RIO DE JANEIRO: As Carlos Alberto Parreira started his third stint as coach of Brazil in yesterday's friendly in China, the club he left behind are struggling to adapt to life without him.
Corinthians, who claim to be Brazil's second most popular club after Flamengo, won two major trophies last year and also reached the final of the Brazilian championship where they were beaten by a revitalised Santos.
The credit for those achievements went largely to Parreira, who, it was said, had made the most of an unremarkable squad of players.
With Parreira gone, the team's weaknesses are starting to be exposed and tensions are rising between the club's army of fans and their directors.
Fan frustration first came to a head during last week's Libertadores Cup match at home to Mexico's Cruz Azul, when they jeered Parreira's replacement Geninho despite their team's 1-0 win.
In turn, controversial football vice-president Antonio Roque Citadini hit out at the fans, saying that he would raise ticket prices for the next Libertadores home match so that if the supporters wanted to protest, it would cost them.
Citadini threatened to raise prices for the so-called “numeradas” – the more expensive seats where he said the jeering had come from – from Real 30 (US$8.42) to Real 50 (US$14.04) for the match against Bolivia's The Strongest next month.
“Anyone who wants to boo will have to pay more to so,” he said.
The situation worsened on Sunday, when Corinthians were beaten 3-0 at home by Sao Caetano in the Paulista championship and the fans aimed their anger at Citadini.
But Citadini defiantly told the Jornal da Tarde on Tuesday that the protests had been orchestrated.
“I know who's criticising me,” he said. “They want to destabilise the players and they are jealous of the work I have done.”
Geninho, meanwhile, declined to get involved in the ticket row.
“It's an administrative problem,” he told reporters. “My job is on the field. I was hired to coach the football team and not to talk about ticket prices.”
The coach clearly has enough on his mind.
Although Corinthians boast an estimated 20 million fans around the country, they are not part of the elite club of Brazilian teams – Santos, Cruzeiro, Gremio, Sao Paulo, Flamengo and their most hated rivals Palmeiras. – Reuters