Mrs. Cinthia with Caio Paulista in Maracanã before the pandemic — Photo: Personal Archive
Back in Itaquera, on the East Side of São Paulo, Dona Cinthia was at home when she saw her son’s photo signing a new commitment to Fluminense. Caio Paulista said nothing during the negotiations and surprised his mother, who was already getting anxious with the end of the loan agreement in December and the uncertainty about the future:
– I saw that he had a meeting with (Eduardo) Uram (manager) and I asked: “What did you talk about? Are you going to stay”? And he gave it up: “I don’t know yet, Mom.” Then I saw the picture of him already signing the contract and I said: “Look, boy, you kept it a secret”. He is very playful. But I understand, in life it’s always good to wait for it to happen, to be silent and only when it happens you speak. Even though I’m his mother, I think he did the right thing – he “forgave” Dona Cinthia, who is a cook and is 53 years old.
From a humble family, Caio started to enjoy football through his older brother, Felipe, who also tried to become a professional player, and his parents and youngest went to watch his games in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo. The current striker of Fluminense wanted to follow the same path and started in futsal in the neighborhood. But it was in the floodplain, the popular “terrão”, where he was discovered. After having great prominence in a game, he was indicated by the opponent’s coach to a scout from Ceará who was in the region.
Caio Paulista next to Felipe, older brother who also tried to be a player — Photo: Personal Archive
Caio spent two years at the Vozão base, where he earned the nickname “Paulista”, and painted the invitation to transfer to the famous “talent factory” in Xerém. Dona Cinthia’s son arrived with a sparkle in his eyes and full of expectations at Fluminense, but saw everything fall apart when he was dismissed after approximately a year and a half. And his mother, who on that fateful day was with him in Rio de Janeiro, will never forget the tears when she hugged him and the promise made:
– When he left Ceará and went to Fluminense, he knew he had gone to a big club, where he could stand out. When I went to sign the contract, because Caio was a minor, we were very well received, all that was needed was a red carpet for him. It was almost two years there, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. He was really down, he cried a lot. I and he. He was very sad though, it wasn’t what he wanted. And the way it turned out, down. He went to Avaí, a smaller club and in a more distant place, difficult for me to visit – recalled the mother, in an interview with ge.
“He opened up to go to a new club, but he told me, ‘Mom, one day I’ll come back’!”
The attacker’s mother went with him to Xerém to sign a contract at the time of the base — Photo: Personal Archive
At Avaí, Caio Paulista became a professional and was revealed to football. He played in the São Paulo Junior Soccer Cup, the Brazilian Aspirants Championship, the Catarinense Championship, the Brazil Cup and the Serie A do Brasileirão. Even without having scored professional goals, he was one of the team’s highlights and, at the end of 2019, he received two proposals. One from Fluminense and another, bigger, from Internacional. This story, in which he did not take the financial side and accepted the Tricolor, is well known. But what few people know is that Dona Cinthia knew about the offers and participated in the choice of her son:
– I heard, yes, and I advised him to go to Fluminense. Didn’t he say he wanted to come back one day? It was his chance. We were talking, he even commented: “At Inter I’ll have this, that…” And I: “But Caio, maybe this is the opportunity you were asking God to show your football.” The agent also talked to him, and he made the decision. He had to go back. And for me it was very gratifying to have reached that goal of his, to be able to show the professional he is.
Upon returning to Flu, Caio Paulista joined the disputed Felippe Cardoso — Photo: Lucas Merçon / Fluminense FC
But who said it would be easy? Caio Paulista returned, but suffered during his first year on loan. Of the 36 games he played, there were only four as a starter. Presented with fellow ex-tricolor striker Felippe Cardoso, the duo became the target of much criticism from the crowd. At that time, Dona Cinthia’s son was “pulled by the ear” from his mother, who came to Maracanã in early 2020 to watch a game before the Covid-19 pandemic:
– I thought at first he was very shy. I even asked him: “Why aren’t you playing like you used to play at Avaí, with that race, disposition? You have to let go more”. And he said: “I don’t know, Mom.” I kept thinking: is it something that the technician asked for, or that it didn’t give freedom? But I do not understand. And there was the issue of the fans, that he was sad. But I told him not to lose heart, to remain firm. When Roger (Machado) came, he started to loosen up and found himself. Now, yes, you are playing the way you know and like. He always had a lot of guts.
Caio Paulista has 62 games (18 as a starter) and seven goals for Flu in two years — Photo: Lucas Merçon / Fluminense FC
Caio Paulista had already scored his first goals under the command of Odair Hellmann and Marcão last season. But it was with the arrival of Roger Machado that he showed his true potential, became an absolute starter during the Libertadores and became one of the team’s main players at the age of 23. To the point of taking Fluminense to invest almost R$ 8 million in 50% of its economic rights. Asked what it’s like to see her son, after all she’s been through, be valued and recognized, she was moved and couldn’t hold back her tears:
– Sometimes I can’t believe it, you know? (Cinthia gets emotional and cries at that moment) I watch the games on TV and I don’t believe it. I didn’t expect that one day I would be recognized like that. I expected Felipe to be a player, not Caio. And I’m thrilled to see him on the field. And he deserves it for the person he is: very humble, playful, happy. At home he is a wonderful son. God prepared everything. A boy who left the East Zone, went to Ceará, spent a lot of time alone because I was unable to visit him. The ticket was very expensive. There were nights when I cried in secret, because he was only 15 years old. In Rio it was better, I managed to go every 15 days. But he was a warrior.
Striker signed a five-year contract with Flu, until September 2026 — Photo: Lucas Merçon / Fluminense FC
Coincidence or not, Caio Paulista is experiencing the best moment of his career at the club that is known and called by the fans the “team of warriors”. But instead of armor, shields and swords, the son of Dona Cinthia came back on top of Fluminense with faith, resilience and a promise.
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