Pé quente—”hot foot”, they would call me. Taking in the atmosphere at the Estádio do Morumbi, I felt the sun beating down as surprised shrieks of happiness erupted among the support. A dramatic crescendo had been building in the 10 minutes since São Paulo grabbed a 3-2 lead against Cruzeiro.
“Why ‘hot foot?'” I asked. “You’re our lucky charm, it means luck!”
The Tricolor were not used to winning; their record of two wins in 15 attempts was a bad omen going into the game and they knew it. The crowd turned up early—the norm in Brazil. Fireworks let off in the car park, flags waving and thousands of fans singing, waiting for the club coach to arrive with their beloved players. The party atmosphere continued in the stadium, with 1,000 Cruzeiro away fans unable to make an indent into the 60,000-strong Sao Paulo crowd.
Early in the second half, however, the crowd changed. Sassa, the great up-and-coming striking talent, had concocted two goals from nothing, and one could suddenly hear the meagre Cruzeiro following. A hollowed hush fell about the crowd.
São Paulo have no spark, no real talent of note, and no leader able to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and take control. They’ve lost some seriously gifted players over the last couple of years, none more so than Ganso. He served as the club’s ticking heartbeat, and although his languid style hasn’t endeared him to his new employers in Sevilla, he has been greatly missed by his old teammates. Hernanes’ no.15 shirt seemed to have been worn by most of the crowd, and he delivered with two goals and an assist, including a fantastic free kick to open the scoring. A penalty and a corner crossed in made up the remaining two—nothing created in open play.
Lucas Pratto has never set the world alight and looked lonely upfront. Made to look better than the sum of his limited parts at Atletico Mineiro by the genius of Robinho and Fred—who have 139 international caps between them—he has nothing of that level of support at São Paulo. Gritty and workmanlike, they may grind out the odd result as they managed against Cruzeiro, but there’s no doubting that the club is in trouble, sitting just one place above the relegation zone having played a game more than nearest rivals Chapecoense.
A team like Fluminense on the other hand, just five points above Sao Paulo, can rest assured that they have the players to open up doors and create chances. Even having sold the tall, quick and skillful Richarlison to Watford recently, they still have great prospects in Gustavo Scarpa and Wendel at their disposal. Both players are capable of creating chances out of nothing, something São Paulo seriously lack.
In addition to the sale of Ganso, just this season alone they’ve offloaded talented winger Centurion, iconic centre-back Maicon and defensive midfield stalwart Thiago Mendes, bringing in £30m yet only spending £6m on replacements.
São Paulo, having finished in second just a few years ago, look like their on the slippery slop down to Série B—I can only apologise that I am not able to be there more often to offer my “hot foot” to their fans.