Sunday is a fairy tale for fans of Brazilian club Corinthians.
The last few years have not been easy for a giant club, perhaps the second most popular in the country. In 2012, they finally won the Copa Libertadores, the South American Champions League, and ended the year with a beat Chelsea and won the Club World Cup. A period of supremacy seemed guaranteed.
This is a newly established club in Brazil, counting on the fanatical support of former president Luiz Inacio Lula de Saliva. And another dream will come true soon. Corinthians play at the Pacaembu stadium – well located near the heart of Sao Paulo, but owned by the city government and often shared with Sao Paulo, Palmeiras and Santos. For decades, plans had been foiled for Corinthians to get their own home, but thanks to the 2014 World Cup, the wait has ended. New land was built in Itaquera, to the east of the city, and once Brazil ’14 is over, it will belong to Corinthians. The good times will roll in soon.
And there are good times. Corinthians won the Brazilian Championship in real style in 2015 – a victory that catapulted coach Tite into the job of the Brazilian national team – and repeated the feat in a more pragmatic manner two years later. They also won the local Sao Paulo title three years in a row between 2017-2019.
But their ‘East Side Story’ had a problem. Having your own stadium is great. Paying for it, however, has been a tremendous headache. It proved to drain club finances to such an extent that a mighty club was forced into a low-budget organization, with obvious consequences on the pitch.
A few years ago, the idea of Corinthians in the middle of the league table would have been seen as a disaster. However, at this moment, it even felt like a relief. The club have been looking anxiously over their shoulder in the relegation zone of late.
Even worse, historic rivals Palmeiras have found a much better way to handle the transition to a new (in this case rebuilt) stadium. And supported by rich sponsors, they have been able to put together a deep squad and challenge for the top trophy. They were champions of Brazil in 2018, and are set to advance to the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores for the second time in three years.
If there is one consolation for Corinthians fans, it is the problem of their other city rivals, Sao Paulo. Long held as an example of a well-run club, Sao Paulo has recently been in turmoil. Their only title in more than a decade was the Copa Sudamericana (South America’s Europa League equivalent) in 2012. So Corinthians fans can find comfort in the way Sao Paulo amasses frustration and humiliation.
But in recent months, with brave coach Fernando Diniz finally finding the right balance for his side, Sao Paulo has soared to the top of the league standings. They go to the new Corinthians stadium with a 17-game unbeaten run in the league that puts them seven points clear of their closest challengers.
But Corinthians found hope in an unexpected quarter. Some fans with time on their hands and despair in their hearts have stumbled upon the game of stats. In Taylor Swift’s 15 year musical career, Corinthians was unbeatable in the game before and after every album she released. And on the Friday before the match, the country singer released her ninth album ‘Evermore’ – a name that might even refer to the effectiveness of the spell she had clearly placed on Corinthians.
Because it worked again. Sao Paulo was very slow, while Corinthians were fearless, and deserved their 1-0 win.
Corinthians supporters will be anxiously awaiting Swift’s next release. But unless the pop star starts making a new album every week, Corinthians will need to find other sources of inspiration to change their fortunes.