It was October 2016, and there was a championship final that few people were talking about. Corinthians, which had resumed its investment in women’s football in a partnership with Audax, would face the traditional São José for the title of the Copa do Brasil. The game would be at José Liberatti, in Osasco, and, at the last minute, I got a ride there.
I went in the car of the captain of Brazil’s first Olympic medal in women’s football, former defender Juliana Cabral. Alongside my adventure partner, Roberta Nina, we went to cover our first championship final at this beginning of the Dibradoras road, accompanying the women on the field. Lu Castro, one of the pioneers in covering the sport, was also with us. Among the major vehicles, only Gabriela Moreira, a reporter for ESPN at the time, was present at the venue.
The stadium was empty. You could count the number of fans present on your fingers. It would be difficult even if it were different, since at that time there was very little talk about women’s football around. People barely knew that there were games, championships, where they took place, which teams were involved, which channel they were shown on (when they were shown).
It was Corinthians’ first title in this new women’s football project, still under the name Corinthians Audax.
Cut to 2022, September 24th. More than 41 thousand people attended the Neo Química Arena, in Itaquera, to watch the final of the Brazilian women’s competition between Corinthians and Internacional. The team from São Paulo was four times champion in view of the South American attendance record for women’s soccer games between clubs. But some characters in this story that began in 2016 are still the same.
Arthur Elias is the coach responsible for a team that has gone down in history as one of the most successful of all time. Cris Gambaré is the director who managed, little by little, to change the perception of Corinthians leaders so that they bet on women’s football.
At the time, Aline Pellegrino was the club’s coordinator and dreamed of one day seeing the stands full for women. Last Saturday, she saw it. As CBF competitions manager, the former captain of the national team was also on the field witnessing the success of what she started to build and in which she never stopped believing.
Corinthians, which had a difficult season full of injuries, changed the team’s tactics in the semifinals (Arthur Elias always has a plan), surprised opponents, had its star player (Gabi Zanotti) play in the sacrifice and showed the collective strength of its squad to win another title.
Internacional made a historic campaign, mixing the experience of veterans like Fabi Simões and Bruna Benites with the talent of youngsters like Duda Sampaio, and reached an unprecedented final. A team of great intensity in the marking and precise in the dead balls.
There were two very high level games that defined the title of a historic Brazilian Championship. The tenth edition of the tournament had an unprecedented final, in two World Cup stages, with audience records broken, an award that finally increased, and a large audience on open and closed TV.
If in 2016 Corinthians won its first title in women’s football with a practically empty stadium and few journalists (mostly independent vehicles) recording the feat, today it reaches its 12th trophy with a packed grandstand and more than 300 accreditation requests to cover the Final.
There is still a lot to evolve. Many still turn up their noses at women’s football. Press professionals even insist on “not knowing how to talk” about it as if it were something from another world, or as if it didn’t have enough relevance to inform themselves about. One day they will find out what they are missing.