José Roberto ToreroA Corinthiano friend of mine asked me how the hell I became a Santista. It happened this way: when I was nine I still had not decided what team I would follow. And that was very good because it created a certain tension within my family.
My uncle Mauro always told me I should be a Palmeiras fan, because green was the most beautiful color in the whole world. But since the color reminded me of lettuce, chayote, chicory, and other vegetables I was forced to eat, his argument was not that effective.
My grandmother, on the other hand, was a hardcore Corinthians fan. She used to listen to games on her portable radio and screamed every time someone scored a goal. However, since Corinthians had not win a title in a long time (this was around 1974 and their drought was still going to last for three more years), she did not have good arguments to convince me. She only said that it was very good to be a Corinthiana, even with all the losses. But I was still too young to get into metaphysics.
My father always tried to gain my sympathy by saying that Santos was the team from my city. The problem is that a child does not have a fully developed regionalist sentiment, making the argument weak.
Since no one could convince me with their words, they tried wooing me with gifts. I started to get all these key chains, board games, and stamps. But since all of them gave me lots of soccer junk, the competition was fierce.
One night, however, my father told me to get ready that he was taking me to the Vila Belmiro. He said that a very important game was taking place and I had to watch it.
I thought the stadium was spectacular. I had never seen so many people together. I also had never seen so many flags and lights. It was a mixture of music, fireworks, and screams. It was both wild and beautiful.
I was having a lot of fun with all that but the game was not that good. Suddenly, however, a Santos player got down on his knees in the middle of the field and silence took over the stadium, as if no one could believe what they saw. Then all the fans stood up and started to clap. The player opened his arms and faced all the four sides of the stadium on his knees. I looked back and saw everyone in tears. Worse than that, I looked to my father and the man was crying. My father was crying?! That was something I had never seen or imagined in my whole life. I asked him what was going on. He told me that the man on his knees was going to stop playing. “Is he going to stop because he is too bad?” – I asked.
“No, he is the best in the world,” my father answered with his eyes wet with tears. I did not understand that logic: “if he is the best in the world why would he stop playing?” My father did not answer me, just kept staring at the field. Maybe he also did not know the answer. Neither did the millions of other men crying at the Vila Belmiro, who were turning their seats into waterfalls.
When the game restarted, with my father still sad and silent, I decided I had to do something to cheer him up. I kept thinking what could make him happier than anything else. I thought over and over when an idea finally came to my mind. I said: “Dad, I think I’m gonna be a Santos fan.” He looked at me, cleaned his tears, put his arms around my shoulder and smiled, not saying a single word. But he didn’t need to. At that moment I noticed I had replaced Pelé. It was like that, in the saddest day of the history of my team, that I became a Santista.