Friday 13th: Lucky For Some, Especially Corinthians

While the rest of us labour to dodge black cats and avoid walking under ladders on this Friday the 13th, the passionate supporters of Brazil and the Americas’ biggest club – Corinthians Paulista – were celebrating one of the most important days in their history; buoyed by an incredibly long weekend of a public holiday that began yesterday with Childrens Day and a 3-1 home victory over Coritiba on Wednesday evening that kept them then ten points clear at the top of the Brazilian Serie A in the quest for their seventh national title overall.

Things weren’t always this rosy however, which is why Corintianos are so grateful for the events that conspired on that day, 40 years ago – and in turn broke a lengthy drought that had much to do with ushering in an era of modern day success that has them among South America’s most historic and successful teams.

Corinthians had enjoyed a frequent taste of silverware since their inception in 1910 at the behest of Spanish immigrants, who had been inspired by the touring Corinthian team from London and had the name suggested, albeit with an adding of an extra ‘s’, by the father of Brazilian football Charles Miller – the São Paulo-born son of a Scots railway worker and his English wife.

In the days before the Brasileirão was conceived, only the state and Rio-São Paulo cups existed, and in 1954 they lifted both of these titles before embarking on a two decade long drought that found them the ridicule of cross-city rivals such as Palmeiras and São Paulo FC.

Yet as part of a phenomenon practically unheard of, despite a ridiculous lack of fortune for a club of this magnitude that would have fickle fans of other outfits turn their back on their team, Corinthians continued to sell out stadiums and grow in popularity the longer the drought went on.

Though Barcelona may have coined the “more than a club” moniker, Corinthians is indeed just that for droves, 30 million at last counting, of predominantly lower, working-class fanáticos who embrace its identity as the ‘time do povo’ – the team of the people. The underdog. The downtrodden.

Though now sometimes thought of as a pre-season tournament of sorts, until the knockout stages which often throw up various clássicos as usually only the big teams are left, the Paulistão championship starts off by being split into four groups that often initially keep the giants of São Paulo football apart.

In ’77, however, there were a whopping three group phases to navigate. True to their reputation as ‘sofredores’ (sufferers), Corinthians were lucky to get through the first but coasted the second finishing top yet level on points with Ponte Preta of Campinas, a smaller city to the north west of São Paulo with just over a million inhabitants.

Then, a 1-0 victory over Palmeiras in the ‘final’ of the eliminatory phase saw the competition split into just two groups with the winner of each to meet in the real decider.

Again, Corinthians and Ponte Preta came out top dogs, setting up a two-legged showdown in São Paulo FC’s Estádio do Morumbi, where until quite recently the city’s teams played their biggest games as Corinthians and Palmeiras didn’t have stadiums big enough to justify the hosting of such spectacles.

Corinthians clinched the first-leg 1-0 thanks to an early goal from Palinha; sensing victory was near, a record 146,000 Corintianos filled the Morumbi for the second but were to be disappointed when Ponte Preta scooped a 2-1 victory that set up a dramatic and tense third-leg.

Naturally, Corinthians suffered to taste glory but, on 13 October 1977, an 81st minute winner from Basílio finally ended the curse. After this came the Socrates era and then finally a maiden Brasileirão in 1990, of which there have been five more since in addition to a 2012 Libertadores overseen by current national coach Tite, who then delivered the club’s second Mundial with a 1-0 victory over Champions League winners Chelsea in Tokyo later that year.

Though, it has been proven that Corinthians would still be the people’s team regardless of whether or not their trophy cabinet continued to be filled or not, this day will forever be commemorated by their fiel torcida (faithful support) as a turning point in club history with the phrase “77 Vive” (’77 Lives) their mantra.

 

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