Know Thy Classics: O Derby

Felipao’s got a great Danny DeVito impression.

No, this is not a post about Irish football. South American futebol didn’t really go away over the interlull (many leagues play through since the majority of national team players come from European clubs), but they did have the decency to avoid scheduling any big rivalry games last weekend.

O Derby is one name for the Derby Paulista, the second most important classico in Brazil. This the biggest rivalry for the megacity of Sao Paulo, and pits reigning South American champions Corinthians against Palmeiras. I already mentioned Corinthians in a previous Know Thy Classics post, so I won’t talk about them much, but Palmeiras is a club you ought to know about.

For starters, Palmeiras is managed by Luis Felipe “Felipao” (Big Phil) Scolari, the former Portugal, Brazil and Chelsea manager. Besides winning the World Cup in 2002, Felipao is one of the great personalities of world soccer. Seriously, he’s a ticking time bomb. You never know when a journo is gonna rub him the wrong way in a presser and receive a flurry of insults and threats for his trouble. He’s a guy who doesn’t mind trading insults and flipped birds with the fans, and he’s super animated on the sidelines. Felipao makes Palmeiras matches watchable by his presence alone. Just go do a Google Images search for “felipao”. Hilarity ensues.

O Verdao (“Big Green”) was formed in 1914 by a group of Italian immigrants (paging Orr) as Palestra Italia, and the team’s original colors were red, white and green (like the Italian flag, see?). The name was changed in 1942 to Palmeiras because Brazil sided with the Allies during WWII. So, you know, Il Duce and his countrymen weren’t very popular in Brazil at the time. These days, Palmeiras honors their history by wearing an away kit with the Italian colors.

The Paulista derby dates back to May of 1917, when Palestra Italia beat Corinthians 3-0. Palmeiras has the historical edge in the derby, with 121 wins to Corinthians’ 116. The biggest smackdown was delivered in 1933: Palestra Italia 8 Corinthians 0.

Having said all those nice things about Palmeiras, if you’re a betting man, you’ll want to have your money on Corinthians for Sunday’s match. Palmeiras is in the Brasileirao relegation zone, and you gotta figure Felipao’s job is on the line this week. Or maybe not. He led them to a Copa Brasil title in July, which gets the club a spot in next year’s Copa Libertadores. Corinthians are middle of the table roughly, but a heck of a lot better than their rivals. The big game is set for 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

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