Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hard Working Dreamer: The Story of Jailson

By Vitor Buratini Mendes

Imagine you are a veteran goalkeeper, a second-choice goalie in a second division team, with zero exprience in a first-tier club.
One day, your agent calls you. He’s saying you’ve recieved an offer from a first division team. A club with a major history, which is at the moment is struggling in the bottom of the table, fighting against relegation. More over, it‘s the team you’ve been supporting all your life, since childhood.
But you know it is a different situation. First division football is far more stressful. The competition for game time is even bigger, and you are not that young anymore. Plus, your family is already settled in a certain routine, and this move can harm it. What would you do?
This is exactly the conflict Jailson, Palmeiras’ goalkeeper, had, before he accidently became an integral part of the club’s 2016 Brasilerao title, It’s first in 22 years. This is a story of an unbelievable, magical and inspiring coincidence, but also a story about dreams.

Jailson with the traditional Palestra signature (Cesar Greco/ Palmeiras©)

A Boy of Varzea Player and a Corinthians Fan
Jailson Marcelino dos Santos was born in São José dos Campos, Brazil, in 1981. He grew up humbly at his grandmother’s, Dona Nacife,  house, along all of his family. His father, Gérson, was a varzea football player, a none professional football scenario, usually played on open fields caused by fleds.
Jailson is a modest and positive man. He likes to fish and watch the water goes by the sea or the river. He's always smiling.
Football has always been his passion. Since he was a kid, he took a ball with him everywhere. He used to play a lot with his mother, Maria Antonia. His mother is a passionate Corinthians’ fan. She has a tatoo of a hawk, the symbol of the Corinthians most important firm. Unfortunatley for  her, her son did not follow her passion. Since he was a kid, he loved another club from São Paulo - Palmeiras. His dream, since childhood, was playing for the Verdão.

A  Palmeiras fans since childhood. Jailson (Personal archive)

When turned professional, he made the first steps of his career in Campinense. It wasn’t a great success, and he began to travel between several clubs in Brazil, until he landed in Guaratinguetá.
There, Jailson shined. He played more than 100 games and became a club idol. After the stint there, he wanted a new challenge and went to Oeste, and then Ceará. In Ceará, he played a few matches but it did not go so well. Jailson founded himself on the bench, out of his coach’s plans. After finally playing regulraly, it was hard to go down to the bench again. He was over 30 already, and his career did not took off.
But from this low point, a big shift has occured. Out of nowhere, Palmeiras, the Sao Paulo giants, offered him a contract. His Palmeiras. The club he grew up to love.

An Offer from the Dreams
Jailson was in shock. How would a team that already had great goalkeepers like Marcos, Cattani, Velloso and now Fernando Prass, would want to hire an old substitute goalkeeper who had never played a single minute of first division football? The first thing he did was to call his grandmother, Dona Nacife.
“I have some good news grandma,” he said. –“Have you won the lottery?” - "No, it's a lot better than that. I’m going to sign with Palmeiras!”
And he did. On October 1, 2014, Jailson became a Palmeiras player officially. The team was bad and was at threat for relegation. But despite the enthusiasm, his chance didn’t came easily. He was the fourth goalie in hirarchy and saw Fernando Prass recovering from injury, helping the club to avoid relegation. Jailson had patience. After all, the fact that he was even training with Palmeiras, was already a huge achievement for him.
The season after, Palmeiras hired another goalkeeper - Aranha. He automathically became the second goalkeeper and Jailson the third. In this year, Jailson played only three games, two of them were friendlies.
In 2016, Aranha left. Jailson thought that his chance as second goalie came, but no. This time, again, Palmeiras hired Vagner, from Avaí, to be the second choice on goal.
But Jailson, as mentioned, did not give up.
In his third season with the club, things developed differently. Palmeiras was eliminated from the Copa Libertadores and the Paulista, and have put everything they had on the Brasilerao. The team wanted to be the country's champion, a title that they haven’t won since 1994.
It started very well. The team was in the first place until the 15 round. Then, Fernando Prass joined the Brazilian national team for the Olympics. He was going to miss a few weeks, and Vagner replaced him in the first eleven.
During the Olympic tournamnet, Prass conceded a long term injury, and was planned to come back only in the end of the year.  Palmeiras left with two replacement goalkeepers for the rest of the season.
With Vagner on goal, Palmeiras lost two and drew one. Vagner was horrible in these games. The team needed confidence, and he simply couldn’t provide it. Palmeiras had only one last option in goal. It was time.
After two long years of bench warming at best, it was Jailosn’s time to shine. Time to win. Time to create. His time.

Time to Shine
When he is 35 years old, Jailson debuted in the Brazilian first division in storm. In a flawless performance, he helped Palmeiras winning 2:1 against Vitória-BA, gained his first victory in the Brasilerao and the team returned to the first place. The fans chant his name. Jailson smiled. His dream was fulfilled. From that point everything was a bonus, and the legend began to be written.
After this match, he played eighteen games in the competition. Palmeiras lost only one in the second round, and it was the one Jailson didn’t play at,  due to yellow cards. In the games he did, Palmeiras won fourteen and Drew five. All in all, he took and integral part of a maginificent campaign for the Alviverde. During this amazing run, one moment was extra special.
In the 37th round, against Chapecoense, Palmeiras led 1:0, when the manager Cuca made a substitution. Fernando Prass, Palmeiras’ idol, came to replace Jailson. It was a way to pay tribute to both. To a club idol who came back from injury, and to a new idol, who in his modestly way, became the symbol of the club’s magical season. It was a special moment indeed. At the end of that day, Palmeiras won the Championship title after 22 years, and Jailson was a hero.

Finally a champion. (Gazzeta Press©)

Keep It Real
In 2017, Jailson will not play much. He knows that too. He knows that Fernando Prass will be in the starting lineup in most games.
Now, Imagine. Imagine you’re a 35 year old goalkeeper, who starred for a champion team last season, but you know You will not be in the starting eleven, and won’t play the most important matches. What will you do? Will you retire?

No, of course not. Jailson is staying. He sees no problem with being second choice in Palmeiras. The club knows that whenever they’ll need a goalkeeper, he will be there for them, with his positive atittude, his smile and his dreams. 

Vitor Buratini Mendes is a 16 years old Brazilian student, a die hard Palmeiras fan and a passionate follower of South American football. You can follow him on twitter.

Monday, March 13, 2017

King Kazu

By Yossi Medina
Which footballers would come up to your mind when thinking about Japanese football? Perhaps superstars like Shinji Kagawa, or Japan's former national hero, Hidetoshi Nakata. The hipsters probably would say: Shinji Ono.
But while the majority would try to think on international Japanese stars that play abroad, in the in the J2 League, the Japanese second division, there is a real football legend – Kazuyoshi Miura.
Nowadays, players in their late thirties are considered as "veterans" or "old". But Miura can look at these players as a real veteran. Last month, he turned 50 years old, and he is still living and kicking professionally. Only two days ago, he became the oldest scorer ever, after he scored for Yokohoma FC. By doing so, Miura broke the almost eternal Sir Stanley Matthews’ record, who stood since 1965, as the English legend scored for Stoke City versus Fulham.
Matthews was 50 and 5 days back at the time, but Miura did it while he is 50 years and 14 days. After his goal, the comparisons between the cases became irresistible, but Miura had his say on the topic: "I may have surpassed him in longevity, but I won't ever match his statistics and the career he had".
So how someone could maintain such a long career? It takes a journey. And a pleasure, of course.
A true Japanese and worldwide legend (Guardian)

Becoming a legend
Miura's career had begun in a sensationally unusual way. He played a bit in Japan, but became a professional footballer at the age of 15, while he was travelling Brazil. For several years he played all over the country, and even appeared in few big clubs like Santos, Palmeiras and Coritiba.
Miura came back to Japan in 1990, when two years later, the Japanese FA decided to establish the J-League. Miura joined Verdy Kawasaki, and became the star of the club for eight years. During his term in Verdy, he won four consecutive titles and reached the Asian Club Championship semifinals twice.
Then, Miura tried another shot abroad. He was the first Japanese to play in Italy, making his debut for Genoa in 1994 and scoring his only goal during the derby against Sampdoria. He also played for Dinamo Zagreb and was loaned to Sydney FC, but all for short periods.
In 2005, after trading his ply for Kyoto Purple Sanga and Vissel Kobe, he signed for Yokohama FC. Back then he was already a 38 years old player, an age that many players will think at about their retirement. Even though that most of his seasons in Yokohama were in the second division, Miura became a real club legend, leading it for promotion and its only season in J1 League.

First Japanese to play in Italy. Miura in Genoa (Panini©)

Comparisons & records
As we mentioned, in the past weeks Miura is getting headlines for his record breaking career. He played for Yokohama FC against V-Varen Nagasaki, just week after his 50th birthday. Week later he scored that goal against Kusatsu, which was his first goal of the season.
With over 31 years since his professional debut, it is clear that Miura has an unbelievable career.
Despite this fact, Miura’s achievements aren’t comparable to his English counterpart, Matthews. Even though the Japanese made 89 international appearances and scored 55 goals for Japan national team, he never played the World Cup. He did not receive call-up for the country’s debutant World Cup in 1998, although he was major part of the Japanese qualifiers campaign.
In addition, the fact that he spent most of his career in Japan, and the last years in the second division, can make his stats and success a bit doubtful.
Yet, the comparison of 50 years old Japanese player in the 21st century to an English legend who retired from the game in the 60's, tells us why Miura' story is one of the most impressive stories in the modern football.

Spreading a message
For Miura the age is not the case as long he can play, run and even beat players who actually haven't born when he himself made his first steps in football.
Miura’s career concentrated mainly in to two clubs – 8 years at Verdy Kawasaki and 12 years at Yokohama FC. Two clubs for 20 years, out of a career that spreads along more than three decades, it’s a sign for loyalty. This exact loyalty is none-existed anymore, as players are transferred rapidly for dozens of millions, changing teams like socks. Miura is a unique talent and a shining example of how age shouldn’t be a barrier in what has become a young men’s game.
He is still here, and nobody know whether it's his last season or not. As long as he keep playing and scoring, Miura will be a symbol for the football we loved and used to know, giving us hope that this world hasn't disappeared yet.

A shining example for loyalty, passion and wisdom in a young and restless men and money.
Miura (AFP/Getty Images©)