The talent, the gossip, the inside track
Celso de Campos Jr
The Brazilian football season is just underway with the State Tournaments – the main attraction, the Brazilian Championship, starts only on May 10. And since the top teams are more concerned with the big thing, the minnows see this as a golden opportunity to take centre stage.
That’s what Duque de Caxias, debuting in the Rio de Janeiro State Championship first division, achieved early this year. The club drew all the headlines by signing one of Brazil’s most entertaining – and senior – strikers, 39-year-old Paulo Sergio Rosa, or simply Viola. For those too young to remember – and Alexandre Pato wasn’t even born when our old hero scored the goal that gave Corinthians the Sao Paulo State crown in 1988 – Viola was one of the men who brought the 1994 World Cup to Brazil, after a 24-year draught. (In fact, from that squad, only Viola, Romario and Cafu are still playing professional football – Ronaldo was on the roster, but never made it onto the pitch.)In his two-decade career, Viola played for Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, Valencia, Flamengo, Vasco and seven more teams. In addition to the 1994 crown, he won a Brazilian Championship, two Sao Paulo State titles and a bunch of minor trophies. But his legacy, more than the goals, will be his broad smile, his irreverence and his irresponsibility. Another happy graduate of the Muhammad Ali School of Modesty, Viola – who always refers to himself in the third person – knew the way to self-promotion and the right way to bug the coaches.While in Palmeiras, in 1997, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari complained that Viola was always late for practice. The striker tried to argue, saying he lived too far from the facilities and blaming Sao Paulo’s chaotic traffic. “I don’t care how you get here, as long as you’re on time,” raged Big Phil.
Soon after, just before morning practice, a chopper landed on Palmeiras’ training pitch and out stepped Viola, in cammo outfit, to cheerfully high-five the gaffer. Big Phil couldn’t believe it.
And there’s much more. Two years ago, Viola, already far from his heyday, was arrested on his birthday after an altercation with his ex-wife. He arrived at her place around midnight saying he wanted to take their son for a walk – which the lady didn’t allow, since he was completely drunk.
Scared, she locked herself – and the kid – in the attic. Viola then decided to walk alone around the neighborhood, carrying a loaded shotgun. The police wre called, but by then Viola had already found his way to her house. He was calmly watching TV on the couch when the cops arrived and took him to the station.
In his official presentation at Duque de Caxias, Viola showed he was still sharp-tongued. “I'm slim, cute and horny to play ball. It’s gonna be easy for me to stand out. I’m watching my new team-mates and all I can see is ugly faces. Look at that little monster there... I’m the prettiest.”
It was all banter, of course, and before long Professor Viola, with his dark shades, was lecturing the youngsters on the importance of professionalism!
Obviously, they have a long way to go. An exciting start – a 5-2 win against América – was followed by painful defeats to giants Fluminense (3-2) and Flamengo (5-1) at the Maracana.
And Viola? Check out this clip of him in action against Fluminense. How many 39-years-old do you know who could perform a move like that? As for his celebration, anyone with even elementary Portuguese would easily lip-read Viola screaming: “I’m crazy! I’m crazy!”
We all are...
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