She-Monkey and Spider-Man prepare to pound Palmeiras

They have a female monkey (with lipstick and, sometimes, high heels!) as a mascot and a spider under the goalposts. Welcome to the animal kingdom of Associaçao Atletica Ponte Preta, the oldest professional Brazilian side still in existence: 107 years alive, kicking and eating bananas.

Based in Campinas, a million-strong city 50 miles from Sao Paulo, Ponte Preta have never won a major trophy in their history - unlike crosstown rivals Guarani, who were Brazilian champions in 1978 (the only provincial team to do so). Oh, and additionally, the poor Macaca were relegated from the elite in 2006.

So life’s a b!tch for Ponte Preta fans, right?

Wrong.

Despite the poor historical record, their supporters – who are among the most passionate in Brazil – have been having the last laugh recently. First, 2008 marked five years without losing to Guarani, which equals a World Cup title in the city’s hate-o-meter.

Sure, Ponte Preta went down in 2006, but their fans could still mock their foes, who suffered a worse fate that season: enduring relegation to the third division. By 2008, Guarani, drowning in debt, were forced to announced that they’ll sell their stadium to pay the bills – a goldmine of derision to Ponte Preta fans.

And last but not least, a 2-1 win over Guaratingueta has sent Ponte Preta to the final of the Sao Paulo State Championship for the fourth time in their history. The bedlam in the black-and-white half of Campinas will last at least for the next two decades.

Ponte Preta mascot Macaca gives it loads

The away win came thanks to one of the best goalkeeping performances in living memory. Mario Costa, dubbed Aranha – Portuguese for spider – spun a web over the goalmouth and produced superhero saves to foil the puzzled Guaratingueta forwards. You can see highlights of Spider-Man’s heroic night, which included a penalty stop and a miraculous double-save – at 1m10s – here.

Of course, as finalists the Macaca are overshadowed by powerful Palmeiras, who despatched Sao Paulo with a 2-0 win and are the undisputed favourites to lift the trophy, with their star-filled squad led by manicured coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo. But we’ve seen underdogs biting the shoo-ins before. And the female monkey would love to smudge her lipstick on the trophy...

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