The other side of football: stories you won`t see on TV

Felipe Wasserstein

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The interesting and not so glamorous life of an ordinary Brazilian footballer

https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulisson_miura/14500665598/in/photolist-o6nGFQ-f3a1wn-5ZKMa8-KAEz8-6j4KvJ-rPm23p-985ReV-eLEXqy-2k4VEa-shyYK-eZuSv2-BkjdMs-uxMe3D-nXYqzq-nugQcD-nPkQqP-eb3mDS-iKNYda-iZo1tr-eZuSD6-eZuSJR-dJ2Ngd-ePNo8C-xnXLsh-73aYFS-2jyvQF-LiCQB-4dK4QJ-ejGrqE-qRRfS-6d6F5N-jKpG1E-jNY7uA-6bPNQK-qAuQVd-6bQBto-6jTv61-qMaV53-3ie17G-9wPBqL-5S59dj-aaBf8N-KKGfd-8ux6jq-7KNzK4-qTAs2d-fLC5pr-2fD64J-f3a1gv-rQb8R7
Football is an essential part of the Brazilian culture. Credits to: paulisson miura (Flickr)

In Brazil, no other sport gathers as much media attention and generate much money as football. A significant part of the Brazilian culture, the South American nation has developed a play style known as “art football”.

The country gained the tradition of exporting young talented players from humble backgrounds to the biggest teams in Europe such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Milan. Most of the best players of all time (Pele, Socrates, Rivelino, Ronaldo, Romario) are from Brazil. And they were all essential to Brazil`s various achievements on the sport, including the five world cup championships.

However, what most people don`t realize is that such successful players are just a minority. Many young male and female players live in anonymity, struggling to give their best in a very competitive sector.

Some do it as a way of getting a better life; others do it simply for love to the sport. Most do it for both reasons. And though most of those young athletes will never have a glamorous life style or receive world recognition for their performances, that doesn`t mean their stories are not worth of attention.

Such is the case of Eduardo Elias da Silva, 23, a former professional football player. He decided to play professionally for a desire to exercise his competitivity. “When you are an amateur, you don’t take competition seriously. Quite the contrary. People see you as “boring”. I wanted to develop all my potential to reach the best results I could”.

His efforts eventually led him to Europe. He was invited to play for the VfL Nagold, a junior second division team in the city of same name, near Stuttgart, Germany.

“My experience in Germany was excellent in near all aspects. The only, and also the major, problem was an injury in my left ankle, which affected my “good” foot. This caused me constant pain, and I had to keep it (my foot) protected to avoid new injuries. This really limited my play style in the field. I could`t take part in some matches because of the strong pain in my ankle.”

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Germany reigning world champion. Credits to: Felix Ozeray (Flikr)

In Germany, Eduardo had the opportunity to experience other types of play styles and strategies, that are considerably different from Brazilian football. “The German football is faster and more physical. It demands more physical resistance from the players. It is also more technical. But when it comes to talent and improvisation, I think Brazilian football is superior”.

“I didin`t had many adaptation problems. The food was one of the few problems. German dishes are very different from ours. Food is heavier, and keeping on a regular diet was a challenge in the beginning. As time passed, I discovered certain types of restaurants that offered better options for me”.

The weather wasn`t a main concern though. “Though the climate is the very opposite of the weather in Brazil, I enjoy the cold”.

“The language is probably the main issue. I speak German, but  the vocabulary is kind of limited. There is not much room for using more words.”

Eduardo was playing for VfL Nagold in 2011. At that moment football in Brazil was already facing a significant crisis (though not as big as the disaster of the 2014 World Cup). Nonetheless, the  Germans respect the Brazilian football.

“They understood that every team passes through hard moments. The same thing happened to them during the early 2000s. I remember that before the 2006 world cup, even Michael Ballack (then captain of the German football team) said he wouldn`t be surprised if Germany was eliminated already in the group stage. But they got over it.”

“But one thing really called my attention: for them it is not enough to present yourself as a Brazilian player. You have tom show how good you are in the field.”

He admires players like Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane. “I think those players have the qualities that make an absolute athlete: ball domain, pass, dribble, improvisation, vision, among other traits”.

Still passionate about it, but not playing anymore

Though Eduardo`s parents have a distinct background when compared to most of the families of other football players (both of his parents are doctors) they supported and incentivized his choice.

An important attitude, since the career of most players is far from easy. “Most players experience all sort of problems. Only a small amount, maybe about 20%, becomes financially successful”.

But, due to physical complications, Eduardo is not a professional athlete anymore. He`s currently working in other areas, such as video editing and gastronomy. “My brother owns a restaurant, and I`m responsible for the advertisement part. I like what I do, but to me, nothing compares to football”.

I was curious to see his opinions on the 2014 world cup and Brazil`s performance in the tournament. “The event as a whole was very good. The quality of the organization, planning, art and infra-structure surprised me. I think the arbitrage was the main problem during the competition”.

“In my opinion, Brazil`s performance wasn`t bad until the semi-final and third – place matches. In the match against Germany, the (Brazilian) team sort of “vanished” and collapsed. That was strange because Brazil never played so badly since they started their qualifying campaign for the cup in home soil.”

“In the next match (third-place match) against the Netherlands, the players were lost in the field. It seemed they had an identity crisis after the shocking defeat against the Germans”.

Eduardo is, of course, talking about one of the most humiliating defeats Brazil have suffered in its football history. The match with Germany ended in a 7 – 1 defeat. Brazil`s only goal came at the end of the game, when Germany had an advantage of seven goals against nil.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/habfour/27634726863/in/photolist-aBA6JJ-QoWDhp-JUVv2q-GXbXND-JAx9eJ-JS7DK3-HVSjgs-NjAKYv-JNGq4k-KRXPSN-K5ziih-JVvRoi-J6ZcvZ-JiNohS-JiNoKA-HqRoTi-HL2G3e-JJf6D4-JiNp39-JiNqBS-HMYKgH-NiohG7-NjDgfH-Kz56Ed-Kz56A5-K5CNn3-KYtfUm
Portugal: reigning European champions. Credits to: Hab Four (Flickr)

He also shared his thoughts on the Euro 2016, which was unexpectedly won by Portugal, who beat host France in the final. “I watched some matches of the Euro 2016, but what most called my attention was the good performance of the “lesser” teams. They played with much more confidence than in other tournaments. I was surprised by the Netherlands elimination at the hands of the Czech Republic still at the qualifying stage. I was also impressed by the fact that Iceland eliminated England in the round of 16”.

Eduardo cheers for Santos (a football team from Sao Paulo), but he doesn`t like to be a fanatical supporter of his or any other team. “I like to analyze the matches, so I can cheer for the team that is actually playing better. Currently that are two teams that I admire: Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Leaving football behind because of injuries was a very difficult process for Eduardo. “It was very hard, and it is impossible to describe in just a few words. It is not about frustration, because I know I have talent, but I was limited by the injuries and the pains, even after surgery and physiotherapy”.

“Things were contradictory. If I rested for a few days, the pain got better. But then I ended – up losing my physical conditioning. And if I kept training, the pains compromised my performance in the field. Only someone who lives through this kind of situation can truly understand.”

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Felipe Wasserstein