Sunday was a fairy tale for fans of Brazilian club Corinthians.
The last few years have not been easy for the giant club, probably the second most popular in the country. In 2012, they finally won the Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League, and rounded off the year by beating Chelsea and becoming Club World Cup champions. A period of supremacy seemed assured.
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This was the the club of the new Brazilian establishment, counting on the fanatical support of former president Luiz Inacio Lula de Saliva. And another dream was about to be fulfilled. Corinthians played in Pacaembu stadium — well located near the heart of Sao Paulo, but municipally owned and often shared with Sao Paulo, Palmeiras and Santos. For decades, plans had been thwarted for Corinthians to get their own home, but thanks to the 2014 World Cup, the wait was over. A new ground was built in Itaquera, on the east of the city, and once Brazil ’14 was over, it would belong to Corinthians. The good times were about to roll.
And there have been some good times. Corinthians won the Brazilian Championship in real style in 2015 — a triumph that catapulted coach Tite into the Brazil national team job — and repeated the feat in more pragmatic fashion 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 run into problems. Having their own stadium was all very well. Paying for it, though, had become a massive headache. It proved a drain on the club’s finances to such an extent that the mighty club have been forced to become a low-budget organisation, with obvious consequences on the field.
A few years ago, the idea of Corinthians in the middle of the league table would have been seen as a disaster. At the moment, though, it even comes as something of a relief. The club have been looking anxiously over their shoulder at the relegation zone in recent times.
To make matters worse, historic rivals Palmeiras have found a much better way to handle the transition into a new (in this case rebuilt) stadium. And backed by a wealthy sponsor, they have been able to assemble a deep squad and challenge for the top silverware. They were Brazilian champions in 2018, and are poised to make it to the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores for the second time in three years.
If there was one consolation for Corinthians fans, it has been the problems of their other city rivals, Sao Paulo. Long held up as an example of a well-administered club, in recent times Sao Paulo have been in turmoil. Their only title in over a decade is the Copa Sudamericana (South America’s Europa League equivalent) back in 2012. So Corinthians fans could find comfort in the way that Sao Paulo accumulated frustrations and humiliations.
But in the last few months, with bold coach Fernando Diniz finally managing to find the right balance for his team, Sao Paulo have soared to the top of the league table. They made their way to the new Corinthians stadium on the back of a 17-game unbeaten run in the league which had left them seven points clear of their nearest challenger.
But Corinthians found hope in an unlikely quarter. Some fans with time on the hands and desperation in their hearts had stumbled upon a statistical quirk. In the 15 years of Taylor Swift’s musical career, Corinthians were unbeaten in the game immediately before and after every album she released. And on the Friday before the match, the country singer released her ninth album ‘Evermore’ — a name which might even refer to the effectiveness of the spell she evidently places on Corinthians.
Because it worked again. Sao Paulo were unusually sluggish, while Corinthians were fearless, and were well worth their 1-0 victory.
Supporters of Corinthians will be anxiously awaiting Swift’s next release. But unless the pop star starts churning out a new album every week, Corinthians will need to find other sources of inspiration to turn their fortunes around.