touch, feigned squaring it only to drag it through his legs and wheel outside to head down the line. The commentators exclaimed their praise of the skill, the Sao Paulo support only grew in volume; and the team in confidence. He pressed on, seizing upon the space which had opened up before him with his moment of brilliance. Yet as the black away shirts of the Corinthians players composed themselves and two doubled up on the advancing defender, he launched an ambitious pass down the line straight into the path of Mao.

Inch perfect, the aged winger had no trouble in controlling it before beating his marker with a touch of skill of his own. His eyes turned to the box as he pushed one pace on at a sprint, the byline reached; it was time to see what options there were. The one flick of his head was enough, and burying his gaze into the ball he thumped a boot right through it, sending it high into the opposing box.

The centrebacks were both up, one hoisting himself up by the elbows almost as he clattered into the side of Bonfante; but they both missed it…so too did the keeper as he realised only too late that it wasn’t going to be dealt with. Past all bodies it went until finally at the back post Jorginho Paulista trapped it dead at his feet; he didn’t need to look up see where the target was, and from underneath himself almost he scuffed it out and into the back of the net.

View attachment 360104 His shirt was off in moments, whirling about his head as he cried his absolute joy to the thousands right before him all arms outstretched begging for his returned affections. The whole team bundled over by the corner flag as the stands went ballistic, and as Corinthians turned to each other with accusing words or dipped heads, it was clear who held the day.

Paulista 11, 79. 2 – 0. Still 8[SUP]th[/SUP] position, but what a victory. Even the Manager couldn’t contain himself as the second went in, a fist pump into the air as he leapt from the ground, his tie splaying out before him as he showed there was life in the 49 year old just yet.

((Dio - Hungry for Heaven - YouTube))

It was the catalyst, not just a small turning point or a moment where they might put something together. It was the moment of the season where Sao Paulo took a step forward and with some aplomb showed the snickering rivals that they weren’t a sinking ship nor a relic of their past success.

Brazilian cup Quarter Final against Botafogo, 1[SUP]st[/SUP] leg 2 – 1; 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] leg 2 – 1. 4 – 2 aggregate.

View attachment 360105
2 – 0 away to Vasco, up to 7[SUP]th[/SUP].
3 – 1 Figueirense.
3 – 0 Golas. 6[SUP]th[/SUP], and three points behind 4[SUP]th[/SUP] place, the vital group stage qualification 4[SUP]th[/SUP] place inhabited by Cruzerio who were on the same goal difference as Sao Paulo.

International fixtures raped the squad once more, a 0 – 0 draw against Bahia away stalling the run of form as once again they returned to having only 1 substitute with no strikers in the team, outbound centre-back Ronaldo Luiz fulfilling the role of a makeshift striker for the dull game. But nothing could temper the morale generated by now.

Brazilian Cup Semi Final against Coritiba, 1[SUP]st[/SUP] leg 3 – 0; 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] leg 6 – 4. 9 – 4 aggregate.

Sat before the press as Sao Paulo announced themselves as into the final of the cup, he grinned, unable to hold back his feelings of having managed to get the better of his contemporaries at last with some proof to show for it.

2 – 1 against Flamengo, Ronaldo Luiz sent off at the death. Sao Paulo set new record for the discipline record in the Brazilian league. 72 yellow cards and 6 red in a season, and it wasn’t even over.
2 games remaining, 2 points off 4[SUP]th[/SUP] and Cruzeiro. Currently in 6[SUP]th[/SUP] with 62 points.

He had a lot to grumble about as he viewed the scheduling, and namely how mad it was in Brazil as they entered the final furlong of the season, rapidly approaching December.

View attachment 360108 A dramatic 3 – 2 victory over Gremio saw them up to 5[SUP]th[/SUP] as Fluminese lost, leaving only Cruzeiro to chase down with one final game to play. Yet 2 days later, it was Cruzeiro they would be playing in the first leg of the Cup final; and that in itself was utter madness to his mind, two legs for a cup final? What was final about that?
1[SUP]st[/SUP] leg 2 – 1.​

The last league game of the season they only managed to draw 1 – 1 against America (MG), with the lowly club managing a last minute equaliser to dash all chance Sao Paulo had of wresting 4[SUP]th[/SUP] from Cruzeiro. It wouldn’t have mattered, the blue shirted club managed a win securing the automatic group stages spot in the Copa Libertadores provided Sao Paulo didn't cause an upset in the cup.

It wasn’t what he had wanted, but with 5[SUP]th[/SUP] position, Sao Paulo entered into the Copa Libertadores in the preliminary qualifying rounds at least. The fans weren’t happy with that, but given the circumstances they would take it, and importantly the board gave their approval as it satisfied the objective…just.

All that remained was the last leg of Brazilian Cup final, Sao Paulo’s one hope of silverware in a disastrous season filled with anguish, a changing of the guard and some renewed belief they were a force to be reckoned with.

At home on the 11[SUP]th[/SUP] of December, it was the final game of the season before they could go off on their holidays to celebrate the festive season.

View attachment 360110 The Estadio do Morumbi filled with its hopeful faces, each praying that they might end this season with something tangible to look back on as a success for another year spent cheering and crying with their heroes on the pitch. The gestures of clasped hands and uttered words in prayer perhaps fitting as the giant mascot of God waved to the stands. The Manager still couldn’t get over that one, no matter how hard he tried.

Jorginho Paulista sent off in the 22[SUP]nd[/SUP] minute for some petulant behaviour over a penalty which was never given. Where had The Manager seen that before? A sigh escaped his lips as he feared they might have just lost their chance at the Cup and rescuing their season all because of a problem he would be battling likely his entire time in Brazil.

Not so! 2 – 1. A solid battling victory to please the masses, and 4 – 2 on aggregate.
The Brazilian Cup was Sao Paulo’s once again, a five year wait to hold it and have their name written along with the decades of history; a five year wait for a trophy to call theirs once more.

It was almost infuriating how fickle the world and its inhabitants seemed to be. Not a few months ago when he was still working hard, trying his best to turn things around he was the villain, the wrong man for the job, an interloper in a South American league and city where an Englishman shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.

Now, as he held this trophy which was new to him in his hands, surrounded by his players who he was by now only slightly coming to understand what they even were talking about, he was the hero. Sao Paulo loved him, loved him and the trophies he would undoubtedly bring them from here on.

Job secure, the board meeting to cap it all off was a row of smiles and handshakes as he and Douglas Maximo gladly accepted the congratulations. Given time, they’d managed to pass this first hurdle, now it was on to building for their first proper season, making the team theirs, and taking on a full year of the mad fixture list that was the Brazilian season.

Instructions given to his director of football on who to inquire over for the coming transfer window opening, he got on a plane, and before long was stepping off in London Heathrow. His wife and child waiting, his partner kissed him affectionately with a grin.

At last he took a breath to relax, months of being on edge with the fear of humiliation and defeat; back for a few weeks in his homeland, with family all together. Come the New Year it would begin all over, but until then, he would delight in telling those he knew of just how insane the Brazilian game was; of how Chairman Mao, Bonfante and the Prince had given them a cup at least to be going on with.

His kid smiled almost knowingly at him when it was just the two sat waiting on the sofa for their Christmas dinner to present itself, grandparents and his wife busy doing all the hard graft required. The expression was perhaps for the phone call with the encouragement added to the other voices when it had been needed; or the prediction of the eventual success he would find; or just because his kid was currently thrashing him 9 – 0 on Fifa 36.

Brazilian League: Athletico Mineiro 1st
Copa Libertadores Places: Sao Paulo (Brazil Cup Winners); Corinthians 2nd, Flamengo 3rd
Copa Libertadores Playoff Place: Cruzeiro 4th
Brazilian Cup Winners: Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo State Championship Winners: Portuguesa
Copa Libertadores Winners: Boca Juniors
Copa Scudamerica Winners: River Plate
South American Recopa Winners: River Plate
 
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Definitely worth the wait! ^^) Great write, captioning the emotions of players and staff, family and fans. Just what we need to get through the offseason! The best thing though is that it's still a FM story, you can read the team meetings and the exact player reactions to fines between the lines, but the way you find the logic and motive in those situations and bring it to life is just brilliant! Long may this continue!
 
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Brilliant! Hopefully not another epic wait for the next season now ;)
 
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Gosh its been a while since I've been able to effectively work on this story, busy times unfortunately. That and for some reason this write up has been more of a challenge, don't ask me why. Found time to read the odd post on here and some other's stories, but not to get stuck into the write up of this fully.

I've decided given the length of it and the time its taken to get as far as I have that this season will be split into two parts, which is also to accomodate a sideshow I wanted to pop in after deciding upon breaking it into two parts but obviously you don't need to read that if you don't wish.
It will be obvious what the sideshow is when reading, and hopefully pictures will indicate if you wish to skip it when the football related details come back to the forefront.

Nearly there with this first part then, won't be too much longer. Sorry if people have given up on this story continuing, don't blame you to be honest if you have because updates have been so few and far between; but I do actually have a loose idea for how to go right through to the finish of the career, we'll see how that pans out.

I hope anyone who does keep going with this story enjoys all the little details and the break from football in this. On that note, I'll get back to writing it, but cap this with the blatant hint of what is coming with:

"Drago!!!!!...................DRAGO!!!!!" ;)
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2036 Season: Rise and Regress

Part 1 - January to June

[video=youtube;pnOYp683HbE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnOYp683HbE[/video]

((Piano de Bossa / Desafinado - YouTube))


A fortnight spent burying his head in books and the internet; it had been 2 weeks of study of this veteran football club he had found himself at the helm of with their first fresh trophy to add to the cabinet in years. History, culture…everything he could get his hands on that he might need to make this all work.

The fact that they were old and had history was nothing new to him, his own beloved Brighton had been founded in 1901, a full 34 years before Sao Paulo had cemented itself as a professional football club in 1935. What this club demanded however was the constant recapturing of its former glories, the moments stored in glass cabinets, hung on the walls above the pristine carpets, sat on desks to remind aged servants of the moments of brilliance they witnessed in their time.

Some of the study had been beneficial, some a bit of fun as the highlight reels frantically blitzed skill after sensational goal at him. But viewing some of the fan based or commercial side of the club was less than impressive, often bemusing. Sao Paulo like so many other clubs had a song or two which the stands would sing with some earnest fond passion, despite the tune being a real dirge best forgotten; not that he would dare suggest it to another soul.

Then there were the more curious extras; why was the club sometimes referred to as the Bambi’s? Some kind of nickname supported with odd mock ups from people with too much time.

Following this was the previous flirtation with characters such as loony tunes to try and promote the brand he could only assume, they had gone about it in the right way in part with Japanese merchandise, links with Uruguay to expand into the continent further…even beer. But the worldwide cartoon characters still struck him as a mystery for its impact or purpose.

And finally, though he made sure his wife hadn’t spotted it on the off chance she didn’t quite understand, there were the women. As he understood it, all Brazilian clubs hired models annually to celebrate their new kits for the season, and then subsequently pose for photoshoots or about the stadium sporting the attire or in some more risqué cases simply use it to conceal her modesty.

Truly there were many aspects of the Brazilian game and this club he would need some time to understand; at least the sideshows were just that, and everyone really only cared about the progress on the pitch and the points on the board when it came down to it.

View attachment 373322

“Thank you for flying with us Sir” Smiled the hostess as he grabbed his leather holdall, her expression seemed genuine enough though he wondered how many times she rued having to spout the cheesy line in order to fulfil her job description. He nodded marginally with a slight smile of his own, looking to his exit.

Pacing the boarding tunnel, a few other passengers who had been unaware he too was on the flight whispered and looked over, some Brazilian, some English as they all departed the British Airways flight. Emerging into Guarulhos International Airport, a couple of lone reporters armed with their telescopic lensed cameras snapped a few pictures of the middle aged Englishman stepping back onto Brazilian soil.

One of them called out his name, he at first ignored it, but as the call came again a struggling latino accent forced some painful English out in an attempt to communicate on his terms. “Will you, trophies erm…..winning this year? Tricolor improve?”

“São Paulo vai alcançar mais altos este ano” He replied, equally with a failed attempt to sound legitimate speaking the foreign language, yet as the words came out clearly enough the reporters raised eyebrows at his ability following the holiday break to speak Portuguese.

He’d spent almost every single day studying not only the club like a lunatic, practicing with his kid and in part his wife until finally, he was as fluent as he could be by this point in time; everything from here on would be learning uncommon words and getting used to speaking it in public. There would also be the niggles of learning the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese, though he expected Douglas and Sofia to help him through them. All he knew thus far was that the European Portuguese he had been learning due to ease of the texts he could obtain was much more formal than the Brazilian take on the use of the language, but nothing more until instructed.
Small obstacles which ultimately wouldn’t matter. His family not yet with him, deciding to spend New Year back in England with their loved ones, he had evening plans to drink very little with Douglas to bring in 2036. The morning after, the pair travelled together to the offices…a crucial meeting for the season they were about to embark upon.

Stepping into the ever sharp looking white board room, only half of the board members were in attendance as even the Chairman was missing. The Manager and assistant cast looks to one another as a couple of the board members sat looking a touch fragile in their chairs. Clearly it was one rule for them as employees; and another for those with places at the all important table. He wished Sofia was with them to see the double standards on display.

“É gente a juntar-se a nós mais tarde?” The Manager opened as he looked across the broken row of suited bodies, just asking if those absent would be arriving soon. Everyone was sticking to their chairs as if it was an unspoken rule of hierarchy and one’s place, the whole situation baffled him slightly, perhaps more so as he was not long back in the country.

One of the fellows who wanted nothing more than for The Manager to be out of the club and on his way lifted two grey bushy eyebrows, another just rubbed his head to try and alleviate the throbbing pains his brain was going through.

~Portuguese~ “No, we’ve been informed to notify you of the decisions made by the board whilst you were back in England”

The Manager couldn’t help but frown; there was a tinge at the end of that reply which insinuated he was somehow at fault for returning home for his holiday. He swallowed the ill feeling.
~Portuguese~ “I see, well I must ask is Jose ok with you negotiating with myself and Douglas?”

A few of the individuals scoffed at that remark, one muttering inaudibly under his breath.

~Portuguese~ “That’s a little insulting” One of the minor board members chirped in from the end of the table. “Don’t be so impudent”

~Portuguese~ “Impudent?” He’d not quite got the word right away, but clearly picked up its tone and meaning well enough.
“I suggest you shut up if you’re going to try to play the ‘Do as you’re told’ routine with me. At the beginning of every season we discuss what finances are available, what are suitable, and what goals are appropriate. If you dictate these things purely, then you quickly end up with a revolving door of managers as you did before….winning nothing.” He kept his expression at a frown, steering it just shy of turning into a scowl as the board members all waited for the rebuttal to come to its conclusion. The man on the receiving end understood with a look from the senior figure on his side of the table to keep quiet and let them proceed rather than spark a full argument.

~Portuguese~ “Understood” Continued the man leading things from the board's side “But with what has been agreed upon I think you’ll not want to negotiate. The board has decided that you will have R$143 million to spend on transfers (£42 million), and a proportional increase in wage allowance to match. You are allowed to use these funds as you see fit, though of course the board will intervene should we see fit. We require you to bring in players which are up to the standard of-“

“Yes yes” The Manager interrupted as he clearly was going into his spiel of how great the club standard was. A look to Douglas was met with a slightly wide eyed nod, the board were right; the pair weren’t going to negotiate that sum of money. Plenty to work with.

~Portuguese~ “That’s absolutely fine, we can work with that” Stated Douglas, pausing to let the Manager take over. But another member of the board cut in first, his expression slightly irritable before he had opened his mouth.

~Portuguese~ “It had better be enough given the players you’ve already agreed to sign!”

The Manager met his glare.
~Portuguese~ “All worthy acquisitions for this club; and vital to sorting out the ridiculous problems which had been allowed to develop.”

The main board member in attendance resumed before yet another spat could develop.
~Portuguese~ “In light of the money already spent and to be spent in this coming transfer window, the objectives we require you to reach are what we feel is acceptable given the investment. You are to win the Sao Paulo State Championship; challenge for the first division title, reach the quarter finals stage of the Copa Libertadores, and reach at least the final of the Brazilian Cup.”

Taking that in, the Manager leant back slightly. It was a lot of money, but he knew that there was something else to the huge sum, as if it was a sweet deal to encourage him to stick around before a lull in the good times. The objectives were tough, but he wanted to win as much as they did.

“Agreed” He stated, forgetting himself for a moment. He shook his head slightly and tried again. ~Portuguese~ “Agreed; those objectives seem acceptable given the money made available to begin.”

The addendum to his sentence drew a few looks from the board, but whether they were those of annoyance for their perceived petulance emanating from the man across from them, or because he knew they had withheld almost a quarter of the available funds for transfers, either reason would do.

Concluding their meeting, he was given some light reading to be going on with. The chairman was injecting some £22.5 million into the clubs coffers for the coming season; quite why was unknown to the Manager, as though the page also read that all of the club’s sponsorship deals had fallen in value as they resigned them, they were still alright for funds.

It seemed already that rather than try to effectively build an image and global fan base, try and reach out into new merchandising avenues…they simply expected the club to be bankrolled. Ever since proposed financial fair play rules to bring Brazilian football onto a par level with those in the European game had fallen through, the model of ludicrous spending as the biggest clubs haemorrhaged money had only gathered momentum as the chief financial model.

As he went to his office, he could see the press out his window beginning to gather en mass. 1[SUP]st[/SUP] of January, the transfer window was open. Within the space of an hour the fresh first batch of signings had all arrived, met the Manager and moved on to taking the mug shots, the hand shakes with the men in charge, and holding the shirt up for all to see.

Players In:

View attachment 373327

Juarez Jandoso, 19, RW, £2.2 million from Ludogarets (Razgrad).
Mateus, 16, DM, £700,000 from Cruzeiro.
Braga, 16, DC, £425,000 from Ponte Preta.
Roberson, 16, LW, £625,000 from Internacional.
Kanu, 16, LW/RW, £625,000 from Bahia.
Marlon, 20, DC, £21 million from Southampton. Previously on loan at Sao Paulo the previous season, the fans were so taken with him that the Manager decided to prize him away from the English Premier League.

The first day a conclusion of all previous business done, they set about signing the rest of the troops required to solve the huge problems with the squad.

Victor Parades, 22, DC, £9 million from Lanus. Argentinean, he would be a first choice centre back whenever fit and available such was his quality. The Manager had a high five with Douglas when they discovered he had decided to sign for them, with Corinthians and a couple of European clubs all interested and with similar bids accepted. No doubt when they came to play Corinthians next it would add a little more spice to the match.

Muller, 17, STR, £875,000 from Athletico Mineiro. He would be cover for the main strikers when they disappeared to play for the national team, and learn in the process from some of the best players the country had to offer.

Casca, 20, DM, £4 million from Vasco.

An unusual one came in then. He had wanted a physio for the under 20’s at the club, but surprisingly it was incredibly difficult even for a top side to find physios of any quality, there seemed to be a shortage in Brazil besides those who desired only to be the in the Head Physio role.
Toto, a player at the end of his career agreed to sign, provided he could do so as a player/physio, acting as cover for the first team. He was snapped up, The Manager knew that only ever in a crisis would he be played in any capacity as even when he’d been in his prime he wasn’t good enough to play for the club.

Finally for players coming in there was an even stranger one. The Director of Football Romulo de Oliviera entered the Manager’s office full of apologies. Sitting down, he could only explain that despite his efforts to mete out an agreeable contract with their experienced forward Mao, he had been unable to arrive at an acceptable conclusion and so the fan favourite and popular player at the club had left for nothing.

Harsh words were had. Mao was crucial to his plans for the season as he was the only striker/winger they had who already had all his skills and wasn’t called up to play for Brazil each time the internationals disrupted their team selection.

Coat in hand, The Manager brought the Director of Football with him to his chauffeur car the club insisted that drove him about whenever he required it. He’d shirked the offer of a helicopter, not wishing that much fuss despite the city being well known for its incredible amount of helicopter traffic to combat the infuriating jams in the streets below.

Mao answered his door himself upon hearing the Manager’s voice on the phone beforehand. They sat down, a contract was hammered out, all the while the Director of Football was made to sit and watch, parting with a statement informing the 32 year old of his worth to the club and how important it was that they had him playing for them this season.

What a farce it had almost been.

Players Out:

Bryan Soto the Chilean who had never committed a foul in his life was shipped out the door promptly for nothing, as no-one would have the argumentative 34 year old.

Manoel left on a free, he hadn’t been important at the club so wasn’t particularly missed.

Ronaldo Luiz departed on his arranged transfer to Inter Milan. The staff who knew him well saw him off, the Manager deciding not to attend as he knew the move was a stupid one. Old as he was, the defender would just sit in their reserves only to return to Brazil a year later.

Then the fans got angry. Looking over his squad for where it could be improved, which parts could be improved and where some value was to be had; The Manager decided that Habyson Torres the Columbian defensive midfielder was the player they could stand to sell to move forward.
A fan favourite for a few years, such a decision would have been bad enough, but it was made worse when the only club to make an offer which reached the club’s valuation of the 31 year old was staunch rivals Santos.

Banners were held up outside the stadium in protest, but he just ignored them. What else could he do? The £12 million they got for the end of his playing days midfielder would be better used improving the squad elsewhere when the right players became available, not to mention that Torres’ leaving freed up a spot for another international in the squad, giving them even more options.

Given time the fans would get over it and see the logic in the Manager’s decision. Staff were next as the gaps were filled. Adriano came in as a coach from Cruzeiro, Tinguinha as a scout for free, Ronny Heberson as a scout for free; and Ryan Fraser, an English Youth Coach from AFC Wimbledon, excited to be joining the English Manager who had taken the country to the World Cup.

Parts of him both loved and hated the business side of football. The money seemed to be eternally climbing when signing players with seemingly astronomical figures paid out to agents purely because they were negotiators. As the numbers grew bigger so did the pressure. They’d just have to make sure that they did their work on the training field in order to guarantee none flopped.

View attachment 373341

“RIGHT!” he boomed in English as the players all gathered in their training tops. Every coach stood about ready for the start of their year’s work, unaware yet of what they would be doing.

~Portuguese~ “Gentleman, it’s the first training session of the new season, lots of work to be done!” The troops began to stir, mumblings between them as they quietly speculated. “So” The Manager grinned broadly, sardonically almost. “Bleep test!”
A collective groan rang out from everyone who knew it was to become the days work now. “Now now, don’t be so down, you love to run don’t you?”

The smile stayed glued to his features as he turned to Douglas for confirmation. The assistant nodded with some assurance.

~Portuguese~ “Sure, a few of them came up to me at the start of the holiday break to exclaim their love for it.”

They chuckled together before the Manager continued their little performance.

~Portuguese~ “Oh why yes, these men love to run! Why just yesterday I received a message from our very own Prince that he had all his fingers crossed we’d be running our hearts out today to really kick into the work with a bang!!”

The pair laughed harder together, the coaches sharing a smile with their colleagues as the players began to look with some dread toward the culprit. Alberto lifted his hands in his defence as he found himself surrounded on all sides.

~Portuguese~ “I didn’t send any such message!! I swear!!!” He pleaded, a headlock quick to come from the veteran goalkeeper Paulo who was really starting to show his years. With his pace which they joked made him by now the official slowest man in professional football he would struggle with such a task.

The Manager threw up an arm into the air for all those in front of him to see, palm open, the scene stopped dead as they waited for what he would come out with. Pausing with some relish for the tense expressions all hanging on whatever he was about to do, he turned, about face to the building where some speakers everyone now noticed had been rigged up. A thumbs up was met by the employee the short distance away, followed promptly by the sound of music.

((Wailing Souls - Wild Wild Life - YouTube))

~Portuguese~ “When this track finishes, anyone who hasn’t completed two whole laps of the entire outdoor training area will be subject to a forfeit!! And believe me you don’t want that!” His eyes peeled just a little wider to get the point home. Only a couple of players actually started to make a move, most unsure as the herd still looked to their man in charge. “Quick!!” He cried “You’re wasting time!”

They needed no further encouragement, every player in attendance bolted as if their lives depended on it, following the front runners as the quickest among them pulled out ahead, their voices as they sped away from the staff were those of laughter and panic muddled together.

Douglas turned his attention to the Manager with a little laugh “Are you sure you want to do the bleep test when they’ve finished such a run?”

The Manager shrugged “Sure, they’re all fat and lazy from their holidays.” He turned to his assistant with all his teeth on show “Plus its jolly good fun!”

View attachment 373342

Training went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped. The players weren’t fat and lazy at all, a good professional bunch of athletes gathered as the early identification of the trouble makers and dead wood meant the squad racing about the field at his beck and call were a group he was much happier with sending out each week.

Two friendlies against Brazilian affiliate feeder clubs Athletico Paranaense and America (MG) were as good as glorified practice matches on their own training pitch, but over quickly it was straight into the State Championship without any delay, no month or so of hard graft to iron out the kinks like in England, in Brazil that would have to be done during the local competition.

However, before the cup which felt like an extended pre-season began, there was the small matter of forfeits.

Paulo the veteran Goalkeeper in dead last place, somehow the player/physio had beaten him –just-, yet still came huffing in to the finish of the training task well after the end of the motivational piece of music. Toto's protests of being staff were waved away as the Manager pointed out he had insisted on being counted as a backup player. How that decision must have seemed a mistake now.
With the two aged gents was young Argentinean midfielder Jonathan Galvan, his apparent lack of determination to complete the task as expected letting him save his legs to canter to the finish.
The three of them all turned up bright and early on a Tuesday morning, the few club cameras in attendance, a few local media ones would snap some shots later as a nearby old people's home were delighted to welcome the volunteer helpers for the entire working day. ‘Sao Paulo FC in the community’ went the slogan in the native language, and the fifteen minutes the Manager turned up for were some of his most memorable yet at the club; the stench of the living room with its sea of armchairs, some of which smelt as though they had been freshly defecated into.
Then, a good group of eight or so players who the Manager decided for their abilities could have done a lot better to try at least and get back in time (though the task was beyond most) were at the stadium shop, signing autographs for the vast line of eager fans awaiting the new season. No player truly enjoyed such responsibilities, and so in truth he had picked a range of reputations and friendships to satisfy all.

The fans appeased of their connection to the club somewhat, and the press loving the Manager’s wicked streak against his players; the football began at last.

View attachment 373344 An away draw to Corinthians of 1 – 1 got things rolling, and from then on it was plain sailing to top the table comfortably; no losses and a tally of goals netted to dazzle the fanbase into thinking that perhaps their ills had been solved for good in such a short space of time.

Sao Paulo State Championship playoff qualifying teams:
WDLGDPts
Sao Paulo1630+6651
Corinthians1540+7149
Santos1531+3248
Palmeiras1432+4245
Sao Caetano1243+3440
Portuguesa1243+2740
Guarani1063+1136
Bragantino1027+1132


However, the local competitions weren’t just a league. Had they have been, the Manager would have been a far happier man.

Sao Paulo State Quarter Finals

Sao Paulo 3 – 0 Bragantino
Palmeiras 4 – 0 Sao Caetano
Corinthians 5 – 0 Guarani
Santos 2 – 1 Portuguesa

Semi Finals

Sao Paulo 2 – 1 Palmeiras
Corinthians p2 – 2 Santos

Then for some unexplainable reason this final was split into two legs also, baffling the Manager once again as to just why. When in England he had thought that all finals would be played at agreed stadia, national venues or a neutral ground with some size and standing. But Brazil had no truly national stadium in the same manner England had Wembley, as Fluminense and Flamengo both occupied the Maracana, meaning the Brazil Cup at least couldn’t be hosted there on the off chance one of the big Rio de Janeiro sides made it all the way, as one frequently did.

Two legs it would be then, begrudgingly.

Final 1[SUP]st[/SUP] Leg Away

Corinthians 0 - 0 Sao Paulo

Final 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Leg Home

Sao Paulo FC expected; with a home tie to finish off their great rivals and lift the first trophy of the season. They had been in exceptional form, topped the table without a loss, and the international fixtures weren’t stepping in to steal away the best players just yet.

Sao Paulo 1 – 2 Corinthians

They played horribly, no imagination, no creative movement or impressive teamwork. It was only made more embarrassing as Corinthians had the whole second half to play with 10 men thanks to a straight red. Words escaped the Manager as he faced the press; and he couldn’t even play the unable to speak the language card anymore.

It wouldn’t do to dwell, the fans would get over it, and thankfully the Chairman of the club understood that their great rivals were also a force to be reckoned with, unbeaten themselves too.

Perhaps it was the continental competition results which aided his early patience and understanding. Drawn into the Copa Libertadores Group C of the prestigious South American competition, they had the high flying River Plate of Argentina, Cienciano of Peru and Santos Laguna of Mexico to deal with.

((David Bowie Rebel Rebel - YouTube))

Santos Laguna H 3 – 0
River A 2 – 0
Cienciano A 5 – 0
Cienciano H 8 – 1
River H 2 – 5
Santos Laguna A 3 – 2

Group CWDLGDPts
Sao Paulo501+1515
River Plate411+1513
Cienciano114-194
Santos Laguna024-112


To add to the success on the continent at large, new signings were made with some of the remaining funds.

Gerado Sandoval, 19 years old DC. Argentinean coming in on loan from San Lorenzo, he stated he willingly would spend his season learning at Sao Paulo in order to learn from its English Manager. Quite the compliment the man himself thought given he was still receiving a mixture of animosity and praise from the major clubs and senior figure names in the Southern Hemisphere.

Joaquin Cabera, 17 years old MC, he would join on his 18[SUP]th[/SUP] birthday on the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] of July as par the rules in Argentina for a reasonable sum from Independiente.

Gilvan, 20 years old AMC, Brazilian…he was a crucial signing, coming in at the slightly hefty price tag of £12 million from Goias; he was to be trained as the understudy of Captain Bonfante to fill in whenever the Argentinean leader was away or unavailable.

Jose Fabio, 20 years old LW/AMC, Brazilian from Fluminense for £3.8 million.

Beside the players, so too did Anderson arrive as an under 20’s coach as he sought to find employement; along with Leonardo, a scout from Athletico Mineiro.

As the new faces came in through the door over the short space of time it was evident that both intended main periods of work in the transfer market were now completed, and the press were told as much unless a particular player became available which would definitely add something extra to the squad.

An office member kindly handed a note from the Chairman to the Manager following the press conference regarding the new purchases; it was a discreet heads up for the next time they were to sit down for a meeting of how it was going as clearly the big guy felt this needed to said quickly - and not exist in an email where it might be ‘leaked’ somehow.

‘R$188,000,000 (£55,000,000) spent on bringing in fourteen new players to the club; One player sold for R$41,000,000 (£12,000,000) - One extremely popular player, sold to our rivals for that matter.

Don’t let the State Championship Final happen again.

We expect a return.’

The early bumps in the road weren’t completely finished with either. Both Oliviera, aged 26, and Mario Augusto aged 31 turned up in the Manager’s office asking for a move away from the club as they sought a new challenge entirely.
Both were only bit part players, with Oliviera reaching the peak of his career and only rotation or back up for the squad, and a journeyman who was still very useful but near the end of his stay.

A few words convinced them, but they would be a problem until they were sold now, just not an angry or prone to tantrum problem at least.

What was an immediate and pressing concern however was that the press managed to get their hands on the news that the two midfielders were want away. How they found out the Manager had no idea, and he simply didn’t have the energy to try and uncover who was the guilty party responsible for tipping off the press to the embarrassing situation.
A stern rebuff to the assembled microphones; hopefully they would never ask again. The players were staying until the Manager felt it was time for them to move on, and not a moment before.

There was thankfully the new first division to distract the reporters, and Sao Paulo after their strong showing in the group stages on the continent had some more teams to cast aside if they were to make their mark in the Copa.

As the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] round of the continental competition crept up on them, a few league games already completed, training was to all observers going gloriously; team morale, team cohesion and thus teamwork was all near perfect. The players weren’t embarking on the ridiculous beat every single opponent runs; and they weren’t bickering with one another over split decisions or bad calls.

View attachment 373348
Copa Libertadores 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Round – Club Universitario de Deportes – Peru

Away 3 – 2, Home 2 – 1. Aggregate 5 – 3.

View attachment 373350
Copa Libertadores Quarter Finals – San Lorenzo – Argentina

The Argentinean league champions, all bets were against the Brazilian boys progressing any further, but luckily the board objectives had only been to reach the Quarter Finals.

View attachment 373351
Away 1 – 2, Home 1 – 0. Aggregate a2 – 2.
Through by the skin of their teeth, but a win was a win.

The morale as the results came in from every front they were challenging on just carried over to the next test each time. It was almost a shame the way the season was laid out that they would be reaching their climax before the best part of the league had been hammered out. Only 4 victories and 3 draws to show for in the national league before the draw and day of the first Semi Final leg came about.

Boca Juniors would play River Plate. Sao Paulo would play Corinthians. The bookmakers salivated, the fans bit their lips with a fearful mixture of excitement and worry.
Corinthians had already stolen the first major encounter between them, and their league form was incredible, surpassing that of Sao Paulo’s undefeated run; nervous faces met reporters whenever the fans were quizzed on what they thought of the tricolors’ chances, that or overconfident and even drunk bawdy proclamations of victory.

View attachment 373355 The team amassed at training again, yet as they stood before the Manager waiting for some words of encouragement he could only pause. No one broke the silence as the scene rested upon the man in charge to impart his usual fare of encouragement for the big occasion, everyone knew he did that…it was part of his reputation from his past successes; he was good at geeing up the troops when it counted.

Nerves had crept right in. He looked to Douglas with a flash of his eyes that said to help him out. Immediately the former defender started off with some words to bolster their mindsets…but as the tall Brazilian got the men going, the Manager could only put his finger on the fact that he had never given a speech in Portuguese before, or any language other than English for that matter.
Was it that different? He easily was managing the day to day chatter and instructions to all concerned, and could even fully understand all the board members once he had deciphered what was language and what was just grunts and noises uttered from their orifices.

It simply had to be giving a speech in a foreign language, a hurdle he now assumed almost any multi-lingual individual in a foreign land had to overcome.

Marshalling his nerves he picked up on the end of Maximo’s fine set of words.

~Portuguese~ “I want to see them crying, heads in their hands that they were so utterly defeated – cocky bastards!!”

A laugh went round, and his nerves settled with that.

~Portuguese~ “Ok chaps” He clapped. The squad bouncing on the balls of their feet, he pointed to the eleven a side pitch “Practice game! Douglas to pick teams!”

((Groove Armada - If Everybody Looked The Same - YouTube))

Copa Libertadores Semi Finals

View attachment 373356

1[SUP]st[/SUP] leg River 3 – 0 Boca
2[SUP]nd[/SUP] leg River 0 – 4 Boca

View attachment 373357
Aggregate 3 – 4

View attachment 373358
1[SUP]st[/SUP] leg Sao Paulo 4 – 1 Corinthians
2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Sao Paulo 0 – 1 Corinthians

View attachment 373359
Aggregate 4 – 2

A final with the mighty Boca Juniors. It wasn’t just a match between two heavyweights of South American football, it was a watered down Brazil vs Argentina, one of the world’s great grudge matches. The fans of Sao Paulo and Boca felt as if they were the last to hold the banners for their people at large, the best their league has to offer.

The squad had a few weeks to prepare for the massive fixtures; Boca Juniors the heavy favourites with their reputation, strength throughout the squad with young and old Argentinean internationals, and their constant presence at the top of the continent in the Copa’s with recent well publicised trophies seized.

The league would keep the questions and the fans attentions on each match as it came, though in the back of all minds would be the most important fixture the club would participate in for some years. Something special would be required for the two games then, something above what the usual training routine commanded of and would inspire in the men.

View attachment 373417 “Come on run you fat turds!!!!” Screamed the Manager in English, if only to protect the ears of the Sao Paulo supporters in attendance for the open training session as the heroes they idolised sprinted back and forth, weaved between the poles set out and jumped the hurdles under the orders of those directing them. Douglas and a few of the coaches walked over, inquisitive looks upon their faces.

~Portuguese~ “We hear there have been some arrangements made for a trip, are you going to make an announcement or wait and surprise us all?” One of the coaches opened with. Douglas looked just as curious as the others.

~Portuguese~ “No, I’ll tell you all now, and you can pass it onto those who aren’t here or are-“ He pointed out to the current training taking place “- out there at the moment”

Some nodded their approval; some speculated that such unnecessary rigor was a foolish risk before such a massive occasion in their calendar and careers. Both views had merit, but with a day of rest either side of the special training session and light training after that, they had made sure that it was carried out a full week before the first leg to boot. He felt confident that with the preparations almost complete that they would gain more than mere exercise in his ploy.

As the day the buses would arrive drew closer, the only distraction was a press conference held by Jonathan Zaccari, the Boca Juniors manager. At only 42 years old, it was always an occasion the papers and likely other managers/teams paid attention to as despite his age he was a well established world renowned man for his accomplishments; the Manager had hoped that the first time the pair would interact would be either through or at least with some mutual respect for one another’s previous success.

It wasn’t to be. A string of negative and almost slanderous statements came from the Argentinean man’s mouth as he proceeded to trash the chances of Sao Paulo in the coming fixture; that in fact The Manager was merely ‘lucky’ with his past glories, and that his luck would surely run out sooner or later as he came up against real men and the challenges they presented.

Mind games or resentment and unprofessional behaviour at its base level, he had no time for the man in an instant, who would? Just as with the contingent of jealous or nervous big club managers in Brazil, it seemed when the titans were drawn together the biting words came out to land some kind of first blow. He didn’t respond, instead he would just turn it into motivation with the troops; and possibly to motivate himself.

View attachment 373421 Another training day had been and gone, and yet in the club gym the Manager slapped foot after foot to the treadmill, the incline and pace beyond that which he possibly even believed he could manage. He wasn’t entirely alone, some of the less integrated staff had seen it as an opportunity to get to know their man in charge a little better, and gleam what they might from his style and approach to handling things.

Douglas lowering his phone to his pocket as he entered all ready to head off for the evening smiled seeing his middle aged friend and boss pounding away on the hellish machine.

“What is this? Don’t tell me that Zaccari’s comments got to you?”

His heart was already beating furiously, the sweat beading off his face at a steady rate and his breathing laboured, yet he still managed a small smile before dialling down the speed to kill the claps of his feet hammering down each time. Not to mention he couldn’t speak at any quick pace.

“No; maybe….but I don’t think so. This is more because I don’t want to allow myself to become one of those managers who doesn’t get involved, at least not yet.”

“You’re 50, no one will complain if you do. That’s why you hire us lot!” Maximo smiled, motioning to the rest of the staff who had stayed behind, all present younger and much fitter men.

“Even so, there are too many benefits to staying at least halfway in shape for as long as I can. My wife won’t mind for one” He threw a cheeky wink to Douglas, the wanted chuckle received.

“Well at least ease off the pace and angle a bit, no point turning up each day exhausted, this isn’t the first time I’ve caught you down here.”

“I normally stay later than you so I can sneak off to put in an hour or two of good running; kill the time by playing opposition games on the screen.”

“Why? I’d just do enough to stay fit for training, no point in doing any more; you’re not trying to be an athlete.”

“Remember the event we have organised? I'm not doing this for the Sao Paulo Marathon that I’ve signed up so as to keep my face out there for the public in the city-“

“Ah…the training trip” Douglas cut him off, his voice dipping as he put upon the answer.

“Not long now, I’m hoping that training after hours will help to keep it a secret from the players. Perhaps seeing their Manager undergoing it with them with give them both a laugh and keep them on their toes.”

Douglas smiled, scanning the other staff briefly before looking back to The Manager. “Ok, I look forward to it.” He looked down at the panel of controls on the treadmill, a sly grin forming.
~Portuguese~ “Keep up the good work everyone!” He called to the room; a smattering of one word acknowledgements came back his way, before he reached over and held his finger on the increase speed for just long enough. “Especially you” He flashed his teeth, leaving with a wave as the Manager began instantly to stagger…forcing his feet onto the sides in an ungainly hop just in time before his face went crashing to the rubber.

“Lanky ******” He smiled, keeping the expression as he looked to his Brazilian staff members all laughing lightly.
Still the league went smoothly, some results to crow about, still undefeated as they clung to the top of the table and silenced any lingering pathetic speculative calls that Sao Paulo would slip into their recent history bad rut. A 5 – 1 win over Goias put proof to that, there was nothing wrong with Sao Paulo’s ability to score currently, and the defence had been bolstered impressively as Victor Parades was already looking like a brilliant purchase even for the sum he cost.

And then before he perhaps felt prepared, it was suddenly the promised day to break with their routine on the training grounds. The prevalent atmosphere as the buses pulled up to the amassed employees was curiosity for what was going to take place, the light haze before the sun properly rose to scorch everything brought goose bumps up on many in attendance who weren’t used to any temperatures beside the ‘death to all’ the Manager felt the Brazilian sun could be.

The staff present for the trip immediately began with help, marshalling the men onto the vehicles. Were time wasted and everyone to become exhausted before they had even arrived it would be a disaster, it was an unnecessary gamble in any case.

View attachment 373554 North East they went; the journey would be some hours…but fortunately the rich club could afford lavish transport, and sleep was easy on the club’s coaches. Many drifted off; some of the younger players got out the cards or tried to get a song going. All the Manager had told them was to save their energy, they had a day to travel and relax, tomorrow would be their little adventure, and then a day to return to recuperate.

Past San Jose dos Campos; Taubate, Guaratingueta and Cruzeiro until they were closer to Rio de Janeiro than home. North the coaches turned toward the mountain range until with the panoramic view of the vast mountain range in sight they swung off the road for the hotel all booked up.

~Portuguese~ “Ok, off the buses!” The Manager announced getting to his feet “You’ll get your assigned room keys at reception, and remember!-“ He waited, but excitable mouths were already chatting “REMEMBER!” They froze and looked to the front, the mild looks of annoyance that a bus full of schoolchildren gave when their teacher demanded attention for boring announcements. “Rest up, I mean it” He left them with as he hopped off to head inside.

A kick about in the hotel gardens, a little booze in the bar as a few beautiful ladies and chancers tried to claim they were also guests at the hotel to gain access to the quiet celebrations for this change of scenery. Come the morning, and early into the day again the alarms rang, dreary heads woke themselves up with whatever worked, and in their training gear all ready the men were back on the coaches, driving on to their starting spot in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountain range.

It wouldn’t take long to arrive, so standing up before the headphones went on or players nodded off he gave them their instructions.
~Portugese~ “Listen up guys! This is what we’re up to.” All faces looked forward alert, and the Manager knew that the other coach was having a similar announcement from Douglas.
“We are about to have a race, a race up that mountain” He turned around to point through the vast windscreen of the bus. “Pedra da Mina is the highest peak in the Sao Paulo region, and we’re going to have a race up to it!” He grinned. A great dirty noise swirled about the vehicle as groans mixed in with excited bouncy exclamations.

“But this won’t be any normal race….” They continued to give him their attention. “This is a race which I will be participating in!” He let his lips peel back to show off a confident almost cocksure smile, one which insinuated that this 50 year old man could actually beat this crop of professional athletes. The players broke into laughter, quips lanced down the aisle their boss stood in at the front, he laughed with them.

“Don’t think it will be so easy though; true, I am a much older man…you all could quite easily beat me in any normal sort of race. Thus we have rules for this little challenge, so I suggest you listen well.

“We will all set off at the same time, and yes, there is some personal glory in being the individual that reaches the top of the mountain first, a prize will await the winner!” Some of the youngsters shifted eagerly at that reveal, the older players just waiting for the rest perhaps sensibly “However, so sure am I that I will win that I’ve decided to stake extra on this.

“Should I win, you all will carry out a day of your own time conducting ‘Sao Paulo FC in the community’ duties” A collective groan sounded out “That’s not all….you will also hold up a banner we will make, and I assure you we’ll make it, with you all shouting out its message to the local press ‘We lost a race with a 50 year old man!’” He grinned emphatically.

~Portuguese~ “But boss.” Called out Gilvan, one of the new young signings. “We won’t lose to you, how can we?”

~Portuguese~ “I’m glad you asked that!” The young player received a thump on the arm for his question, as if it had made any difference. “The route for this race is set, it is one of the main tourist trails, and a notice had been posted stating this event will be taking place so everyone here will know. Posted up the path are staff members; and each will have a challenge for you to complete before you are allowed to continue. Any who fail to stop at each and every checkpoint and complete the challenge will be disqualified! These challenges will vary, from physical tasks to mental ones. The only person who will not be participating in these tasks will be yours truly. Hence, I’m going to beat you”

~Portuguese~ “Cheat!”

~Portuguese~ “Yeah that’s not fair!!”

The Manager raised an eyebrow, placing a hand on the back of a seat ahead of him to brace himself as the road took a mountain bend. ~Portuguese~ “And a straight race between professional athletes and a 50 year old man who isn’t would be fair?”

He waited a moment before continuing and cutting off the roar from the congregation’s chatter. “Guys, one more important point before we start though. If any of you feel overly tired at any point during this, unable to continue or heaven forbid feel the twinge of an injury coming on…stop at once. If need be a staff member will escort you down the mountain, but remember that whilst I’m sure you don’t want to lose, you want to beat your **** Manager and claim the glorious prize! The worst thing to come out of this would be any one player spending time in the stands with a cast on or on crutches because of something such as this.”

Blank faces stared at him as if waiting for more.

~Portuguese~ “Are we clear?”

The coach load all sounded off the agreed answer, grumbles of those not looking forward to the challenge already against the eager confident mostly young heads who still felt indestructible as nearly all youth did.
It wasn’t long until they disembarked at a tourist car park, cameras ready and waiting from both the club and some of the press to get a couple of shots. Arms waved about and knees climbed as the men went through their warm up, the often mad looking ritual of flailing limbs around to breathe life into the body.

The Manager bent over to try and touch his toes after going through his leg stretches – he wasn’t even close. Another cycle of the usual stretches then, just to be sure; the leg back facing sideways with a lunge forward, hugging his knees to his chest one at a time, sitting with them out to the sides straight and lean to each foot.

View attachment 373563 Puffing to draw the cold morning air deep into his lungs, he looked up at the vast rocky behemoth, over 1,400 metres higher than the peak of Ben Nevis with its almost 2800 metre height. They wouldn’t be climbing that necessarily, and they weren’t even starting from the very bottom, yet even the Manager wasn’t 100% on the route they had mapped out now they were there ready to begin, and all he could think as he looked up at the blanket of green giving way eventually to the now malicious looking grey stone up before him, he couldn’t help but rue his own eccentric plans.

Douglas pulled out a starter’s pistol from his pocket, a command to gather as his voice rose above the entire car park. Lenses sat primed for the moment they were ready to set off, and with a little wink to the Manager stood at the front of the pack his assistant fired the gun into the air.

((Karate Tiger (Soundtrack) - The Race to Victory - YouTube))


The gravel kicked up all at once as the dozens and dozens sets of feet scrapped and kicked against it to pull away quickly and get some kind of early lead. The Manager would have said one by one they passed him, yet as soon as the gun had gone and camera flashes bathed them for their instant than almost every single player had circumvented him and bombed on.

Paulo their esteemed goalkeeper and Toto the now really regretting it player/physio both decided to save their energy, as did a number of the now thinning out pack just in front, realising that it was a big mountain however high they had started. He looked across to the two experienced players and gave a subtle nod, his goalkeeper reaching across to give him a handshake.

~Portuguese~ “Maybe I’ll stick with you for this” He said with a genuine seeming smile with some warmth to it.

~Portuguese~ “You’re still doing the tasks with the rest of the players!”

Paulo baulked at that, withdrew his hand, and to the sound of his manager letting go of a few syllables of a laugh tried his best to speed on and catch up.
15 minutes for the man in charge, and as he turned a bend there lay the first challenge. His coach called out to him, motioning at the collection of players currently going through the initial task.

~Portuguese~ “50 press ups, 50 sit ups and 50 squat thrusts!” A thumbs up came back as even though most were mid way through the task, a few were already getting to their feet finished and pushing on ahead having soldiered through the task perhaps too quickly for their own good. Huffing away himself he kept his pace, looking down to see the smoothest tread of the path; looking up to see the looming mountain.

Pace yourself, they’ll overtake, but it’s a mountain…and you’re 50….pace yourself.

One by one now they powered past him as they each completed the first task, perhaps speeding up for the moment they were to burn out in front again, spirited enough still to care to show their boss what energy they had, or to rub it in that he was never going to beat them. Even Paulo managed a slap on the back as 30 minutes expired, a grin chasing after him as the old keeper already looked to be lumbering with his heavy footfalls. The man might be a good goalkeeper and club servant, a good shop stopper…but he couldn’t run for ****.

Out in plain sight laid the next challenge, the old one jug that holds 5 gallons of water, one which holds 3; make it so that you had 4 gallons exactly in one jug. If they had seen Die Hard with a Vengeance they’d know how to crack it, yet as he came up to the task and slowly passed it, he took great pleasure at the sight of the first come first serve queue which had been ignored, to the annoyance of those who had arrived earlier, as everyone got in on watching how the first few to arrive were solving the puzzle together.

The big picture it seemed was to ensure that their Manager didn’t steal the victory! A sentiment clearly felt as beating the puzzle the pack tore away together.

On he pressed, still plugging away, the trees of lower down the mountain gave way to scrub land almost, the greens on the bushes dulling in colour and the brambles and leaves looking hardier and more fierce to cope with the heights they were climbing to.

A photographer looking ready to pack up from her staked out position up the path turned to spy the Manager fighting to keep his pace, hoisting her camera to thieve a picture of him dripping in sweat, red and bloated in the face as he picked his fringe from where it was glued to his forehead.

Mustering some dignity, he picked up a hand turning back to her to display a diver’s OK symbol once he was past her, a little word of encouragement from the 30 something photographer to the old man struggling on.

One or two of the players were giving up now, and he wasn’t surprised. 17 year old youngster Joaquin Cabrera had had enough, his stamina not yet up to such a task; and he announced his disappointment lifting his head from his hands on knees stoop to see his boss trudging on beyond him.
So too did Jose Fabio and Juarez Jandoso fail to keep going, one looked to be rubbing the back of his leg as he slumped to the deck, the other just out of breath and out of energy.

A little smile crept upon the Manager’s face as he was starting to get beyond the back markers. Challenge 3 appeared before him, yet sat off to one side having had enough was both Toto and Paulo, clearly breathing heavily as they each were completely finished. Leaning against one another for effect as the Manager jogged up and past like a metronome keeping his pace, they let go of mock cries, he was amazed that they had made it as far as they even had.

The coach called out as the Manager cruised past the challenge still relatively comfortably.
~Portuguese~ “They have to balance along the boards, then jump across both planks before continuing”

His eyes scanned the scene as not one had quite finished it just yet, it sounded easy, but after such a long session of running up such a beast it was a quaint nightmare for the troops. Jelly legs were unable to hold a few of the players steady, and lifting the knees to get over the two plank walkways everyone balanced their way down was hellish given how they were raised slightly on the plastic crates carried up for the job.

The time just kept going, and his head felt like a blank swirl as he kept muddling between thoughts on how each player would come back past him, yet the number would drop again; how they were so high now that the view was becoming quite sensational, epic long striding valleys carved out between peaks stretching up toward the cloud cover. And then how his body was still going, how his lungs were filled with the disgusting coppery taste of the air he was sucking in, his thighs burning lightly as his shins from the repeated slapping to the rough loose stone and dirt path were beginning to ache from the stress.

((Rocky IV - Hearts on Fire (FULL extended version) - YouTube))

Parades, Casca, Bonfante, Paulista and Alberto came past all at once in a pack, together now as they wanted to simply get through this ordeal. One more challenge to go as they powered ahead slightly once again. The rest made their way past minus a few names, but they looked tired, ready to throw in the towel, they were dead wood now in this race, and as he kept his pace, kept it going…his mind turned it’s sole focus onto the five individuals who were the only ones looking like they might finish this race ahead of him.

A glance at his watch, they’d been at this for nearly two hours now; that meant that the top wasn’t too much further; they’d started at a good height…but what a pace things had been moving at. Another photographer snapped some pictures, though whether they were tourist or the press he couldn’t be sure as the colourful outdoor jacket blazed into his eyes from behind the camera which snapped away.

He huffed about another corner, and there laid the final challenge.

More players crashed out, rested on their backs staring at the sky, the group still wishing to continue at once all beginning to crowd about the last conductor of the challenge. Just a dozen remained it seemed, and they were divided into whatever groups they had arrived in, the front pack of five all together armed with the device to finish the task.

Small whiteboards in hand as the Manager was almost past them, he saw each of the five writing down furiously after a quick think.

~Portuguese~ “Correct!” Announced the coach. “In what year was Club Athletico Paulistano established?”

Each of the players looked to one another before it was clear that club captain Claudio had the answer, writing his down first before showing his teammates. Clever! A history test when exhausted near the top of the mountain, that’d throw them off.

1900, and 35 years later they eventually became Sao Paulo FC...

He looked on to the final stretch of path before hearing a low roar at the challenge he was now out in front of.
~Portuguese~ “No phones at the back there! You’ll be disqualified if you do!”

The Manager could only laugh inside, already becoming too exhausted to do so normally. Round a protruding boulder, and there up the path lay the last half a mile.

Quieter, yet it echoed louder inside his head, he heard behind him
~Portuguese~ “Correct!!! You’re done, next group please!!”

Oh ****; and here come the five. He looked up the path, half a mile of agony to the finish and the peak, the winding rocky track barren of obstacles save the uneven surface and his own lack of balance or sense.
Dipping his head The Manager pressed all his doubts he could finish this to the back of his mind; it didn’t matter if he got a little injury or couldn’t train with them at the next session, all he needed to think about was winning this **** thing and saving himself some embarrassment!

His pace picked up, and his lungs heaving furiously he lengthened his stride, knees lifting that little higher as the incline was pouring on the misery; his back was sodden with the sweat as his shirt now clung to his body wherever it touched.
Five heavily breathing individuals could be heard down the path behind him.

~Portuguese~ “There he is!” Cried out one, the gap was good but their pace would be that much more, and now it felt as if they were right upon his heels.

Last stretch, you can beat them, keep going…

A hiker whirled about stunned seeing the aged manager power past him, the noise of his hoarse breathing more startling than the fact that a 50 year old was still running up this thing and overtaking those out for a hike.
Whether it was embarrassment at being passed by a much older man, or recognition for who it was, the hiker with his light looking backpack began to bound alongside him, a few words across as a smile full of encouragement given as the hiker implored the Manager to reach that top.
He stopped all of a sudden as the distance to the finish was closing rapidly now, turning to see the chasing pack. The Manager afforded himself a look back.

Bonfante and Paulista both gave up, calling out their support for the last three as they took a few far deeper breaths and leant against one another. Yet another few paces along Parades too threw in the towel, his determination as his captain and the team’s star striker had had enough clearly the final straw in his bid to win the **** race.

Casca and Alberto now, almost upon the Manager were still coming on and on. He turned his head back to the front and pushed what energy he had left into climbing higher as quickly as he could manage, his legs felt as though lava was trickling down all the muscles, his stomach ached and shoulders even had a dull throb. Both lungs were numb and resonated with a faint layer of burn, as if the air itself had become acid to his struggling body.

The footsteps were getting closer yet as he feared the worst, only one set were bearing down upon him now. He took one final glance backwards to see that Casca simply couldn’t maintain the pace he had been pushing himself to in order to stay with his superiors in the squad.

That just left the Prince, a man with ample stamina and strength, his work rate was plenty, and then there was the quality which saw him chasing down the old man now in this final stage; the man’s determination was second to none, a trait he displayed in each and every game, never giving up until the whistle went. They’d equalised a few times, bagged the winner, or saved that last opposition attack when this young right back had bombed into a position to get his foot to the ball at that crucial time when all other heads were too tired to contemplate sprinting yet once more.

The eyes of the Brazilian star bore down upon the Manager, and he realised that despite his best efforts, despite the rules and challenges to put the whole squad through its paces, the bet was lost.

He dipped his head for the finale, clawed mentally inside of himself to scrape all vestiges of energy into his screaming legs; grit his teeth and breathed like a psychopath for the suicide he was committing. The breaths of the Prince drew closer and closer, the footfalls scraping against the loose stones that little bit nearer each time. There was the summit, the last member of staff stood with a team flag waiting for the victor to grasp.

The Prince pulled up alongside, the men glancing to one another. At least the youngster was in as much dire agony as he was; his face a picture of self inflicted torture as he willed his body on. Together they ran right up to the last 50 metres, and Alberto then marshalling his reserves took those few strides out in front, pushed on and with arms held out climbed over onto the peak.

Before he could collapse he took the flag and waved it emphatically over the vast mountain range with all its magnificent mid morning spectacle; a roar of delight as the coach dropped down a few steps to take the pictures of proof that the man had indeed won the whole nightmare.

The Manager, truly feeling his age, slowed to a crawl as he scaled to join his player. A friendly embrace was welcome as the player clearly pleased to win the contest felt respect for his boss for pushing him as he did. Together they had a hold of the flag, before both collapsed to the stones, Alberto looking the better of the two as he looked with a smile to his teammates all slowly coming up to join them now.

((The Cinematic Orchastra - To Build A Home Piano cover - YouTube))

View attachment 373568 Ignoring his players for a moment, he looked out over their prize; the sky so clear it was only the eyes and the horizon which stopped a man from seeing forever. The sparse cloud cover drifted lazily through the tops of the mountains jutting upwards, the yellow sun he was used to looked more white up here, it might have been his fatigue, but everything looked so much purer.

His staff member still taking pictures of those reaching the top moved over in a break in the dribs and drabs reaching the top to approach the Manager. A rucksack produced a small bottle of air they might give to struggling or injured hikers.
Were he feeling more complete than he currently did he might have felt too proud to accept the aid, but he felt no shame in lowering the mask to his face to breathe in a few priceless lungfuls before handing it back and getting to his feet.

The photos kept coming as more and more players reached the top, and lightheaded as he felt, the Manager slowly began to overcome the extent he’d pushed himself to. The jokes came out, Alberto lapped up the praise for winning.

Eventually, realising after a while that all those who had made it were to be the only ones, the group began their descent, some placing bets with one another for who would be first only to be reminded strongly by the Manager and coach that any injury from bounding down the mountain would be heavily criticised, leading to a slower pace. He chose to walk it with his colleague, with some of the players too saving their strength and using it as an opportunity to perhaps get to know one another and their boss a little better.

Congregated at the coaches; not one injury though plenty of tired faces. A special lunch was laid out which drew the looks of many tourists and locals come to the mountain that day, followed by the short return journey to the hotel. Most rested, but come the evening the whole compliment of staff and players gathered for a knees up in the bar, the alcohol flowing at a steady rate until some of the wiser individuals called a stop to the booze. What bottles had been pinched were taken back to rooms and private parties, others crashed out for the night.

Back to Sao Paulo in the morning, and some horrendous pictures on the club’s website.

The press gathered for the pre first leg Copa Libertadores Final meet, the banks of reporters and journalists all eager to hear what the English Manager would say over the giant fixture given the damning comments of his opposite number Zaccari.

He smiled, navigating through the questions well mannered and upbeat as the tailoring of the press’ examinations and inquiring grew increasingly frustrated that he wouldn’t rise to give some venom back at the Boca Juniors manager.
Eventually they gave up; the Manager had his defences up and wished only to get to the game without boxing face off talk. As the session was all but done however, he did announce that he had a statement to deliver to the press; cameras ready to pack away aimed eagerly as the Dictaphones were raised and held to the front once more.

He cleared his throat before holding up a small sheet of paper to visibly read from.
~Portuguese~ “I am a foolish old man. In my decrepit pride and with my failing elderly brain I believed wrongfully that I might actually win in a bias and stacked contest with my esteemed and magnificent players.

“Furthermore, I wish to accord special congratulation. Were it not for the Prince – Alberto who heroically defeated my sinister and ill conceived plan to subjugate my squad, I would have possibly managed to have oppressed my loyal and..” He paused, frowning at the line he had been given to read just prior to the press conference.

“—to have oppressed my loyal and righteous players, who are both more intelligent and supremely better looking than yours truly. To conclude, I represent just why the English are always the bad guys in films, and suck…” He paused again, looking to the side where by now it was clear a small congregation of his players had gathered “Oh come on I can’t read that! It’s rude!”

The press by now were in full laughter, and it was only bolstered as the players emerged to group about the Manager, taking the sheet off him and having a last look at it themselves, all laughing hard together.

He held out his hands to the media.
~Portuguese~ “That’ll do, thanks everyone” The pictures snapped and the words recorded, the papers all gleefully printed about the forfeit for the challenge lost against his team. Some interpreted it as the Manager was indeed a royal fool, others more favourably that the team morale couldn’t be higher, they clearly loved their man in charge and now coming into the biggest game they’d played for many many drawn out years, they surely would listen to his every command.

[video=youtube;kaTaYgluhrs]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaTaYgluhrs[/video]


View attachment 373569

They used Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from the 9[SUP]th[/SUP] as the Copa Libertadores anthem to build every heart watching into believing that this spectacle would hold the greatest football they had ever seen.


((Transformers: The Score - Arrival To Earth - YouTube))

With this final, certainly those with the time and the right TV channels would agree that the football they were witnessing was so spectacular that the South American leagues could only continue to gather more support, more attention and more prestige.

“NOW!” Bawled the Manager stood on the cusp of his area, dangerously close to stepping over and incurring some kind of punishment. He didn’t care all that much as the football he was watching just kept climbing in intensity.
The second half already nearly finished, the score sat at 3 – 2 to Sao Paulo; first it had been Boca Juniors to score after only 7 minutes as their mercurial talent Jonathan Motta slid through to bury a sumptuous finish. The player was wanted in many pockets of Europe, and had he been around during The Manager’s Brighton years he surely would have tabled an offer of his own.

9 minutes Lima had levelled the scoreline with a header from a corner, before Mao on 16 minutes gave them the lead with a cut inside to give himself a close range blast beyond the keeper. Boca had brought it back in the 24[SUP]th[/SUP] from a free kick, Julio Colombo taking the celebrations from the Boca home support for his impressive set piece.

But as the whistle for the break was approaching, the man who had sent the blue and yellow shirted fans into celebration was a cause for grief and dismay as a mind-blowing bad error of judgement sent Mao through to give Sao Paulo the lead once more.

They had had the lead going into the break, but that didn’t stop the Manager trying to convince them they had a lot more to do still. Both sides were just pure attack, the defences were having a tumultuous and horrid time trying to keep out the sensational team moves as Argentinean and Brazilian stars just poured on the flair and skills the two nations were famed for.

He screamed again, moving away from his native English. ~Portuguese~ “NOW!!!!” Douglas hopped up and suggested his boss take a few steps back or take his seat, the players were fighting with everything they had already.
Alberto got it down the right and went, just as the Manager had yelled at the top of his lungs. Still the suited figure stood at the edge of the pitch as the right back dodged a challenge and sprinted with the ball at his feet for all he was worth. A quick look into the box as he realised he couldn’t beat the two men coming across to halt his lightning break; two heads to aim for. He dipped his gaze to the ball and stuck his foot through it convincingly, an early cross.

All eyes went with the ball, up and over it went toward the Boca penalty area. Sangweni and Paulista both jostled and positioned, ready for it, hoping that they did enough to get that priceless touch and seal the huge victory away from home.

Sangweni got up, it was coming to him. In came the defender, and without so much as a proper challenge sent the striker to the ground in a heap.

View attachment 373572 The whistle blew in an instant. Penalty.

Sangweni feeling wronged took hold of the ball, stepped up, and buried it without hesitation once the spot kick was set to go. 84 minutes, 4 – 2.
The Sao Paulo fans were in heaven, cheering as if the cup was theirs! Had it have been a normal final of 1 game they certainly would be taking the trophy home, but as extra time crept upon them, Boca launched one last attack.

Gabriel Balbi beat his man, sized up the goal from the diagonal angle he came at it, and in the 91[SUP]st[/SUP] minute rocketed an unstoppable shot beyond Paulo.

The final whistle blew. 4 – 3 to Sao Paulo.

A game in the league away to Cortiba ended in defeat. Sao Paulo fielded youth players and reserves, he didn’t want to risk even a single substitute as they approached the home leg of the Copa final.
Training wasn’t tense at all, but the atmosphere indicated everyone knew the importance of what they were about to have to do. How significant it would be for the club to return to the top of the continent and dethrone the Argentineans and their stranglehold on the top competitions.

The exercises and daily routines were progressing well at least, and the tutoring of younger players progressing wonderfully as link ups such as the captain Bonfante teaching his understudy Gilvan personally and likewise the old 38 year old keeper Paulo teaching his clone they nicknamed him, 19 year old Paulo how to tend the goal properly.

It would have been straight forward reaching the all important game, if it wasn’t for the actions of the board.
Reading the email sent to him detailing the activities of the club, the Manager had to wait until the following morning when he knew the board would be convening for a meeting.

A low ranking member who was a fraction late to the meeting tucked his phone into his pocket as he approached the doors leading in, one look over to see the face like thunder of the Manager en route inside had him trying to impose himself between the angered man and the boardroom unsuccessfully.

~Portuguese~ “Get out of the way fool.” He said, ignoring any voice of restraint over his words or tone. Pushing inside, some were stood; others all sat casually as they hadn’t quite fully begun in earnest.

The chairman looked over at once and let go of a small smile with matching gesture of welcome.
~Portuguese~ “A pleasure to see you, good job on that victory in Argentina”

Another board member echoed the sentiments, but as they each afforded a moment to study the man come to join them, it was evident he wasn’t staying but rather here to pick a fight and make his mind known.

~Portuguese~ “What’s the ****** idea?!!” He boomed, silencing the room. All of them took their seats, assuming the position for their unified front to challenge their man in charge of the team with.

~Portuguese~ “Adjust your tone and manner please; remember who you are talking to. And what is the problem?” The chairman led with.

~Portuguese~ “More like what’s the problem this time…” muttered another audibly with some disdain.

~Portuguese~ “Why the **** have you let Sao Paulo become a feeder club to Manchester United?!”

The board members exchanged a few looks before turning back to the Manager. The Chairman took the initiative of course ~Portuguese~ “We thought such a link up would be good for the club to boost its reputation, and the added income is always a bonus.”

~Portuguese~ “You mean to tell me that you were the ones who sought this link up out? Rather than them coming to you.”

~Portuguese~ “Yes that’s correct.”

He reached up and slid a hand down his face, the other pressing down to the table as he leant over slightly. His exasperation couldn’t have been more evident. ~Portuguese~ “What’s wrong with you all? Why would we need Manchester United as a parent club? It says in my email that they are even only paying us R$544,000 (£156,000). That is barely going to help the finances at all!!”

~Portuguese~ “It was this board’s decision that linking with such a prestigious club would be a great benefit to us as a club.”

~Portuguese~ “I don’t think you all understand; there are no benefits to this move for us! They can buy our players far more easily, they are the parent club so have been announced as being vastly more superior than us, we don’t have merchandising rights with them so can’t boost the brand and sales;” He clawed a hand to his head again, releasing it with a raised voice. “I mean really, what is wrong with you all?! We’re in the final of the Copa Libertadores, constantly improving, our reputation is climbing and we have some of Brazil’s finest players, not to mention one of Argentina’s best also.”

He took a few breaths, waiting and seeing how they all took the outburst. Calmly the Chairman began again.

~Portuguese~ “It was the decision of us all that such a move would—“

~Portuguese~ “Oh enough! You’re all ****** fools then!! How could you make such a stupid decision I’ll never know….their scouting network will be pointless as I have friends all over England who inform me of anything going on, not to mention my own knowledge, and I’ll emphasise this…as the former Manager OF ****** ENGLAND.”

He turned away from the table of increasingly souring faces.

~Portuguese~ “I suggest you take your leave, and cool off. We’ll discuss this another day should we see fit.”

~Portuguese~ “That’s fine.” The Manager said, taking a deep breath and returning his gaze to them. “But understand that the way you’re all conducting the business of this club, you’re hindering it, not helping. If you continue to leave whoever is in charge of your team out of the loop then you’re going to fall right back into the trap of what happened before.”

~Portuguese~ “Get out!” Demanded one of the board members further back. The Chairman again calmly spoke above the rest.

~Portuguese~ “That is your opinion. Go take some time, we’ll speak later.”

He left them, likely to simply spend the rest of the meeting now discussing the problem of their upstart manager. Douglas helped him to cool off; a discussion on tactics for the crucial home leg, taking his mind away from how the faces at the Red Devils were probably cooing over their formal link to being parent of Sao Paulo FC, and the club The Manager was in charge of.

((The Mighty Ducks Theme - YouTube))

The 25[SUP]th[/SUP] of June, all thoughts of the debacle created by the board emptied from his mind as the jesters and fools took their seats in the director’s box.

His team talk given; they knew what was expected of them. Win, and show everyone that they are the best on the continent, show the doubters that Sao Paulo are truly once again one of the great giants of Brazilian football, that the club which star names and club legends like Kaka, Rai and Rodrigo Ceni all made their names at and became icons the fans aimed their adoration is worthy of retaining such a lofty position amongst the best in the Southern Hemisphere.

Jorginho Paulista on the bench, a little niggle that morning. Chairman Mao up front to lead the attack after his fine display in the first leg; Sangweni out on the left for the cut inside, and young Jandoso on the right.

The Manager as the coin toss and pennants exchange took place afforded himself a look across to the foul mannered Zaccari, the Argentinean picking up on the look to meet it. Their handshake had been straight faced aware that the cameras were poised to capture any dirty evils in the moment. Now neither minded in communicating to one another just how they felt as they stood in their boxes, The Manager with his arms crossed dipped his brow; the man across from him gave a little snort, an upward nod of his head before turning to his staff.

Boca were going to attack attack attack, a goal down after 4 – 3 at their ground, they had only one option, and the players to carry it off. A normal man might have opted for pure defence in the face of the potential onslaught; dig in and get the bus into position, but the Manager usually got results for going with his gut instead of going with the predictable.

A sharp shrill on his whistle and the referee signalled the start of the 90 minutes to decide if this team really did have enough to see off the famous blue and yellow of the La Mitad Mas Uno.

Sao Paulo with the kick off set about attacking right away; Bonfante immediately making a nuisance of himself to their back line, collecting a pass from the Prince to wheel and open up some space. The shot came to nothing, but as the Argentinean Sao Paulo captain traded looks with the fellow countrymen trying to stop him he couldn’t help but grin. It would be another day for strikers rather than back fours.

Motta out on his right flank was making life tough for the whole left side of Sao Paulo’s game plan, a simple dummy opening up some 40 yards of space to move into as they adjusted quickly to cover the cross until Parades could close the distance and options for the inventive star in the making.

Open play was rifling back and forth, and the stands were building in volume constantly as the various instruments and voices beat and cried out with an intensity which would deafen the weak, their own battle as fan leaders bellowed before angling perhaps dangerous gestures toward the opposition support. Flags flickered back and forth, the mascots even getting in on the act for a moment or two as the scenes were going to refuse to die down until a result was decided.

A corner to the Tricolor, Marlon and Parades moved up from the Sao Paulo back to see if they couldn’t bully something from it. They didn’t delay in setting themselves, it seemed every one of the 22 players out there wanted nothing more than to keep up the incredible level of tension and pressure as the stakes with each attack only rose. Mao presided over the kick, resetting the ball to give himself that little bit more time as the away support behind him dug out every imaginative phrase in Spanish they knew to throw him off.

A hand up to signal he was ready, the whistle went. A sweet in-swinging effort as his boot touched to it perfectly, Mao’s body curved as his boot angled off to one side with the follow through like a picture out of a how-to book. Every tall individual climbed into the air with some ritual as they made their gambles on where it would come down, the keeper hesitating deliciously on his line hoping his defence would clear it without any delay.

Marlon got up, right timing, right place. His thick neck lurched to his left before pivoting to the right, the ball caught full on. A glove reached it, the fingers determined to stay rigid under the force of the head, yet as his body arched upward all could see he hadn’t done enough. The white shirts with their black and red stripes peeled off all at once as the post betrayed Boca Juniors. 24 minutes, 1 – 0 on the day.

Everything settled all at once the moment the fans of the Estadio do Morumbi had calmed down. A two goal lead, they believed only that the cup was surely theirs now. The Boca manager Jonathan Zaccari got to his feet in a fury once his voice could be heard, nods came from those he directed his comments at…how The Manager wished he could understand the Spanish commands.

The momentum shifted at once, two chances in quick succession saved by Nikao and Paulo respectively. 37 minutes, Julio Columbo eager to make his mark on the game after his cancelled out excellent performance from the last leg started on an ambitious run. He looked back over his shoulder still running at Alberto, weave to his left to receive it, off to the right. The ball switched instead, all eyes went with it, and as Alberto took his eyes off his man than he ducked in behind.

Lofted high, the ball came soaring back across the pitch into the Sao Paulo box, one touch to bring it down, another to beat the slow to come out Paulo in goal. Unmarked, it looked so easy despite the pin point pass needed and perfect control.

The Manager took his seat, he didn’t want to start screaming at them just yet, the threat coming from Boca meant they were always likely to lose one or two goals to them. Three minutes later he could be forgiven for venting his frustrations visibly as Motta got hold of the ball out on his wing, beat one, two, three, four….lanced into the box, beat five, rounded the goalkeeper and stuck it home.

Shirt off, he whirled it about his head sprinting to the away supporters who were delirious in what they’d just seen, and there was no denying how incredible the goal was. Comparisons to the legendary legitimate goal Maradona scored against England would be drawn from those lucky enough to remember to tune in or get a ticket.
Now The Manager was on his feet.

~Portuguese~ “Don’t you dare mess this up!!” He boomed at the players all retaking their positions waiting for Boca to finish celebrating. “Don’t you dare! Focus and ****** attack! Come on, get at them!!!” He lowered his hands and stood there until the kick off was taken. Turning to take his seat he almost missed the immediate reply.

View attachment 373637 Alberto racing forward to get down the right, kick off out to him, one look across and Nkanyiso Sangweni on the edge of the area. No touch to control, first time he blasted it into the top corner without a second thought.
2 – 2. They made it through to half time.

Another team talk, another chance to remind them of the importance, of how badly the club needed this, of how it would revive all their fortunes and make them a club to be feared anew.

Perhaps they listened. 48 minutes, just into the restart and Sangweni bent in a dangerous cross. Bonfante lashed a boot onto the end of it only for the keeper to get the spectacular out of his locker and rebound it out. No Boca player could hide their despair as none could get there before Mao, the aged striker they were thankful to still have at the club after the farce of his wages loped forward, pressed it on with the tip of his boot…and nailed the goalmouth camera stitched into the back of the net with his effort. 3 – 2.

The Tricolors settled once more, no point in forcing themselves to over-extend with a two goal advantage, they knew the risks of letting the Argentineans come at them, but so too were they lethal on the counter. Zaccari fumed, his arms waved at five minute intervals as his players slowly ran out of ideas to break down the now dogged efforts to repel each attack. Bonfante was even getting back as Mao and Sangweni seemed to be the only players ready for a charge.

An hour passed, Boca hit the crossbar from a corner. 70 minutes, a shot just wide and a Sao Paulo effort blazed high when it should have been troubling the keeper. 80 minutes; the ball was whipped in fiercely, too strong for anyone to get a touch on it. Motta somehow sprinting after it dragged it back just shy of going over the line, his marker too far to dream of challenging another cross came flying in. Colombo got up, Paulo eyed his near post and the player about to head towards him, everyone expecting the head to come straight at his net.

Back across it went, high and looping as every defender was caught completely off guard. In at the back post, Motta who busted a gut to get into the danger area only had to give a little tap down with his forehead to see it beyond all of the men willing him to miss.
3 – 3.

“THINK!!” The Manager tapped his head, Boca were in dreamland grabbing the ball out of the back of the net. How had it come so close to being another 4 – 3 scoreline? His players looked over at their boss, not understanding the English but taking the meaning. He continued as they walked slowly ready to receive likely another onslaught from the now hopeful Boca.

~Portuguese~ “Clear your lines and every man back!” The nods came in quick succession from all positions, even as the message was passed on to the far side. Mao, Nkanyiso, the lot. Every Sao Paulo player pulled back to their own half, tightened the gaps, closed down the challenges.

A strike flew inches from the angle, another stung Paulo’s palms. But as they tried to work their short pass and move into the box, Boca Juniors found no space as the tackles were clean, the back up instant, and the faces determined to keep them out.
85 minutes, a corner to Boca. Parades headed it out without a problem. 88 and Motta beat three men forcing his way inside. Alberto slid in beautifully to dispossess him, though as the Argentine went flying arms splayed out everyone feared the worst. A yellow card for simulation and a round of applause from the home support.

90, 90+2. Full time.

3 – 3 on the day, 7 – 6 in the tie.

The Copa Libertadores for the first time in 16 years in the most sensational of fashions. The stands went ballistic; it was evident how much the top prize in South America meant to them. Amid the celebrations, the hugs and the frantic cheering; the Manager turned to have a look at the director’s box, the esteemed figures still congratulating one another merrily. The Chairman and another both spied the look of their Manager from his position in the revelry down on the pitch; not a look of joy or pride…but rather a stoic stare, one to say ‘You ****** fools.’
 
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2036 Season: Rise and Regress

Part 2 – July to December

View attachment 373830

((The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary" - YouTube))

As Sao Paulo FC danced to celebrate their new silverware and certain continued rise in the world of football, The Manager glumly watched his home nation’s dismal efforts in the 2036 Euros hosted in Portugal when not busy with the progressing domestic Brazilian season.
A draw with France, another draw with Belgium, and finally a loss to cap it all off against the Czech Republic. Third in their group and going home early, well below expectations.

He’d have to pick back up his spirits with Tricolor performances as the English seemed to simply slide back into the old routine of injecting all their hopes and fervour only to be left with the hollow pang of another set of what ifs.

View attachment 373828
5 – 1 at home to Athletico Paranaense, 2 – 1 at home to Internacional. That did the trick; Sao Paulo were riding high in the league, undefeated.

Communication with the board was brief, and skirted the elephant in the room at each instance. No one wanted a confrontation which might tear relationships beyond repair, no one wanted to stick in the last nail. The tension only grew when the richest clubs annual list was released; Manchester United in the number one spot, Sao Paulo climbing from 28[SUP]th[/SUP] to 21[SUP]st[/SUP] – and that would only get better should they keep up their winning ways.

At least there were a few extra distractions. Sofia was in a lunch break with the Manager, educating him on some of the subtle differences he would encounter often which differentiated Brazilian Portuguese and the base European standard he had learnt. Her job as a translator wasn’t especially needed anymore, but the girl’s love for the club meant her skills could be in use at some point or another but that she'd help out wherever needed; an office job found for her to fit in around her studies.

Douglas entered to the room clutching a piece of paper. Casual greetings before he interrupted politely.
“Check this out” He said passing it down to The Manager “There’s reports in the media to back it up but it could easily be worth our while to have a go.”

Fuantes, an Argentinean international defender who currently plied his trade with Internacional in Brazil was making serious noises about a move away from the club as silverware and glory was not going to be forthcoming anytime soon. Sao Paulo already had plenty of Argentinean nationals in the squad which meant their three foreign players slots in the match day squad were frequently used up; but there was always space for a player of Fuantes’ quality.

As his eyes scanned the scout’s report, the player would certainly be interested in a move to Sao Paulo, the problem lay with the opposition they would have to fight off to gain the signature, and not only that…the opposition was foreign being mostly based in Europe; Internacional would far rather sell abroad than to a rival club who would only turn the player upon them.

“What’s the price tag they reckon?”

“Well, for everyone else he either might go for as little as a few million as his contract is close to running out, or even free should he just wait the couple of months. To us…” Douglas sucked in a breath through his teeth “Tough to say, it'll be pricey to convince them to sell this way.”

Sofia looked over the desk toward the Manager. He trusted her enough to hand her the scout report, she glanced over it quickly with one hand holding her lunch box curtly. “I’ve seen him play, he’s good.”

“Right, but is he worth upward £10 million?” Douglas posed.

“I think so” The Manager immediately answered “We’re lethal up front, and the midfield has plenty with the reinforcements we’ve bought. I’ve been looking for one more defender to ensure we really are rock solid at the back, and a player of his calibre would undoubtedly fill that role. He can play at the right or in the centre…I say we get involved before the European giants start flexing their muscles.”

Maximo nodded firmly “Alright, I’ll pass on the word to Romulo (Director of Football) to start the process. But…”

Sofia finished Douglas’ train of thought, feeling comfortable in the conversation with the two lead figures at the club “What of the board” She screwed her mouth up to one side, eyes looking almost apologetic when looking to the Manager.

“What of them indeed…no doubt they’ll see the money to bring him here and make all sorts of fat noises” He afforded himself a little chuckle “I don’t know, I doubt I’ll ever convince them to release the funds required. So; sell to buy?”

“Sell to buy I think” Douglas affirmed.

“Antonio Carlos from the reserves, he’s been coming along a bit but he isn’t going to the make the grade again to play in the first team if we continue the progress we have with the rest of the squad improvements. Should fetch a bit.”

“Ok, any others to begin?”

He pondered a moment. “The 20 something year old winger Anderson, he’s not showing the quality to cope with the competition from the wingers we’ve brought in; and a couple of clubs were making noises about him weren’t they?”

“Yup, foreign too but have to wonder whether he’d agree to move to them.”

“Well offer him out for a reasonable sum and see if anyone bites.”

The games in the league kept coming, and Sao Paulo kept up reasonable form. They lost at last, but the results were easily in favour of them sticking to the top spot to give their rivals something to worry about.

Within a week Antonio Carlos was sold to America in Mexico for £4.2 million. A week following that Al-Sadd in Qatar agreed terms with Anderson, paying Sao Paulo £3 million for the wide man.

Just over £7 million in the kitty to work with. Romulo having some news at last entered The Manager’s office.

~Portuguese~ “Internacional want R$38,355,790 up front in one full payment and not a cent less. I think it works out to exactly £11 million, so someone over there has a sense of humour aimed at you perhaps, or just a penchant for precise details.”

He puffed out his cheeks and sat back in his seat. £11 million, he’d hoped to beat them much much lower than that; especially as the media reports were all of the player going for a pittance to Europe as his scouts had speculated.

~Portuguese~ “Ok, I can’t think of anyone else we can offload who will make up that final £4 million we need, at least anyone we can stand to lose.”

~Portuguese~ “Right, I’d been thinking that one over too. Which leaves us with one option…” Romulo gave as sympathetic look as he could manage.

One option left. The Manager sent message ahead that he would be attending the next arranged board meeting. The morning was a tense one as he went over and over what he would say to them, how he would tailor his words to try and both appease them and convince of how beneficial this player would be.

No. The answer was a firm, resound, a categorical no. He tried his best, but as each of the suited faces looked toward him sat alongside Douglas, they were resolute in their answer as if it had been determined before the question had even been put to them.
Only 75% of the transfer funds had been used, had even been made available; the bank balance easily had enough to accommodate the shortfall for the pricetag asked, but no.

That was perhaps the cost for getting on the wrong side of this board, as foolish as they were; railing against them had meant any requests were on a hiding to nothing. £4 million; that was all to get this Argentine who could partner their already wonderful Argentinean centre back Parades who had been a revelation so far. They wouldn’t hear any more of it.

Sat with Romulo and Douglas back in his office, The Manager battled inside his own head whether to go over their heads and submit a cheeky offer regardless, try to bag the player and deal with the backlash from the idiots supposedly running the club. Douglas talked him down, Romulo agreed. The player was incredible, but one: they might not even get him given the other clubs close to getting the signature, and two: the relationship with the board was already fraught, it might be the straw that broke the camels back and potentially put them all out of a job, a job they were increasingly garnering results as payment for their time and effort.
As the European Championships finished with Spain defeating Italy in the final, Andre Villas Boas was sacked by England; Michael Appleton of Brighton and Hove Albion took the big national job, and Villas Boas was hired by Brighton to fill the vacancy.
Brighton then who were the parent club of Internacional managed to sign Fuantes for absolutely nothing, and not even have to wait until the end of his contract.

Well, he couldn’t complain too much about that. It would have been difficult to convince the player not to move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, and he was secretly pleased the player was moving to the club he’d supported all his life, he’d do well there.

((Giant killing OST - Inferiority - YouTube))

Instead of Fuantes who was late 20’s, hitting the peak of his career, they turned their attentions to another Argentine who the scouts had earmarked. With funds freed up they could afford to get another recruit in, and sticking to their previous model he was another for the future.
18 year old Damian Lombardi, another centre back came from San Lorenzo for £3.7 million, a fine looking player who whilst wasn’t up to the standard of the now Seagulls player Fuantes, he would develop into a smashing player with a few years of training.

View attachment 373834
Palmeiras away 1 – 0, Bruney still with no answer how to stop Sao Paulo taking three points from them again.

View attachment 373835
Santos home 3 – 2. A few draws of late and a surprise loss to Botafogo suddenly changed the picture as Cruzeiro moved up into 1[SUP]st[/SUP] and staunch rivals Corinthians 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], with Corinthians still managing to go unbeaten.
How to answer that? 11 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss.

But there wasn’t something quite right with the squad, too many games they had to salvage it at the death, the substitutes coming on to inject that final bit of life to the teams attacks and bundle the ball home at the death. The internationals being stripped from the squad once or twice wasn’t so much a problem anymore with the young recruits, but it was clear with all the lead figures missing there wasn’t a single player to take up the mantle of command – the team performance dropping savagely each time.

And then there was the Brazil Cup.

4[SUP]th[/SUP] Round
Avai home 5 – 2, away 2 – 2, aggregate 7 – 4.

View attachment 373836

Quarter Finals
Bahia home 1 – 1, away 4 – 3, aggregate 5 – 4.

Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the Tricolors were going to march all the way to retaining their domestic trophy, spoils richly deserved for the year round good form. But it was dipping quickly as the tail end of the season approached; and worst of all the team which would stand in their way was the still undefeated swines, Corinthians.

Semi Finals
Corinthians away 0 – 1, home 0 – 3, aggregate 0 – 4.

View attachment 373837 Two loses; a convincing defeat at the hand of the club they wanted to lose to the least. Away to them they had just misfired at each opportunity, Corinthians even with 10 men for much of the match. At home, the internationals hit…and somehow left the entire Corinthians squad untouched. The youngsters and backups against the undefeated pristine side, it wasn’t even a contest. They wouldn’t retain their cup, the fans felt betrayed for the exit.

Gremio away 1 – 2; Palmeiras home 2 – 3, Bruney got his revenge at last. Everything went wrong against the green shirted rivals, the defence were sloppy and asleep, the attack couldn’t hit anything but row z. 2 goals down at half time it was only the bollocking the Manager gave them which spurred them to claw it back to an even scoreline; but again they switched off…and in the 94[SUP]th[/SUP] minute Palmeiras stuck home the winner.
Three games to go, 1 point clear of Cruzeiro who had once again closed the gap Sao Paulo had opened up. The last 4 games in all competitions lost, morale was dropping like a brick in water and threatened to derail the entire seasons hard work.

He stood before the whole squad, they’d been here before, he’d been here many times, different faces with a different team badge. His eyes boring a hole into each set that met his, telling them before he’d even opened his mouth just how disappointed he was.

~Portuguese~ “What’s wrong?!... Hey?" He looked at them inquisitively with his voice softening "What’s wrong with you all?”

Not a soul dared speak up, faces like smacked children as they knew better than anyone that the blame rested with their half hearted and incomplete performances of late.

~Portuguese~ “I’m not going to scream and shout at you for half an hour, lord knows my throat needs a rest after all the shouting at half time I’ve had to give you to give you a kick up the backsides. But for goodness sakes guys, a whole year is going to go to the dogs if you don’t sort your heads out and start playing like you want it again!”

Douglas piped up clearly feeling he couldn’t remain quiet for this chat ~Portuguese~ “Did you think the job was done lads? Did you think your rivals would all slip up when you did and you’d cruise to the end? Corinthians dumped us out of the cup and they could even finish above us in the league now or dare I say even win it!”

~Portuguese~ “Give me some indication this is sinking in…” The Manager put to them, looking across the rows of sullen and guilty faces. Bonfante spoke up in line with his position.

~Portuguese~ “I don’t know what’s happened, but something is missing. I’m not making excuses though; we know it falls on us and that we’ve been letting each other and the fans down recently.”

~Portuguese~ “Good, but what’re you going to do about it?” The Manager asked quickly before the conversation became simple admissions of guilt.

Bonfante shrugged. ~Portuguese~ “Start scoring more goals?”

~Portuguese~ “Well that’d be lovely, but that’s not the answer to the problem. You need to start working the relationships on the pitch more, start linking up and backing one another up as you were before. It’s as if you’ve all become lazy in your positions and feel that your territory is your own concern. Roam more, move about, overlap and seek to help one another out! You’re a team, not a collection of individuals stuck into neat fitting slots.”

Jandoso spoke up, the young player rare to speak his mind at gatherings clearly felt unsure on how to interpret what the Manager was saying, but was playing regularly enough to feel warrented for his inclusion. ~Portuguese~ “But you keep playing me on the left when I still don’t fully know how to do so.”

~Portuguese~ “It’s like playing on the right” The Manager started, his voice flat and unimpressed “But on the left.”
A few of the players laughed at that, and Douglas cracked a smile. ~Portuguese~ “You’ve been working on it in training, and it just takes time to get used to it, but use your imagination when out there, if an opportunity arises on the right or through the middle, take it! Don’t stay out wide on the left if you’re not of use to anyone in the move. Nikao will cover, Galvan will maybe slide into the gap…fluid guys…we don’t play rigid football, we ebb and flow so the opposition doesn’t know who to pick up or mark.”

He took a quick lungful to indicate the point was done with before continuing. ~Portuguese~ “I need convincing; can we win the league?”

~Portuguese~ “YES!!” Cried the team in unison.

~Portuguese~ “Good, then ****ing show me in training now that I’m not just a dreamer and that you really do want this.”

In the well practiced routine, Douglas started shouting and clapping his hands, the coaches in attendance took the initiative with their roles too of ushering the players up and out the door. The Manager stood a moment, watching them leave. They said the right things, and they listened well; but the last hellish game of the season would really tell if they could save their season.

View attachment 373839
Bahia home 3 – 1, immediate response. 1 point ahead of Cruzeiro who still sat in 2[SUP]nd[/SUP].
Fluminense defeated Corinthians in the Brazil Cup final to the delight of every Sao Paulo supporter.

View attachment 373841
Botafogo away 0 – 1. 60% possession, 17 Sao Paulo shots to Botafogo’s 2. It was amazing how they came away from the game with nothing. Yet Cruzeiro graciously only drew with lowly America (MG) 2 – 2. A win from Corinthians meant the title would go down to the final game of the season.

View attachment 373843
Corinthians, away. A win was needed to ensure the title; a draw or loss would leave it in the hands of Cruzeiro where the league title went.
To make matters worse, Corinthians had the best defensive record of any team that season, conceding only 17 goals in the league all year.

The Manager didn’t need to fire them up, the crowds and occasion did that long before he ever reached his team talk. They stepped out with hunger in them quite evidently.

Kresch out on the left was injured in the 12[SUP]th[/SUP] minute.

Paulista scored from a free kick in the 16[SUP]th[/SUP], his effort rebounding all the way back out to him for another pop at it.

Jonathan levelled it for Corinthians in the 25[SUP]th[/SUP], and Carlinhos their lead scorer in all competitions giving them the edge right before the break from a goalmouth scramble in the 45[SUP]th[/SUP]+1 minute.

No prizes for guessing how the Manager treated them in their dressing room. They emerged looking as if this was it, do or die.

68[SUP]th[/SUP] minute Casca got the equaliser with a headed in corner. Sao Paulo believed they could do it, the Manager believed they could it as he shouted his encouragement from the side.
They tried, again and again, attacking the Corinthians goal as the second half belonged entirely to the Tricolors. To no avail.

2 – 2.

Cruzeiro smashed Fluminense 3 – 1 at home in a game they could have run away with it.

View attachment 373845

Cruzeiro 1[SUP]st[/SUP], Sao Paulo 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], Corinthians 3[SUP]rd[/SUP].

The fans were crushed, they – and the Manager couldn’t quite understand or believe that from the lead they had built up that somehow the title had slipped away from them right at the finish.
Sitting across from the Manager at the end-of-league meeting, thinly veiled sentiments of minor congratulation were laced with disappointment and blame for the failure at bagging the title. They’d fulfilled their objective of challenging for the top spot, but it was evident that the belief was fully that they would walk away champions.

((Giant killing OST - Determination. - YouTube))


There was however one final chance to repair the damage before the year was out. Whilst the rest of the Brazilian teams went on their holidays, cheered or bemoaned their season of work, Sao Paulo for their mid year triumph had booked a ticket to a competition which meant a lot more in the rest of the World than it did in Europe.

Canada were the hosts for the Club World Championship, a place which none of the players had really contemplated the implications of fully until they arrived.
View attachment 373849 Snow covered everything, people walked around wrapped up head to toe, and those who had planned were similarly with scarf, hat and gloves to battle the cold. It didn’t stop the groans and whinging however as the team were ushered from airport to hotel, from hotel to training ground.

~Portuguese~ “Come on! It’s just snow!” The Manager laughed as they jogged about the gifted for the duration Canadian club’s training ground. Even he was feeling the cold a little himself after a year and a half in scorching Brazil, but he would always take the freezing temperatures over the baking inescapable heat.
He’d always maintained, it was easier to warm up than it was to cool down.

The puffs of breath as they trudged their way about the field like a swarm of uncoordinated bees were visible even from the far side of the grounds. The tanned skin looked so out of place in the thick layers everyone had opted to wear, the mixture of colours from gloves and scarf all tucked into the training outfits offering a picture or two to indicate just how alien they were.

The session done, they had only time for one light day's work before they would begin their effort to challenge for the Club World Cup, the competition already underway before they arrived in Canada. He gathered the players for a quick few words, no doubt words he would build upon when ready to head out onto the pitch the following day.
Heads up, forget the league result, you still came second so not the end of the world. Here was a chance at a final piece of glory to show they weren’t going to choke a second time and give the fans something to cheer about when the season was finished with.

View attachment 373855 The Manager went to watch the other semi-final the night before at the ground they would be entertaining the fans; the football so one sided it was hard to imagine the match wasn't a friendly put on to assuage some individuals who had been eager for the showcase fixture. The goals flowed easily amid the evening's flurry of snow beneath the floodlights, the fans cheering for the multiple moments when the ball crashed into the back of the net in their favour before huddling together back under the warmth of their thermals and bright coloured jackets. On to their own start to see if they couldn't meet the dominant side for a showdown.
Some Sao Paulo supporters had managed to make the trip north to South East Canada. Dribs and drabs they came through Toronto Pearson International Airport, the sight of the South Americans who could afford the trip garbed in the same striking mishmash of colours and thick wools they had likely bought especially for the occasion amusing to the locals.

View attachment 373853 An orange ball and a pitch still clearing as the snowfall thankfully stopped that morning to allow it to begin to clear. -3 degrees Celsius, the whole Sao Paulo squad was freezing as they stood awaiting the kick off in their gloves and two or three layers, knees shivering against the open air if they weren’t wearing leggings.

They might have looked as if they wanted to be anywhere but there, the ground still softening up as lingering patches of thin snow still clung to the grass to give it a dull white haze from the right angles; but they started with some intent against their Semi Final opposition – Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia.

Two from Jorginho Paulista who had beforehand already scored 52 goals all season, a new club record; in the 38[SUP]th[/SUP] and 59[SUP]th[/SUP] minutes. Sao Paulo then sat back thinking the work was done, save their legs and try to wait out the freezing cold till they could disappear back inside to the warmth.

It was easy to imagine the Manager’s red faced frustration and anger then when they let their performance slip so far that two goals were brought back from their Middle East opponents. In the 82[SUP]nd[/SUP] and 85[SUP]th[/SUP] minutes Randall Wright of the underdogs for the tie bagged a quick brace, giving their equally sparse travelling fans the belief that they might run all the way to the end of this tie as eventual winners.

Sharp words from the Brazilian technical area. Urgency instilled, Paulista took only 3 minutes to get his hat-trick in the 88[SUP]th[/SUP], and Gilvan rounded it off in the 90[SUP]th[/SUP] coming on for Bonfante to rest his legs.

4 – 2, a slight scare but thankfully job done and blushes spared. They set themselves up a dream final tie against a side who they were firm underdogs themselves, but win, and save the whole season for talk of what might have been in the league.

((Top Gun Anthem (Instrumental version without guitar) - YouTube))

View attachment 373854
21[SUP]st[/SUP] of December, the BMO Field once again in Toronto. -4 degrees; The Club World Cup Final, and the Champions League winners – Bayern Munich.

The perennial German champions were still the legendary threat they had been for decades, quality and strength throughout their squad, they boasted some of the best players in the world as always; German talent who could have walked into any side and ousted whoever might have been in their favoured position.

Only the faithful were betting on the men from sunny Sao Paulo, the freezing cold would suit the Münchner easily; Germany each winter suffered the same blanket of white much of Europe fell under. And whilst Sao Paulo were at the end of the infuriatingly long Brazilian season, Bayern were just approaching their winter break, fresh from the few months of football they’d had to warm up with and conquer a week at a time.

~Portuguese~ “End of the season, end of the year” He started, looking at the eleven all kitted up ready to go, the rest kept their training tops and coats tightly on to stave off the freezing temperatures. “Big big game hey? Bayern Munich! Champions of Europe, world renown.”

A few of the younger players jiggled their legs up and down with some early nerves, feeling the pressure of trying to gain anything against such a powerful team. The Germans as they had for a long time didn’t quite favour the short sharp passing the Latin teams enjoyed, whilst they were capable of stringing together slick sharp passing, it was the combination of pace and raw muscle that saw the German game constantly produce results.

~Portuguese~ “They’re going to bully you a bit, or at least some of you. Don’t be tempted to dive; the referee won’t stand for it. When playing in Brazil its one thing to go down easily, but internationally I’m afraid the reputation of Latino teams precedes them. Stand up to them, fight for every ball, keep running to keep the cold off. Do your best!!” He grinned with a pump of his fist. The players let go of excited expressions of their own, studs clattering to the tiles beneath as they started to shout some self encouragement.

~Portuguese~ “You did the business in Argentina to become the Champions of South America….we’re in Canada now…it’s cold as **** and the opponents are heavy hitters, but win and you’ll be champions….” He gave them a quick scan of his head along the ranks sat on the benches looking ready to get out there “Of what?!”

~Portuguese~ “The World!” Shouted a few.

~Portuguese~ “Of what?!!!” He repeated, not enough of them shouting it back.

“O MUNDO!!!!” They boomed together in unison, everyone climbing to their feet, steely fierce expressions as they looked as ready as they’d ever be.

It wasn’t strictly true, the competition was still important, but Champions of the World really was a title afforded only to the winner of the World Cup. He wouldn’t let them know that unless it went to their heads should they upset the odds.

The referee blew the whistle to get them underway, and as the mostly Canadian crowd all enjoying this treat of a game of ‘soccer’, the pockets of Sao Paulo and Bayern Munich fans roared their support to try and instil yet more passion and desire to their teams.

“Bereits Sao Paulo sind sie suchen schnell auf den Ball, clever vorbei zwischen Bonfante und Sangweni, links und recht. Bayern München mehr arbeiten müssen als sie vielleicht denken.”

The Manager could hear over the sparse crowd of actual supporters to the teams playing the commentators delivering their bits to the fans all likely congregated back home, the Germans with their descriptive language he thought, counter to the Latin way of commentating The Manager had always found both funny and irritating. Why they felt the need whenever a goal sunk in to exhaust their lungs with just that one literal word to describe the event was a mystery to him; once or twice it was fine and a laugh, but watch a 3 all draw and it became tiresome quickly.

((Transformers: The Score - Downtown Battle - YouTube))

What he could only assume the German commentator was detailing was that Sao Paulo were in fact looking fired up for this, and on the ball they were making life very difficult indeed for the German Champions.
Seemingly ready for the blitz wing play the Manager made his various teams play, this Sao Paulo one was well known to have been no exception as they had slowly brow beat the various factions of Brazilian football into respecting the tactics.

However ready to combat the runs out wide, the one twos bypassing each defender as they came; Sao Paulo weren’t playing that way at all. Sangweni received it out wide, looked to go down the line, offloaded it inside to Bonfante before sprinting square to the play.
The left back didn’t know whether to follow or stick to his position and cover the gap that would form. Back to Sangweni it went down the left of the attack now, Mao switching sides in a flash with the dangerous forward. Out to Sangweni it went as Claudio dropped back a step to throw off his marker, Nkanyiso took a touch, looked to go down the line again before sending it back to the captain without looking.

Bayern’s defence were in danger of ball following, and as the move paid off as it was meant to Bonfante lurched into the space he had opened up at the edge of the Munich area; a look up as the fraction he had worked left a channel through the back four to have a pop, his effort no surprise as his intent upon receiving it clear. The outside of the post and out for a goal kick, the crowd ‘ooo’ing’ at the near moment in the play.

The Bayern Manager got to his feet and issued some instructions. The early scare had woken up the German side, but the added words of instruction from their tactician helped the favourites to settle down and relax in the fast paced game. Sao Paulo kept up the unconventional shifting play, but the two central midfielders of Munich stuck back into holding roles, and suddenly the space was all but gone for each Brazilian attacking move.

Both teams fought through to half time, Sao Paulo wearing themselves out somewhat, the Germans soaking up the pressure with relative ease. Pats on the back for a good effort for the first 45 minutes, and words of more of the same to try and keep the fine performance of getting at them going.

Yet as they came back out and lined up, it was clear that the Germans were a different side. One substitute and their formation had changed. Clearly planning made over the whole first half had been put into effect early to try and turn the game around, and it worked, though how well naturally on its own would be difficult to tell.

The 46[SUP]th[/SUP] minute Alberto went down hard on the tough ground, a crunching challenge from the Bayern winger leaving him rolling around briefly before signalling to the bench with a slightly desperate arm.
The physios helped him to avoid the stretcher and limp off with their shoulders for balance; hopefully it wouldn’t be too bad.

The 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] choice right back for Sao Paulo wasn’t fit for the game as an end of league training injury had meant he’d be back only for the new season to come. Damian Lombardi, not comfortable or familiar with the position at all got to his feet and stripped off. If he was worried about holding the position he hid it well, but the Manager and staff knew they would be weak down that side for the whole second half now; and so did Bayern.

View attachment 373867 Play restarted and the winger cut down that same side in a flash as Bayern won back the ball with some startling pressure, in swung the cross and Aykut Kiram powered it home without any trouble at all for Munich. They ran to their faction in the crowd to celebrate with one another; not an overawed sense about the scenes they were creating, it felt all very much the way things should be against this South American side.

Sao Paulo heads dipped. The Manager raced to the edge of his technical area as if he had had the rage put in him in a moment.

~Portuguese~ “Heads up NOW!!!” He cried, the words were almost echoed by Bonfante who was taking similar action himself, the Argentine’s hands smashing together to help the point home.

~Portuguese~ “We can still do this!!” The captain cried, the Manager nodded to him as he took a look to his bench. Players all around him started to puff their chests out and focus their minds on the job still at hand.

He got to the centre spot for the kick off, passed it back as Paulista touched it to him upon the whistle, and immediately started to run into the space. A Bayern player came right across, eager to the mark the talismanic attacking midfielder and cut out the danger; he dug his heels in and started running in the opposite direction, as if there was a fire chasing him down a tunnel or big cat about to pounce and destroy him.

The ball gradually ricocheted about the Sao Paulo midfield, always staying clear of the challenges coming in, yet Bonfante still nowhere near it kept working the space, keeping the defenders off guard and having to look to him as if at any moment he could receive it and do some damage.

“Markieren ihn!!!” Cried one of the towering centre backs, a point to his counterparts covering the back as Bonfante continued. The movement just a distraction as each time he received the ball he offloaded it with a single touch.

But all it took was one moment where the back four took their minds off the play, just one instance where their attentions were elsewhere. Sangweni burst beyond the back four in time with a searching ball from Galvan, a beautiful take as he bore down on the goal without another man to beat.
The German supporters clutched at the seat in front as the lethal Brazilian sized up against the bulky Germany national team keeper, the rapid wide legged evacuation from the goal to close down the angle what the block headed man was famous for. Nkanyiso feigned a touch to the side, the keeper read it; the shot smacked against a flat palm to bounce away.

Mao slid his way past the defender trying to latch onto the end of it, the man nearly 33 years old finding pace from somewhere in his locker as he took no touch to make things easier; one half volley stroke with the side of his foot and it was beyond all into the back of the net!

((Rocky IV (Vince DiCola Score) - War (Film Version) - YouTube))

1 – 1, 58 minutes. Bayern scratched their heads as to how he’d managed to open up such a gap behind their lines, the stands marvelled over how the game they were witnessing just livened up into a contest again. It seemed that everyone was forgetting how several of the players in this Sao Paulo side were representatives for their country, and no one doubted the credentials of the Brazilian national team.

As they lined back up, the Manager called out his words of encouragement to add to the momentum building. ~Portuguese~ “Run with this now! Take the game to them again!!”

Sao Paulo attacked and attacked, the Germans were on the counter attack when they got the odd chance, but they no longer looked like threatening as each ball that found its way to an attacker in their grey away shirts were set upon by two Brazilian faces easily more hungry to obtain the prized globe.

The game might have shifted when just gone an hour Sangweni was clattered into hard for a challenge that meant not a lot. A yellow card for the Bayern player, but Sao Paulo's in form striker out wide couldn’t continue.
Juarez Jandoso on, big shoes to fill on such an occasion, but he looked as though he wanted the chance more than anything, especially now that the momentum and flow was with them.

Right away as if eager to introduce himself to the international audience to the fixture, Jandoso took a pass out on his right wing, cut inside, back outside as he weaved away from the rash slide challenge looking to put the fear in him and unleashed a shot across goal.
Heading all the way for the far top corner, the keeper got up to fist it clear of his net as the Sao Paulo backup came charging in just too soon. They cleared their lines, but they knew as well as anyone that it was only a matter of time without a change.
~Portuguese~ “Come on!!! Attack!” Roared Bonfante as the ball went out for a sloppy goal kick.

70 minutes passed, Sao Paulo hit the post low on the right, the ‘Ooooo’s’ coming out again as the woodwork saved Bayern Munich from the embarrassment that might follow. Their boss got up again, the substitutes board went up as warmed fresh legs came on to try and turn things on their head.

Sao Paulo made a change of their own.

75[SUP]th[/SUP] minute, Bonfante grazed the roof of the net with a skimming shot from far back, the keeper beaten it just wouldn’t dip in time.

80[SUP]th[/SUP] minute. Douglas turned to the Manager who finally retook his seat. “We’re out of substitutes; if this goes to extra time I think they’ll be too exhausted to resist a strong counter attack.”

“The thought had occurred. You suggesting that we pull back and soak up the pressure now to save legs for the possible extra 30 minutes?”

“It’s a viable strategy against them.”

He cradled his chin in his hand as an attack of theirs came to nothing. Mao was looking dead on his feet, and Bonfante was regularly slowing to a walk whenever the play was sent away from him, heavy breaths to try and keep himself going.

“No, if we lose this momentum we’ll lose the game. The Germans will favour a penalty shoot out, but if they get a decent free kick or corner it could all be over, and if they score it will be for sure.” He got back to his feet, last 10 minutes. Cupping his hands he boomed to the players yet again. “Atacar!!!!!!”

Lombardi took the ball back on the right side, he wasn’t going to surge forward like Alberto might, but as Jandoso signalled and made his run he looked to his options. Out to the left and Nikao as he switched the play, the Brazilian left back moved up, offloaded before a late challenge.

Play on! Waved the referee as Galvan pushed up. He too went down under a boot of a Munich player.

Two yellow cards came out; Sao Paulo presided over the free kick near the centre spot. Bonfante came jogging over. Hands flicking left and right, they all nodded to one another as he moved off to go up the pitch, one more deep deep breath to give himself the energy for the move.

Parades took it, across to Lombardi again. The makeshift right back took a touch, down to Jandoso, across to Bonfante as he suddenly rushed into the space waiting, his marker two steps trailing behind.
The captain turned in an instant and gave it out to Mao who was looking like this was it for him he was so tired; an injection of pace and he was beyond the outstretched foot of the right back, eyes toward the box, he crashed his left boot against it.

Sao Paulo were still finding their way into the box, the keeper came out looking confident it would be dealt with. Up the gloved stopper got, a couple of fingers pushing it on, Paulista climbed high but couldn’t reach it.

“It’s long!” The Manager found himself saying as Douglas came to stand beside him. Jandoso hanging back in a moment turned on the acceleration, seizing upon the free ball as it came back out the other side of the box. Bayern Munich mobilized, looking to bare down upon him and clear it once and for all. The first man stood up tall, the balls of his feet ready to go left or right; Jandoso flicked it to the right, over the ball rolled his foot to trap it and slide left.

The man beaten in a flash, he turned to the goal! The angle was so tight, all defenders were closing the gaps and the keeper across to his near post. Yet the youngster who wasn’t known for his prolific shooting saw something no one else watching did.

Like Lionel Messi, Pele, Van Basten…name any of your favourite legends. He clipped it with the outside of his right boot, up like a flick, spinning inward like a curled effort. The defenders wheeled about in unison as it lifted over their heads, the keeper back peddling along his line, he got up, flapped – to no avail.

Against the side netting and under the bar. Sao Paulo took the lead in the 87[SUP]th[/SUP] minute with a truly brilliant goal from a player no one expected it to ever produce such magic.

They tore away toward the stunned winger, himself disbelieving that he’d hit it so well! The small contingent of fans all the way from the Southern Hemisphere danced in the stands with pure joy, vindication for spending the money they could or couldn’t afford to witness the game first hand.

Sullen and defeated, Bayern Munich had been beaten the moment the momentum of the entire half shifted; now with three minutes of normal time, they shot from 50 yards out high into the stands, from out wide on the right almost hitting the opposite corner flag; and tested Paulo in goal from the edge of the box.

Sao Paulo just wouldn’t be beaten.

((John Parr-Restless Heart(Running Away With You) - YouTube))


The players threw themselves into each others arms, jumped into great bundles and ran to the section of supporters all making similar scenes to those of their own. The Manager and Douglas grabbed the coaches and substitutes as they all jumped up and down together with delight.

What an upset for the South Americans to beat such a team as Bayern! And it wasn’t even in a manner such as a stolen victory, they had well and truly earned it in a determined and gritty fashion, adapting and working the defence until they eventually cracked. But even so, despite dominating much of such a game, it had still taken a moment of sheer genius from one of their individuals to seal the momentous win which would raise the name of Sao Paulo FC to even greater heights.

They’d been there before in their history, having beaten Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona team in 1992, and Fabio Capello’s AC Milan in 1993. It wasn’t until 2005 then against Liverpool that they won the cup again, and since that nothing.

Claudio Bonfante took the Club World Cup into his hands with some pride and clear enjoyment, having a quick look to all of the players congregated either side behind him, he looked back to the front from the platform they’d built for the celebration in a hurry, and held it high above his head, the white paper shower launching above their heads to trickle down as white jets of smoke plumed out behind the scenes.

The Manager leant across to Douglas to speak in his ear as music blasted from speakers dotted around, and the shouts and cries of elation from the players and stands nearby deafened all momentarily.

“Now it gets difficult” He said simply. His assistant looked over, raising an eyebrow to the choice of words.

“Sorry? We won a huge trophy, wasn’t that difficult?”

“Call it a feeling; the board, the test to come this next season. We might win it all, but I think this next season will define our futures at this club.”

Douglas wanted to answer that, but didn’t. He shut his mouth and gave an understanding nod. Inside he knew what his friend meant, as they each watched the jumping chants from the squad all in dreamland, they knew all too well that expectations would climb higher still, and with the board they had that meant only trouble on the road ahead.



Brazilian League: Cruzeiro 1[SUP]st[/SUP]
Copa Libertadores Places: Sao Paulo (Copa Libertadores Winners) 2[SUP]nd[/SUP], Fluminense (Brazil Cup Winners) 5[SUP]th[/SUP], Cruzeiro 1[SUP]st[/SUP], Corinthians 3[SUP]rd[/SUP].
Copa Libertadores Preliminary Round Places: Flamengo 4[SUP]th[/SUP], Botafogo 6[SUP]th[/SUP].
Sao Paulo State Championship: Corinthians
Copa Libertadores: Sao Paulo
Copa Scudamerica: Boca Juniors
South America Recopa: Boca Juniors
Club World Championship: Sao Paulo
 
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Next post for the first half of the following season almost ready to be posted and beautified. I've pretty much given up trying to find appropriate Brazilian music to fit to it, going to keep running with the glory of music history that is the 80's; if anyone has any objections voice them now :p Preferably with some suggestions for suitable music to fit a football story.

I swear its so hard to find something worthwhile which fits this kind of stuff from outside the film industry and 80's, Ghana it's all traditional drums and modern rap, Brazil I can't get past Bossanova.
Don't believe me? If you're ears can stand to take the damage knock yourself out with the- FT. Asamoah Gyan rap song I found when taking the Black Stars to victory: CASTRO FT ASAMOAH GYAN (BABY JET) - AFRICAN GIRLS (Full version) [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - YouTube
You were warned...

P.S. I hate rap.
 
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