Marcelinho is one of the best players to grace the Indian footballing scenario, ever, and his heroics at the ISL stage last season are yet to fade away!
By the look of it, Brazil is all set to break their 14-year title drought this year in India. The three-time title-holders, who last won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2003, has topped Group D with nine points from three wins in the ongoing edition. Despite top junior Vinicius Junior’s absence, after his club Flamengo refused to release the Real Madrid-bound star for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, Brazil defeated Spain, Niger and North Korea convincingly scoring twice in every game and conceding only once during their 2-1 win over Spain in the opener.
Now as Brazil awaits the third-place finisher from Group B, E or F for their pre-quarterfinal clash at Kochi on October 17, former Flamengo’s youth team member and now FC Pune City forward Marcelo Leite Pereira talks about Brazil’s flawless display in the group stage so far and what makes Brazil such a dangerous outfit in the World Cup. The Hero ISL 2016 Golden Boot winner for Delhi Dynamos with 10 goals and five assists, Marcelinho, as he is popularly known, also gives us a sneak-peek behind Brazil’s continuing football legacy in all its flair and beauty.
Excerpts from an interview:
Brazil is looking like the team to beat in this World Cup. Your comment on the team’s performance and what should be their strategy going ahead in the knockouts?
There is a 14-year drought of the trophy so this team looks hungry to win this one as much as any other team in the tournament. It’s a huge contingent that has come here which means this side is as serious as always. This side looks solid to move to the knockout stages and further too.
For strategy, the team has an able coaching staff under Carlos Amadeu and the results show that their strategy is in place. They have scored two goals in each game and they have conceded just one goal against Spain in the opening match. So they deserve to go to the next stage as Group toppers.
Any Brazilian players who have caught your eye who could carry the form on to the next level?
The team is very well balanced if you see. At the top, both Lincoln and Paulinho are in great form scoring a goal apiece in both the matches. The goalkeeper Gabriel Brazoa has been good under the bar. But for me, Alan Souza and Paulinho are the ones who stand out as they have run the show for our team in a way that shows our flair and intentions both.
Brazil has produced many players who have gone on to become stars and legends of the game, can you take us through the football system in Brazil from grassroots to age group and beyond and what sets Brazil apart from the rest of the 210 football playing nations?
Football isn’t a sport but a way of life in Brazil. People eat, drink and sleep the sport. The national football team are often the national identity, an institution that gives Brazilians confidence in themselves.
Most kids start learning the fundamentals of the game at a very young age; sometimes they see it every day inside their family and on the streets of Brazil. And then, every generation has had heroes to look up to like Pele, Zico, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka. Also many of them who are serious about pursuing this sport as a career know that through football they have a chance to lead a better life than many. So, there are so many motivations for an individual to take up the sport, eventually helping the country to find a possible hero at every nook and corner of the country.
Your take on the Indian team’s performance? Anyone in particular who has impressed you the most?
The Indian boys have put up a good show, honestly. This is the first time I saw them all play so haven’t seen them enough to say who impressed me the most. Surely the first goal-scorer (India’s first goal in any FIFA competition) Jeakson Singh must be a national hero now.
How will the world see Indian football now?
I don’t know how others see it. But I can tell you from my experience that Indian football scenario has been making consistent progress. The Hero Indian Super League (ISL) has become a great platform for upcoming talent to exhibit their skills. If you take a look at the FC Pune City squad currently, you will see a large number of players who are young and raring to exhibit their skills on a platform like ISL. And with the U-17 World Cup now being hosted, it can only get bigger and better from here on.
The ISL over the last 3 years has been able to ignite the passion among football players and fans alike in India. What according to you should be the next step for AIFF / ISL to populate the growth?
Like I mentioned earlier, your stakeholders are all taking steps in the right direction. A country can’t become a football nation overnight because the sport is played by hundreds in the country and the competition, therefore, is cut-throat. But the World Cup and the ISL both are tremendous platforms for India to awaken to the sport.