Silvio Velo seeks to retire as Rio 2016 championThe Argentinian football 5-a-side player hopes to get over the hump against rival Brazil. 10 Feb 2016
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be Silvio Velo’s fourth and last. The Argentinian hopes to finally leave as a Paralympic champion.
Brazil has claimed all three football 5-a-side Paralympic gold medals since the sports’ debut to the Games in 2004.
Twice, at London 2012 and Athens 2004, Argentina had been stopped by Brazil. But Velo, known to many as the “Paralympic Maradona,” believes it is possible to overthrow Brazil, the current World and Parapan American champions; both times, Argentina finished runner-up.
“We are the only ones who can defeat Brazil, the 45-year-old said. “[They are] not an invincible team. Anything can happen in football.
“Yes, Brazil is currently the best team in the world and has very talented players. But we are confident that we can win, and we are training very hard to accomplish that.”
As Argentina’s best player, Velo helped his team win two World Championships and two Paralympic medals (silver at Athens 2004 and bronze at Beijing 2008). He has been tabbed several times as the best football 5-a-side player in the world during the last 15 years. But a Paralympic gold medal would make that claim sound.
While he is at the twilight of his career, Velo is not low on energy.
“The passion I feel for this sport has motivated me to keep going,” Velo said. “The gold medal at Rio 2016 would be the cherry on the cake. But if we cannot win it, I would still retire full of happiness because of all the amazing things I have lived for so many years.
“I am very thankful to football for everything it has given to me. I have travelled to unimaginable places, have won lots of titles and, more importantly, have made many friends from all around the world.”
The fact that football is the most popular sport in the South American region makes the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil even fierce. A finals showdown at the Rio 2016 Games between the two powerhouses is expected to draw much attention, and Argentina will have to overcome a rowdy Brazil crowd.
Both teams faced each other in an exhibition match during last September’s one-year-to-go festivities. The result was a 0-0 draw.
“This is the biggest derby in the world, the best match a footballer can ever play,” Velo said. “Both teams are very careful when having to face each other. I would say those matches are like chess games."
“Some Brazilian players might suffer from the pressure of playing at home. Some others will probably enhance their level. But they all know Argentina can beat them, and that is good enough for us,” Velo said.
Argentina has already lifted a trophy in Rio, but that was back at the 2002 World Championships. Silvio Velo was part of that team.
“We can definitely do it again,” Velo said. “Our national team is mentally strong and will fight hard to achieve the only medal that has not yet won: the gold one.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.