Sport Club Internacional is one of Brazil’s most traditional football teams. At the beginning of every season, it’s considered by pundits to be among the favorites to win the Brazilian Serie A title. The high hopes from the off-season became bitter disappointment, though, as Internacional has been relegated to the second division – for the first time in team history.
When Internacional took the field to play Fluminense, it was already in a difficult spot. It had to win its game, and root against Vitória and Sport to escape from relegation. During no point in the match, though, the team gave the impression that it could do its part. Internacional was a beaten team, with no will to fight for a score.
At the end of the first half, Internacional’s goalkeeper Danilo made a penalty save, giving fans some hope. But it didn’t last long. The dagger came at the 72nd minute when Fluminense scored 1-0. From that moment on, Internacional players quit. Players didn’t even bother to run on the field.
The apathy displayed by the squad didn’t match the importance of the game, nor the history of Internacional.
During the last few minutes, the team managed to tie the score with a long-distance shot. But it was too little, too late.
Last week, Internacional’s president Vitorio Piffero called for an early ending of the 2016 season. After defending the cancellation of the tournament’s last matches, he declared that without playing them, the league would be “incomplete” and it would be “unfair” to relegate Internacional. Players of the team have also held a press conference, stating that they were not in any emotional conditions to play.
Naturally, the club has suffered an enormous backlash. Fans – including Internacional fans – have accused the team of trying to profit from the Chapecoense tragedy. Following these repercussions, the team released a statement saying it never tried to tamper with the Brazilian league.
Piffero has said, however, that Internacional will not give up from trying to annul its relegation through a court of justice. It has filed a legal motion to take points away from Vitória, another team fighting relegation.
A proud history
Founded in 1909, it was the first southern club to accept players of African descent – at a time when football was a sport for the white, wealthy members of society. At the time, the team received the nickname of “People’s Club.”
Just ten years ago, Internacional had the world at its feet. After winning the Copa Libertadores, it faced Barcelona at the FIFA Club World Cup final. The thrilling match ended with a 1-0 victory, making Internacional one of the few Brazilian teams to be crowned World Champions.
Until 2016, Inter remained as one of the only five Brazilian teams to have not played in lower divisions. For years, pundits singled the team out as a model of good management and efficient play. Now, it will have to reinvent itself and rise from the ashes. But there’s good news – as other teams (like Corinthians and Palmeiras) have proven, this goal is possible.