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  • Writer's pictureIan Pulczynski

A fan club like no other - PIS, Palmeirenses In Sydney

Brazilian football fans are not widely recognised in Australia, yet they provide a unique atmosphere unmatched by any other international fan club.

PIS is the biggest Palmeiras fan club outside of Brazil. Source: PIS - Palmeirenses In Sydney Facebook

Cheers Bar is an iconic football setting in Sydney. Some of the city's most diehard football fans congregate to cheer on their respective sides.

The bar has official ties with Liverpool and Celtic fans, and on most Sunday mornings at 2am, the place is chockablock.

But on Palmeiras matchdays, the atmosphere is entirely different - it is on another level.

Front Page Football recently took a deep dive into one of the most passionate football fan clubs in Australia, PIS - Palmeirenses in Sydney, and how these fans provide an incredible atmosphere whilst being over 16,000km away from home.

But first, who are Palmeiras?

Founded in 1914, Palmeiras is one of the biggest and most successful clubs in Brazil and across the entire South American continent.

Palmeiras are one of the most successful clubs in South America. Source: Sky Sport UK

The Sao Paulo side has an impressive trophy cabinet, winning the Brazilian Série A ten times (a record), and four Copa do Brasil, as well as three Copa Libertadores trophies.

Palmeiras has been the birthplace of notorious Brazilian footballers, including Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, and Cafu.

They have an incredible following on social media, with 4.4 million followers on Facebook and 3.4 million followers on Instagram.

Their home ground is called Allianz Parque, which has a capacity of approximately 43,000 and was opened in 2014.

Most of their success has occurred in recent years. Palmeiras won the Brazilian Série A in 2016 and 2018 and the Copa Libertadores in 2020 and 2021.

As mentioned in our feature on SPFC Australia, the number of Brazilians moving to Australia has skyrocketed in recent years. With that, they bring their love for futebol with them.

Vinni Dias is one of many Brazilians who now call Australia home. He is also one of the founding directors of Palmeirenses in Sydney.

"We were the first Brazilian fan club in Sydney. We were established before any other Brazilian fan clubs had proper supporters, [and] we're entering our sixth year in March," he told FPF.

Vinni Dias (left) is one of the directors of PIS. Source: Vinni Dias

"Six years ago, I knew a bartender who worked at Cheers Bar, and he told me there are so many fan clubs using Cheers Bar as their home base, such as Liverpool and Celtic fans.

"When he asked the manager if there were any Brazilian clubs using the bar, the manager said no. So the bartender put posts in Facebook groups such as 'Brazilian community in Sydney', and from there it grew."

Despite not having as big a following in Sydney as Liverpool or Celtic fans, PIS is the loudest, having a wide range of flags and banners and playing the drums to create a fantastic atmosphere.

Drums, flags, and banners are popular items used by PIS for Palmeiras matches. Source: PIS - Palmeirenses In Sydney Facebook

"We're pretty crazy as a group," Dias continued.

"On matchdays, we have flags and drums, we sing, we drink beer; we try to make the same atmosphere like back home. We feel like sometimes they can hear us; we're that loud and passionate."

PIS has featured on Brazilian and Australian news channels and is officially recognised by the club.

"Outside of Brazil, we are the biggest Palmeiras fan club around the world," Dias added.

"We have a good relationship with the club itself. It was never our initial aim to be recognised, but as we grew, the official recognition came with time."

Apart from watching football matches together, there are several social events that Dias and other directors plan to engage with other Palmeiras supporters actively.

Supporters attend a PIS BBQ event. Source: PIS - Palmeirenses In Sydney Facebook

"We always do BBQs. We have done internal activities between ourselves, such as a mini-football tournament," he said.

"We once bought a big TV to a park in Maroubra, so we could watch a game there instead of Cheers Bar. We could do stuff at the park that you couldn't do at Cheers Bar like smoking, BYO drinks, and using flares."

The biggest event of PIS's history was the Copa Liberatodes Final in 2020 against fellow Brazilian side Santos FC.

With less than 18 days until the match on the 31st of January 2021, Dias and other directors were scrambling for last-minute ideas, as most venues were closed or restricted.

Palmeiras fans in Sydney. Source: PIS - Palmeirenses In Sydney Facebook

"After the semi-final win (against River Plate), we only had 18 days until the final to plan everything," Dias said.

"We could watch the game at a bar, but there were so many restrictions. We couldn't bring our drums [or] flags, and everyone had to be seated.

"But then we thought, why not hire a boat?"

And they did; Dias and other PIS directors rented a boat with a capacity of 250 people.

There were several issues that Dias worried about, including streaming the match live whilst being out on the water with limited internet connectivity.

At first, Dias was promised that all the fans would be seated to watch the game through a projector.

However, as the match unfolded and became more intense, PIS fans couldn't hold themselves and decided to take their shirts off, chant, jump, and light a few flares.

The celebrations even reached a Brazilian TV channel, showing the boat live as it sailed through Darling Harbour.

A documentary available on Youtube with English subtitles highlights everything about the event.

Palmeiras defeated Santos 1-0, with the match-winning goal scored by Breno Lopes in the 99th minute in stoppage time.

"Being the champions of the Libertadores, in the middle of the ocean, was an amazing feeling," he said.

"We had the biggest party in the whole of Australia at that time.

"It was one of the happiest days of my life, and for sure, it was the most incredible day of PIS history."

Palmeiras fans celebrating their 2020 Copa Libertadores triumph. Source: PIS Facebook

For Dias and other Palmeiras fans, lifting the Copa Libertadores was a dream that took a long time to be realised.

"We waited around 21 years to win the Copa Libertadores," he said.

"We have a dedicated song about the Copa Libertadores. It is our obsession, and we've been singing this chant for over twenty years despite always falling short of the finish line.

"That day we won the trophy, for us it was in the middle of the ocean, [and] it was very special. To be crowned champions against Brazilian opposition was the best feeling ever."

Dias does not follow Australian football very closely but hopes that the atmosphere and mentality of football in Australia can change for the better.

"I've been to a couple of games here, and the atmosphere is like at a church," Dias said.

Palmeiras fans together in Sydney. Source: PIS - Palmeirenses In Sydney Facebook

"It has improved, but a lot of the fans don't understand the true passion needed to support a club. You dedicate your entire life to football in Brazil; it's not the same here.

"That's why people in Cheers Bar take photos of us and think we are crazy that we take our shirts off, jumping up and down, using the drums, but this is completely normal in Brazil."

Dias and other diehard Palmeiras fans want to replicate the same atmosphere from Sao Paulo and bring it to Australia. They hope others can witness how passionate football fans can be.

International fan clubs such as SPFC Australia and PIS allow migrants from Brazil to gather and watch their clubs live with other like-minded supporters. Despite being in a different continent, time zone, and environment, this unique opportunity is available to them.

These international fan clubs will only grow more. They can eventually change the football landscape within Australia to help provide a better atmosphere and awareness about the game.

To read Front Page Football's feature on SPFC Australia, another Brazilian fan club based in Sydney, click here.


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