SPORT.ES ARTICLE + ESPN BRAZIL VIDEO!!!
Why do all jokers have the same smile? This is what Andrés Montes often asked himself; it was his way of saying that there are some people who have a special charisma about them, who play without worries and for whom football is pure joy. Pure nerve, too. Thiago (born in Bari, Italy, in 1991) and Rafa (São Paulo, Brazil, 1993) belong to this kind of footballers. “Life is short, break the rules, forgive easily, love truth, laugh hard, and never regret something that made you smile”, wrote Rafinha on his twitter page.
Both kids grew up with sand in their pockets from the sandy beaches of Barra da Tijuca [a borough of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil]. Every summer they flew to Rio and played footvolley until sunset. It was fun. This sport is all about playing on an uneven ground… control the ball with your chest, pass it with your shoulder, a nice header: the perfect football for acrobats. “That was our place, our meeting point. We played footvolley with other players like Donato, who later played in the Spain NT. Thiago and Rafinha had lots of fun”, remembers Mazinho [their father].
In Rio they became friends with many cariocas, and very soon they learned to identify with their ‘good vibe’ (or ‘alto astral’, like they call it in Brazil), and the irreverence of the boleiros (tha players who grow up there). Later, at La Masia, they learned to reign in their talent and there they began to dream that one day they might play together in the first division team. That dream became reality on December 6th, at the Camp Nou. The game was against Bate, and the setting was the best possible: a Champions League game.
That was the best year of their lives: a 2011 they will not easily forget. An hour before the game Thiago called his mother: “He called me and told me Rafa was going to play, too. It was an incredible feeling form me, it was something we’d been wanting for a long time. An incredible happiness. I sent him a text wishing Rafa all the best and telling him that I loved him”., she revealed to ESPN. Valeria was in the stands at the Camp Nou and felt an incredible happiness: in her own time, when she was 19, she gave up her own career as volleyball player in order to look after her family.
On the pitch, the brothers Alcántara stood together while the Champions League hymn played, looking extremely serious. “Football was always a big part of our lives. When we were kids, Rafinha would play goalkeeper so I could practice shooting on goal. This is something we could only dream about, and yet it’s become reality”, Thiago explained to Barça TV.
Mazinho had to watch the game on TV because he wasn’t in Barcelona: “We didn’t know the both of them would get to play, so I left for Vigo to support my daughter, who plays basketball and had a game that night.”
His daughter Thaisa, another sportswoman in the family, didn’t miss the game either: “She loved gymnastics, but then switched to basketball to follow some of her girl friends. She is very tough, and she loves watching her brothers’ games.” After the game (which ended 4-0 for Barcelona), Thiago explained “I’ve been walking side by side with my brother since he was born. It’s been 18 years. I already dreamed of playing football, but can you imagine the joy of playing with your own brother? Football was always a big part of our relationship, besides of course the love we have for each other. It’s a dream come true.”
Rafa was still dazed: “The Camp Nou is a bit scary at first, but then you get used to it bit by bit. Can you imagine debuting with the first team in a CL game, with this team, and with your brother by your side? It’s HUGE! I’m sure my mother cried, and my father wasn’t able to sleep afterwards, they were so happy! And also because my sister became Spain basketball champion with the Galician NT.” The game against Bate was definitely the icing on the cake on an already perfect year for the Alcántara siblings.
The most promising case is Thiago’s: he became an important figure in the first team, and showed incredible maturity that nobody even expected from him [at such a young age]. “I feel more responsible, more mature than I was a year ago. My teammates make it all so easy, because we’re like a big family, a piña.” Mazinho stated: “He had to forget all the comments they were making about him in the summer. It was a complicated situation. Many things were said about him [not having a place on the team], but Barcelona never considered selling him. Then of course, he debuted with the Spain NT and worked even harder because he knew exactly the kind of commitment he was being asked to show.”
A few months have gone by, and Thiago has accumulated more minutes played than Cesc, Iniesta or Keita. Which is very impressive: Pep worked him over and polished him like a goldsmith with a jewel [
trololol what is this bad poetry XD I can’t] and turned him into a complete footballer. Artist and footballer, Thiago has occupied seven different positions on the pitch. His defense work in the 3-4-3 formation has been praiseworthy. “It’s been an incredible year for Thiago”, Mazinho has stated.
“I’m not surprised by his development. He is a player that can work hard both on his physicality and on tecnique. Thiago has worked hard to find a place in this Barcelona and now he is taking advantage of this opportunity he’s been given. He has done even batter than what was asked of him, and he is incredibly happy with his current place on the team.” The former Brazilian world champion is also extremely proud of Rafinha: “He won it all with the junior team and he had a great start with the B team, even though the change has been tough.”
Their excellence has not gone by unnoticed in Brazil (“They are two kids who have been performing really well, so of course I’ve been asked about them” said Mazinho) and Rafinha still hopes he’ll be called up by the Brazil NT. “I was born in Brazil and I feel Brazilian”, he assured us, and even though he has played a couple of games with the junior Spain NT. His mother, Valeria, wasn’t too impressed with the Brazilian NT’s treatment of Thiago: “They were very ungrateful to him, I am happy that he decided to play with the Spain NT.·
According to Mazinho, Rafa “is the funny one, the joker. You never know if he’s being serious or not”. So nobody will be surprised that he is a fan of Mario Balotelli, today’s most unpredictable and outrageous player.
But his mother Valeria assured us that his model has always been Thiago: “Thiago was born with a ball by his side. He used to play at home using his shoes as training cones. And of course, Rafinha used to copy him all the time”. That is why their parents were somewhat surprised when Rafinha told them he wanted to become a goalkeeper. “He was a goalkeeper and a player. He was great as goalkeeper actually. When I went to buy training materials, he was always interested in goalie stuff. And then during games he would play half the time as goalkeeper, and the other half as midfielder.” But Mazinho knew that sooner or later he was going to switch from goalkeeping to something else, and that is exactly what happened. More than 10 years later, Rafinha now knows what it’s like to play with the first team of Barcelona, and people have been wondering whether there is any competition between the two brothers. “Of course not, I’ve taught him well!” joked Rafa before the cameras of Barça TV. Thiago smiles, makes a face with a certain modesty, and explains: “A have to be the serious one, I’m the older brother.”
With Barcelona already qualified for the next Champions League round, this game was so unimportant that it left half of Camp Nou empty. But for this woman, this was the most important game of her life, the confirmation of a dream come true. The news reached her an hour before the game, by cell phone: “Thiago called me up and told me, Mom, Rafa is in the lineup! So I sent Rafa a text, saying ‘good luck, I love you, mama.’ ”
Imagine the pride of a mother who could finally see her two sons playing together with the Barcelona first team.
Rafa: “It’s an incredbile feeling, such happiness, and even more so since my brother was there, too. It’s maravilloso”
Valeria (their mom): It’s an incredible happiness. It’s everything we’ve been wanting. Not just because it was the Champions League, but the feeling of playing together, the two of them…I’m really happy.”
Valeria’s story is quite interesting: she was a sportswoman who sacrificed her career to take care of her family. At the age of 19 she was a talented volleyball player who played for some carioca clubs, she fell in love and married fourth time champion, footballer Mazinho. She left Brazil and moved to Europe with him.
Valeria: “Sport drifted in the background for me, I was young and I dedicate myself to raising my children.”
Mazinho played in Italy, then moved to Brazilian club Palmeiras, then finally moved to Spain where he played for Valencia and then for Celta, a club based in Vigo, where Valeria still lives today, with their daughter Thaisa, a talented basketball player, and little Bruno, born of a second marriage. Valeria chose to give up his career, but she knows that her children have sport DNA. Thiago and Rafinha grew up with football running through their veins.
“Thiago was born with a ball under his arm. By the time he was 3 – Mazinho played in Valencia at the time – he used his shoes as football cones and practiced his dribbling skills. And of course, Rafa did everything he did, something he still does today.”
Football was their destiny, but their mom suffered when her sons, with only 14 years of age, left [for La Masia].
Valeria: “They had to leave the family altogether, and g olive somewhere else, it was something we had never experienced before. It’s very difficult for a mother. It’s hard.”
They spent 7 years in Barcelona, both played in the Junior team and then for a time they played together in Barcelona B, which is in the second division of the Spanish Liga. Rafinha still plays there today as attacking midfielder.
Rafinha: It’s a very competitive league, very mature, with lots of quality. The teams are strong, it’s perfect to learn: so that when you can then debut in the first division, you are used to their level of performance.
Said and done. On his debut with the first team, Rafinha did not disappoint.
Thiago: “He was great, watching him play you might have though he’d been playing with the first team for years!”
With the two brothers on the pitch, Barcelona defeated Bate 4-0.
Reporter: In the last season, Thiago played 17 games with the first team. He was rewarded with a new contract with Barça and the number 11 on his shirt. Now Rafinha is waiting for the same chance with Guardiola’s team. His dream is of course to follow in his older brother’s footsteps, with a small difference: while Thiago accepted to play with the Spain NT, Rafinha made it clear that his dream is playing with the Brazil NT.
Rafinha: I am Brazilian. I was born in Brazil, I’ve always felt Brazilian. For me, Brazil is my country.”
For those who have been wondering, it wasn’t Thiago who rejected the Brazil NT, but the other way around. Valeria told us that Thiago was never appreciated much by the CBF (Confederação Brasileira de Futebol).
Valeria: “Thiago would have loved to wear the Brazil shirt, but Brazil was very ungrateful to him. Very, very ungrateful. That’s why I’m extremely happy that he decided to play for Spain.”
Maybe Thiago’s choice to play for Spain can serve as a wake-up call for Brazil: so hopefully they’ll make Rafinha’s dream of playing with them come true.
Now together at Barcelona, who knows if one day they’ll have to face each other playing with different NTs? If that happens, who will Valeria’s heart cheer?
Source for the article [Sport.es]: http://www.sport.es/es/noticias/barca/thiago-rafinha-barra-tijuca-camp-nou-1290564
...got any ovaries left? LOL