Time can even be the lord of reason, as he likes to say Mario Celso Petragliabut it was not exclusively his action that transformed, between 2013 and 2023, the color of the lawyer’s hair Luiz Fernando Pereira.
Over practically a decade of political tensions, concerns and uncertainties, dark brown gave way to gray in the hairstyle of the legal representative of the Athletico in the biggest off-field victory in red and black history.
In July 2023, nine years after the state capital hosted four games of the 2014 World Cup, Curitiba city hall, state government and club finally signed the agreement that would resolve the debt from the renovation of the Arena da Baixada – now renamed as League Arena.
Like any self-respecting soap opera, the outcome of the case still took another three months for the Court of Justice of the State of Paraná (TJ-PR) to reform the first instance decision for the agreement to be approved, without the possibility of appeal.
“It’s the cause that sticks with me the most from a personal point of view and also in public opinion”, says Pereira, 53 years old. “It took almost ten years, always in tension… auction doesn’t auction, pawn, doesn’t pawn.”
In May 2017, perhaps in one of the most tense moments of the entire process, Pereira gave an interview to People’s Gazettein which he exposed the risk of the stadium being auctioned because of the debt with the Paraná Promotiona state agency that provided the loans for the renovation of the Arena.
It was the reality of the facts, but the statement deviated from the script appreciated by President Petraglia, who was averse to interviews. Would it be the trigger to discover the, let’s say, rougher side of the hat?
“Even when I think I made a mistake, Mario was never rude to me, in any part of any dialogue. He never raised his voice, he always respected me. People complain a lot that he hits, but with me, in more than a decade of frequent relationships , Never”.
The relationship, in fact, arose in an unusual way. In 2008, Pereira acted against Petraglia’s interests in the athletic election, obtaining an injunction for the opposition candidate, José Henrique de Faria, to participate in the election against the ticket of then ally Marcos Malucelli.
After the rupture between the red-black chiefs, Pereira was appointed to represent Petraglia in action against Malucelli – this matter passed to the club’s internal sphere after setbacks in court and culminated in Malucelli’s expulsion in 2017. Four years later, he was amnestied.
In 2012, with the current president back in charge of Furacão, the Vernalha Pereira office began to provide services in several causes, such as the structuring of the Funcap project, television rights disputes, the retractable roof dispute and also in the case against to Globo.
“I became a friend, I went to his house, he came to my house”, says Pereirinha, as he is known.
Until the agreement materialized, politics permeated the entire process involving the Arena issue. It was the only possible way out to avoid a decision that could take three decades in court.
In the meantime, for example, the stadium was at risk of auction, as the Tripartite Agreement process was one, while the Fomento charge took place in another action. Compensation, in the event of Athletico’s thesis victory, would come in court orders, many years later.
“After the wear and tear of the World Cup, what was left was the stadium and the fans. Which governor would like to be responsible for taking the Athletico Arena to auction?”, asks Pereira.
“There was a silent tension. Fomento could have moved faster with the process. At a certain point, it could ask for the auction, but when we made the move to ask for the injunction at the STJ [Superior Tribunal de Justiça] everything stopped… It was chess, with moves here and there”, he adds.
First, in April 2020, Athletico requested the early production of tests, with expertise carried out by Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV). The assessment was that the initial budget for the work was not realistic, corroborating Atletica’s argument.
Then, in September 2022, the club obtained an injunction from the STJ to suspend Fomento’s executions. The strategy was key to forcing the parties to sit at the negotiating table.
“At certain times, the issue became very tense. But the injunction accelerated. The state and municipality realized that if a favorable decision came from the STJ, the account would become zero and Fomento would owe R$200 million in fees. It would be a shame” .
Public opinion and politicians
At the same time, Athletico was already carrying out research to measure the fever of public opinion on the topic. For Pereira, the agreement would only be treated by public authorities as a real possibility when politicians understood that an amicable solution was the best path.
“Mario never paid attention to public opinion. Controversial, unpopular phrases, something that political marketing doesn’t recommend. Then I exercised dissent and I think I was right: politicians would only do it if it was good politically”, he says.
When they felt that public opinion turned in favor of the club, the path to an agreement was paved with the governor Junior Mouse and the mayor Rafael Greca. At this point, there was also a unanimous opinion from the Superior Council of the Public Ministry and the agreement for the payment of expropriations.
And there was also no lack of external help from athletes. “I’ve never had a cause where so many people were willing to help. I needed an interlocutor with the government, Ademir It is Renato Adur helped open doors. The jurist Marcal Justen Filho It looked brilliant and didn’t charge anything. The agreement is a work of many, many hands, without a doubt.”
Pereirinha’s favorite team is Paraná Club. However, it is easier to find him in his box in Baixada, alongside his athletic daughters, than in Vila Capanema. Undercover, of course, a discretion that does not reduce his involvement with the club for which he has served for more than a decade.
Son of a politician – firstborn of the former governor Mario Pereira – and with football DNA in the family – first cousin of former players Caio Junior It is Black Casagrande –, the lawyer saw matters getting mixed up as he grew gray hair.
And even with an ideological vision opposite to that of Petraglia, he maintains a relationship of affection and appreciation with the leader who commands Rubro-Negro.
“I’m a fan of his. Brazil didn’t have a sports director who made the transformation he did. And Athletico’s potential is to have the best SAF in the country”, he says.
Luiz Fernando Pereira does not consider himself a classic leftist, although he is considered that by many people. He advocated for Lula, for example, and visited the president in the Federal Police cell. This situation, however, was never questioned by the Atletico representative. In no time.
“In this division that the country has, I have antipathy for the Bolsonaro government and he [Petraglia] He became very Bolsonarist. At the time of the election, I even told him: if Lula wins, I will welcome you”, he jokes.
Above all, the relationship between them is extremely trusting. During an important part of the Arena process, Petraglia was incommunicado as he was hospitalized in São Paulo. With the leader hospitalized in a delicate condition, it was up to the lawyer to continue making decisions to resolve the case.
Pereirinha informed Petraglia’s family about his plans and, shortly afterwards, he received a message from the leader’s cell phone: “go ahead”.
“I went ahead. At the end of everything, he was already talking again and validated what we did, but we had already advanced a lot. Athletico expected a higher value, but in the end the MP did the calculations and we agreed. In essence, the debt with Fomento it went from R$ 1.2 billion, without fees, to R$ 550 million. And in Tripartite, we added the division with city hall and state, which reduced Athletico’s share to R$ 190 million”, explains the lawyer , who, as usual, took part of the fees.
“It’s certainly not the highest amount I’ve ever received because Mario is a good negotiator even with me.”