Xavier, a ‘fan on the field’, tells his story

If my life were a movie, it would start on a Sunday afternoon. Me next to my grandfather Renato, watching the Corinthians. I remember the image correctly: him, the television and me, thinking of one day playing for the club of my heart.

It is the starting point of the story.

Since I was a kid, I went to his house on weekends and didn’t leave until after the game. We had to watch. It was a small television in the kitchen. My grandmother liked to watch other things in the room, and she wouldn’t let us see it, so we went there.

I remember that I had a Corinthians flag that I had to spread and put a saint on top of it. If not, we weren’t going to win. I was fanatical, crying… It was crazy. I still am, right? Corinthians has to be like that. He was the one who gave me this.

Today, this grandfather of mine is there with the daddy in heaven. I lost him at the beginning of the year, and it was very difficult. I was already a Corinthians player and, on the same day, I had an important commitment. I chose to go to the game, I couldn’t be left out… At each game, he cried when he saw me fulfilling my dream. I’m sure he’s watching from above to help me.

As he died on the same day we were facing Sport, I thought: how can I honor him? I didn’t have time to put my name on my shirt, so I wrote it on my boots. They are saved and will stay with me forever.

In the beginning, I didn’t have many conditions to buy a boot, I didn’t have sponsorship… I asked to borrow boots. There was no shame. You’re kind of like asking, but we do what is possible for our dream.

I’ve had to play with a bigger number, one foot of each color, one of each way… There was a game, at Portuguesa Santista, that the sole came off. The game stopped for me to switch. I took a foot from another boot in the locker room that I still don’t know whose boot it was. I know I came back and we managed to win.

Another time, I signed with a manager who promised me a boot. He sent me one, let’s say, fourth-line, which didn’t even fit my foot. Hurt him all over. Complicated times, but it’s part of it.

Several times, I thought about giving up. I didn’t have many financial conditions, but I had desires… For boots, food… You put your dream in doubt. “I can’t do it”, he thought.

I’m glad I always had people helping me a lot to continue. It’s working.

*

I came from a small town. I was born there in Mococa, in the interior of São Paulo. When I was about three years old, my father left home, so I was raised only by my mother, Márcia, who played the role of mother and father. She was the most fundamental piece in my life.

My dad had an alcohol problem, and she wouldn’t let me lose my mind. Along with my other grandfather too, Chicao, who is like a father to me. When you’re a child, you end up not understanding how it works, you get a bit rebellious… But she showed me the right path, supported me in my dream.

Since I was little, I was passionate about football, that childhood dream of playing, wanting to play ball in the street. There was a field right in front of my house, and the coach there helped the kids not to mess with things.

“Come train with me”, he said, and I, at the age of six, seven, used to play there at kicking ball. That’s where it all started…

I played some championships in this field and, at the age of nine, I went to Praia Grande with my grandfather. I went to a soccer school, I started to play, I won a scholarship to play futsal…

However, in 2012, there were some family disagreements. Me with my grandmother. I gave you some problems, I won’t lie, no… Sometimes you end up doing some things that aren’t very nice.

So I went back to live with my mother, in Campinas, and joined Corinthians’s Chute Inicial school. When I started, I was a defender, and Gil was the guy I saw the photo and even cried with passion. It was my cell phone cover, just so you get the idea. I used it as a wallpaper. It was always my idol. Today, thank God, I can play with him and have him as a friend.

I told him this at the end of last year, right after my debut. We play, he helps me, he’s always on my side. Apart from the others he saw on television. Jô, Cássio, Fagner, Fábio Santos… Gabriel himself has always been an inspiration.

It’s a very crazy thing. You feel like it, but you never imagine that you’ll be with these guys. It even shivers.

*

There is a guy, Dombas, who helped me a lot in my beginnings in football. He was the one who put me in the kindergarten there in Praia Grande, and he came into contact with me again when he joined Portuguesa Santista, as a scout. In 2014, he wanted to take me there, and I did.

It was kind of complicated… I started to live in lodgings, with 20 other boys. It wasn’t very nice, but I appreciate it because it served me a lot in my training. At the age of 15, I became the team captain. Everything that happened in the barracks, I was responsible for answering.

Away from home, this matured me quite early on. I also had a certain responsibility, because I always helped my mother, even though I earned very little. He was already the “man of the house”.

At the end of 2016, Ponte Preta bought me. I went to live in the juvenile’s accommodation in Jaguariúna. I was in the under-17, and our team was really good, really good… We were champions, over Palmeiras, I made my first professional contract. It was one of the best years of my football life.

When I went to the sub-20, in 2018, I started to live in the stadium, Moisés Lucarelli. I played two Copinha games, and the professional called me. At the time, the coach was Eduardo Baptista. I went up and, when I was going to make my debut… Corinthians, at Pacaembu… And I got hurt. I was 17 years old, not 18, but in a friendly against Red Bull, I ended up spraining my ankle. I couldn’t debut. Our goalkeeper, Ivan, even got a penalty, and Ponte won…

I went professional in 2018, Eduardo liked me, but at the end of the year, I went back to the under-20 to compete in the Brazilian Championship. In 2019, I still disputed the Copinha for the Bridge. That’s when I knew Corinthians wanted me.

My manager doesn’t spend a lot of time on these things, so that I can stay focused on football, but I had a proposal from Shakhtar Donetsk, but I would need to stay a little longer at Ponte, play a few more professional games. “And there’s the Corinthians… But to go to the under-20”, he told me.

I was always a Corinthians fan, in love. I couldn’t think twice. It was a dream I had since I was a child. “It will be very difficult, a lot of competition, a lot of boys,” he said. But I believed in myself. I chose Corinthians for this dream. It was the biggest I’ve ever accomplished, playing for the club of my heart.

*

The first time I entered Parque São Jorge was when I was still playing at Ponte Preta, at the base. When I was looking at the club from the inside, the locker rooms, a movie played in my head. Remembering so many guys who passed through here… How much I dreamed of that, that moment, at Fazendinha, was really cool.

When you achieve something you’ve always dreamed of it’s very rewarding. I thought a lot about my grandfather Renato and my family. He was the one who showed me this passion for Corinthians… Libertadores, Mundial, I remember as if it were yesterday. The 2009 Paulista Championship, Ronaldo against São Paulo… I cried a lot. And it was my family that helped me get here.

When I saw Gil, my idol, I didn’t believe it. The leg shook. To talk to him, you don’t believe it’s true. Another guy I was always inspired by and a fan was Elias, and one day he was on CT. I had just gone up, I hadn’t even debuted… I woke up, I go down in concentration, and he’s there. It was a shock… “Dude, that’s him.”

I went up with some other base boys. I concentrated with Roni, we helped each other a lot, passing information to each other. He and Piton, who had already debuted, knew the catch…

Apart from the more experienced ones, who give you a lot of comfort and calm to play. Sure, you get nervous, but they were very important in the beginning. When I was about to go upstairs, it was Tiago Nunes who called me, asked how I was. It was that break from the pandemic, about to return. Then Vilson spoke to me. But when I was about to integrate… My exam showed that I had had contact with the virus.

I was desperate. “For God’s sake, it’s my dream.”

Vilson called me again, asked to be calm, said that it would be 10, 15 days, and I would be part of the group. It was a very crazy thing, a child’s dream, your idols that you saw on TV, being part of everyday life. How exciting.

My first game was against Bahia, with Coelho as coach, and we were under an absurd pressure. Being a Corinthians fan, knowing how the fans are, I put myself in their shoes. They live Corinthians, it’s their life. That way, I knew, but I also didn’t have a sense of the pressure on my skin.

Even before the debut, I already felt… But, who plays for Corinthians, you have to be prepared to wear this shirt. Turn that pressure into race on the field.

It was on Monday that Coelho said I would play on Wednesday. And it was hard to sleep. I made up my mind that it would be the game of my life, a giant step in my career. I played a good game, we won, we eased that phase, everything worked out.

When the game ended, right there on the field, I just wanted to thank my teammates, the committee, for having helped to make my dream come true. Everyone there always helped me. I just had this gratitude, this desire to speak in the locker room. I had to speak, thank everyone.

“Guys, what happened here today is a huge dream. I came from a small town and few people know it, but I was always a Corinthians fan. I always wanted to be here. I watched you on TV and imagined that I would make this dream come true. Regardless of failure, especially in the second goal, which was my fault, I felt very embraced by the whole group and I wanted to thank everyone.”

I couldn’t sleep that night. I stayed until about four o’clock in the morning talking to my mother, my grandfather… Everyone watched me on TV – except my grandmother, who gets very nervous. What an incredible feeling, the best of my life…

*

In football, each game is a story. It’s complicated. You have to be evolving every day, you end up having ups and downs… The debut was a duty partially fulfilled. A first step in a story that will be very beautiful, God willing.

Today, I’m mentally fine, focused. I know the group believes in me, and so do I. We are well united to have a good championship. It’s always trying to evolve, train hard and continue that way. The results will show up.

I feel a bit like a cheerleader on the field. I’ve always been a fanatic… I know in my skin what it’s like to be a Corinthians fan. I try to pass it on…

I have a dream of winning titles for Corinthians – and one day playing in Europe too. But, a title for my team of heart, being an idol… I’ll make it, I have faith.


* Testimonial to the reporter Vladimir Bianchini | Edition: Thiago Cara