Botafogo’s Road To Redemption

From a historical heartbreak to a hopeful horizon
Phill ad, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

From the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy, Botafogo’s journey over the last year reads like the script of an Oscar-winning drama. 

The pain of Botafogo’s 2023 is still a shadow that looms large over the club. The pressure and tension caused by the team’s historic bottling of the Brasileirão last season has been very evident as the new season began. 

Protests demanding that players leave and coaches be sacked have become a common occurrence at the team’s training grounds. Poor results in recent games even resulted in the team’s manager Tiago Nunes being fired from his position as head coach.

 It was with all these problems that the “Glorious” stepped onto the field on February 28th to face Bolivian side Aurora for the second leg of the second round of the Libertadores wildcard playoffs. 

The match which unfolded to be a 6-0 landslide is a potential turning point in the season for Botafogo. The historical win was a defiant answer to all the doubt surrounding the team.

2023 was a heartbreaking year that will forever be in the memory of players and fans alike. The year that could’ve been one of triumph and success, became a saga of missed opportunities that culminated in a soul-crushing heartbreak. 

The season, which started with Botafogo breaking invincibility records and slashing through opponents, quickly became a shit-show of last-minute turnarounds and unbelievable losses. 

The defining moment in this historic downfall was the match against Palmeiras, where Botafogo was up 3-0 at one moment, but ended up losing 3-4. The game also marked Tiquinho Soares hitting rock bottom. This moment occurred when the number 9 missed a penalty that, if made, would’ve immortalized him as a club legend and essentially would’ve made Botafogo champions. But as history would tell, the penalty was saved and Palmeiras went on to score again and again.

 Eventually Palmerias was able to turn the game around, and from there it went downhill. Before anything could be done Palmeiras were champions and the Botafogo’s fans were left with the biggest letdown in recent soccer history.

The aftermath of the failed season was horrendous. The fans that faithfully supported throughout the whole season felt betrayed. The sense of disillusionment came with strong calls for change. Protests at training grounds and vandalism of the club’s facilities became a common occurrence as the fans asked for those responsible to be held accountable.

 The off-season meant a reflective period for those in charge of Botafogo. Club owner John Textor decided it was time for a more aggressive approach in the market, and that the team needed more mature players who could handle the pressure of playing at the highest level.

Botafogo’s objectives for 2024 were clear, to forget all the failures of 2023 and make 2024 a year to remember, and what better way to do that than winning eternal glory

The Libertadores is an obsession for Botafogo and has been for many years. Although Botafogo is without a doubt one of Brazil’s biggest and most historical clubs, they have never had much success at the continental level.

Their best performance in recent years was in 2017 when they made it to the quarter-finals, only to fall short to Grêmio.

Since 2017, Botafogo has not been able to qualify for the Libertadores. This year they were able to secure a spot in the second round of the pre-Libertadores.

Club Aurora, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The pre-Libertadores is the wildcat qualifier rounds that give teams one last chance to qualify for the tournament. The wildcard qualifiers are played in two games, one at each team’s stadium. The scores of both games are then added, and whoever has more goals wins and goes onto the next phase, if it’s a tie it goes to penalties. 

Botafogo’s journey began in the second round of the Libertadores qualifiers where they faced Bolivian side Aurora. 

Aurora is a team based in the Bolivian city of  Cochabamba. They are a prominent Bolivian team and they currently play in Bolivia’s first division. 

The first game between the two teams was in Bolivia and ended 1-1 with Junior Santos scoring the goal for Botafogo. 

The game also had a significant moment when it was still 0-0 where Tiquinho Soares missed a penalty, which, with the score tied, could’ve potentially cost the team their spot in the next round. 

The second leg was played on February 28th in Rio de Janeiro in Botafogos stadium Nilton Santos, also known as the Engenhão.

The game was an intense battle between two highly qualified sides. The match, finishing with a monumental 6-0 result for Botafogo, will go down as one of the biggest wins in recent Libertadores history.

 The scorers were Junior Santos, with an unprecedented four goals at 3′, 52′, 69′, 81′, Tiquinho Soares with a pivotal goal at 15′, and the Ecuadorian national Savarino adding to the tally at 45+2′. 

The game, unfolding more like a Shakespearean play than a soccer match, was composed of three main actors: Junior Santos, Tiquinho Soares, and the Botafogo fans.

Junior Santos delivered such a phenomenal performance that it will be remembered for years to come. Scoring four goals in one match, the striker showcased his skill, determination, and just how out of the ordinary he is when he is on his day. This 10/10 performance from Junior will help solidify his place within the squad, since his starting position is often in question due to constant inconsistent performances.

Despite Junior’s headline-grabbing performance, it was Tiquinho who was undoubtedly the man of the match. Tiquinho’s game was complete, with crucial passes, game-winning assists, and a stunning goal, all exemplifying a player who is returning to top form.

Tiquinho celebrating his goal against Aurora with his iconic celebration and Junior Santos in the background running towards him
Foto: Vitor Silva/Botafogo / Esporte News Mundo (Vitor Silva)

More than just his monumental performance on the field, it is Tiquinho’s personal and professional story of reformation that captivates the most. Having been the team’s leading light before a personal tragedy struck, his decline mirrored Botafogo’s downfall, and hand in hand, both witnessed a horrific end to 2023.

The vandalism on the training ground walls seen throughout the preseason was more often than not targeted at the number 9. Calls for his departure and attacks on his character became common in protests held by fans. Yet, Tiquinho’s decision to stay showed just how dedicated he is to the Glorioso, and that even though he failed last year he is ready to make amends.

All of this culminated in a phenomenal game where Tiquinho contributed to what will probably be remembered as the team’s big turning point. 

After Tiquinho’s goal, the entire stadium united and sang his song; this moment was a goosebump-worthy welcome back to the Tiquinho we all know, the one who loves scoring goals and leading his team.

The final character in the drama was the fans. Their performance in the stands was immaculate, singing and supporting throughout the entire game.

The show put on by Botafogo in their 6-0 win against Aurora

After the refreshing victory over Aurora, Botafogo’s attention now turns to their next playoff game, where they will face a much more formidable opponent, Bragantino. 

This matchup will be a clash between two of Brazil’s most talented squads, and will showcase two teams with high ambitions in the tournament, and skills to match.

 The first leg of the wildcard qualifiers will be on March 6th in Rio, with the return leg on March 13th in São Paulo. These matches promise high tension and thrilling football, showcasing some of the best soccer South America has to offer.

Leo Ortiz
SOCCER DIGITAL, PDM-owner, via Wikimedia Commons

Red Bull Bragantino, coached by the visionary Portuguese Mister Pedro Caixinha, presents a well-organized and strategically adept team. Despite lacking the historical fanbase of traditional Brazilian giants, Bragantino has made significant strides in recent years, backed by solid investment from the Red Bull group. Their star player, defender Léo Ortiz, a former Brazil national team center-back, is one of the best in the country at what he does, and a player to keep an eye out for.

For Botafogo, understanding Bragantino’s playing style and intense power of in-game adaptability will be crucial if they want to come out on top.

Botafogo will go into the game with a renewed sense of confidence, something they haven’t had in a while. The victory against Aurora was very significant, not just for the scoreline but for the cohesive team effort it demonstrated. It signaled Botafogo’s readiness to face top-tier competition.

With Tiquinho Soares finding his form and Junior Santos going into his Pele-level prime, the team has potent weapons ready for the battle that’s to come. However, the coaching situation Botafogo is going through presents a unique challenge. 

Since the sacking of Tiago Nunes, interim coach Fábio Matias will most likely be on the sidelines for the game against Bragantino. While he has done well in his two games as a coach so far, the game against Bragantino will be a major test against a team of the highest caliber.

The fans will also have a role to play. The fans “unwavering” support, even after the heartbreaking 2023, has been a testament to the deep connection that the Botafogo fanatics have with their team. The atmosphere at Nilton Santos for the first leg will definitely be nothing short of electric as the fans rally behind their team in hopes of another historic night.

The matches to come against Bragantino will represent more than just a bid for a chance to compete in the Libertadores; they will be an opportunity for Botafogo to solidify its resurgence. It’ll be a chance to prove that their victory against Aurora was not a one-off, but a sign of a team that’s on an upward trajectory.

 As the dust settles on Botafogo’s historic landslide victory over Aurora, the horizon brings with it a crossroad. Here, Botafogo has the chance to definitively turn the page on last year’s heartbreaks. 

With the flair of Junior Santos, the soulful comeback of Tiquinho Soares, and the support of the fans, Botafogo is headed into this battle with heads held high, ready to make history. 

Wednesday, it will be about a lot more than just a qualifier, it will be about a lot more than just soccer; it will be about redemption. It will be about the team that failed badly last year and now has another chance at glory.

The stage is set for Botafogo’s next chapter in 2024, the actors are in place and the curtness will soon open. The anticipation is real, and the hype is tangible. All roads lead to the Libertadores as we approach the last round of qualifying playoffs. May the show begin.

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Nathan Azevedo Espindula
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    SanxsMar 1, 2024 at 1:44 pm

    O Botafogo tem tudo para dar a volta por cima nessa temporada!