Can Brazil Football 5-a-Side Three-Peat?As the only nation to have ever won Football 5-a-Side gold at the Paralympics, Brazil is looking to strike gold for a third straight Games in London. 26 Jul 2012
“Our recent achievements are helping the development of the (sport). Sometimes, I go out and people recognize me. The media coverage has also been increasing.”
Jefferson da Conceicao Goncalves has come a long way since playing football alone in the streets as a child outside his home in Candeias, Brazil.
Born with glaucoma and completely blind by age 7, he began playing football at 10 and had his first call-up to Brazil’s Football 5-a-Side national team in 2006 before being selected to play in the Parapan American Games in 2007 and the Paralympic Games in 2008.
Today, “Jefinho,” as he is known, is recognized by the Brazilian public in the streets as a national star.
He will definitely never be left to play football alone again.
In fact, he is now surrounded by some of the world’s best.
“Our recent achievements are helping the development of the (sport). Sometimes, I go out and people recognize me. The media coverage has also been increasing,” Jefinho said of Brazil’s Football 5-a-Side squad.
“Before, it was not like that. It started from 2004, and it’s been improving. We are showing people our talent.”
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Jefinho and his teammates will be the favourites as the only squad to have ever won Paralympic gold in Football-5-a-Side.
The Brazilians have spent periods of time training in Rio de Janeiro together since 2011, and they have won gold both times Football 5-a-Side has been included in the Paralympic programme, winning at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. More recently it struck gold at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico last November.
The team qualified for London 2012 with a first-place finish at last year’s World Championships, and will go all out for gold against its main rival at the Paralympics.
And who may that be?
“Always Argentina,” Jefinho said, not hesitating in the least bit. “It has a great team, has great players and there is always a rivalry. They always play to beat us."
Argentina has won a silver and bronze at the last two Paralympics and finished seventh at last year’s World Championships. China, which fell to Brazil in the Beijing 2008 finals, will also prove to be a tough test for the favourites, as will a rising Spanish squad.
With Jefinho playing the right side and Ricardo “Ricardinho” Alves – the leader from the Beijing 2008 squad – playing the left, another gold looks highly probable for Brazil.
The pair’s five years of chemistry on the field is unparalleled in Football-5-a-Side, and with both being amateur musicians in their spare time, do not expect them to miss a beat come Games time.