By Tim Cowman
Here is part 2 of Tims article. To read part 1 click the relevant link at the end of the article.
A decent sized crowd had turned out for the tie, though were dwarfed by the overpowering concrete structure. The lack of fans could be explained by the fact that Gremio can be found in the state of Rio Grande do Sul a seven hour flight south of Teresina. That's some away trip for a domestic competition and Brazil is definitely not a place for Dennis Bergkamp to play his football. Premiership sides in the UK still don't fancy traveling to lower league grounds for fear of a giant killing but imagine having to cover over 4000 km to play against a side never previously registered with the CBF(Brazilian FA) in a city famed as the hottest in Brazil. Due to the distances involved an innovative approach has been introduced to the competition with the bigger team always having to play away first and if they win by two clear goals then a replay is not required. So Gremio had a large incentive to get the job done and Piaui, if they kept it respectable, could earn themselves a big day out.
Whatever rules were in place the local side looked up against from the moment the draw was made but matters were made ten times worse when five players withdrew the day before the start of the match due to a disagreement over finances. There was a rumor racing through the terraces that the subs bench was made up entirely of local lads picked up off the streets. In the week following the game this was reveled to be true as it turns out on the morning of the game local trials were held across the city and the lucky players selected.
Whatever selection history the side had from the offset they looked the better side, attacking with flair on the break and defending well in numbers. The goalkeeper, kitted out in what looked like a set of pyjamas, was the only exception to this rule as he set about aiding the opposition. His antics in the box were more beach volleyball than football and fueled speculation that the Piaui management didn't want to win due to lack of funds for the second leg plane tickets. When we went one nil down to a scrappy goal against the run of play a sigh of inevitability went around the ground from the one night only crowd.
Due to the lack of depth on the bench a key point was always going to be the ability of the physio and it was bizarrely him who bought the crowd back to life. At the faintest sign of injury he would race from the dugout faster than any player on show. With his bag of tricks in hand his leg speed was something that has never been seen previously outside of the road runner cartoon. One particular highlight was when there was a player down at either end to which he responded by covering the enter length of the pitch in a time that would give Thierry Henry a run for his money. This was all done to the back drop of cheers and hoots of laughter from the entire crowd.
Unfortunately his magic didn't rub off on the players and though playing some neat football the local side slipped to 2-nil down. Gremio securing their lucky second goal from a corner with the goalkeeper flapping at what must have been a swarm of bees as the ball entered the net. When a dubious penalty was awarded to the away team it looked as if the game was heading ominously towards a heavy defeat. With the goaly's previous efforts to go on no one in the ground was holding their breath, but the clown came good with a sterling save low to his right. The turning point had come as minutes later Piaui scored the goal of the match, sweeping down the right with a sweet one touch passing move, finished with a wicked cross which was banged in first time with a crisp side footed volley. With a 2-1 result in the bag Piaui had earned the return leg they richly deserved with all costs covered by the CBF.
Two weeks after the game I found myself eagerly checking out the result of the second leg on the web (I couldn't quite justify the 14hr return trip to the Mrs). For the record Piaui lost 4-0 but there's no disgrace in that as they really had nothing to lose. The manager had gone on record to say he would be using the same set of players and I hope they enjoyed their day in the south and for many their first flight. I am sure if you got a chance to talk to the side they would confirm that in this part of the world there is definitely some romance left in the cup, especially if you're from "the arsehole of the world".
(This article was originally published at http://www.futebolthebrazilianwayoflife.com)
Tim is based in São Paulo and is presently searching for employment opportunities in the areas of environmental business, journalism or education. He can be reached at email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous articles by Tim:
Brazil: The Romance of the Copa Brasil Part 2
Brazil: On the Road in the North East
Brazil: Teresina Part 3
Brazil: Teresina Part 2
Brazil: Teresina Part 1