March 27, 2023

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Bruno Guimaraes drags Newcastle to the title. And before that he lived in a room with rats and wanted to quit football for a job in a taxi

Will face Manchester United in the League Cup final.

Bruno Guimaraes is a backbone player for Newcastle. Last season, the Brazilian, bought for 42 million euros, helped the club get out of the bottom of the Premier League, and this time he is dragging the team to the Champions League and winning the League Cup. In November 2022, Guimaraes went to the World Cup in Qatar as part of the Brazil national team and played 68 minutes in the star team.

Just before the League Cup final, Guimaraes spoke to The Players’ Tribune and told the amazing story of a football journey filled with overcoming life’s difficulties and circumstances.

As a child, Bruno played football with stones and thought for a long time that he sucked. Everything changed conversations with the coach and father

“I fell in love with football at the age of five. We played every day – instead of the gate, we often had someone’s slippers. The ball was sometimes played by stones or fruits that fell from trees. We had no obstacles to play football.

I was born in Rio, in the Vila Isabel area. We lived next to the legendary Maracana, so we constantly went to matches with a crowd of friends – up to 12 years old they were allowed in for free. We didn’t care who was playing – Flamengo, Fluminense or Botafogo – all the players were gods to us.

Once I got to Vasco de Gama training: I found some kind of napkin and begged someone from the team to sign it. “For heaven’s sake, give me an autograph! I don’t care – even if you’re an outfitter. Just sign on the napkin, brother,” I said.

From the very beginning, my mother was against me playing football – although my father was crazy about him. At some point, my mother gave me to swim. I held out for six months – until one day I came home in tears and said: “This is not at all what I need. I urgently need to play football.”

We didn’t live well. My mother worked in a motorcycle shop, my father was a taxi driver. In fact, I saw my dad only on weekends – on Saturday he came to watch me play football. Because of this, I was nervous – my father was my hero, I did not want to let him down. At first, he was harsh with me – he often reproached me for defeats and a bad game.

When I started to play in real teams, there was a feeling that I sucked. The night before the games, I was so nervous that my stomach started to hurt and nausea set in. Sometimes the temperature even rose – because of this I could not sleep. When I played in public, I was very afraid of messing up. It was something like a psychological block.

Once, when I was 11 years old, we were just playing in the gym with friends. I did not think that someone was looking at me – I just skated for my own pleasure. At such moments, I felt like a beast. It turned out that coach Mario Jorge was watching me then. After the game, he asked, “Why don’t you play like this in real matches?” I said, “I don’t know, coach. I am not comfortable. It’s complicated”.

He said, “Listen, don’t worry about anything. Just play for fun and we’ll see what happens.” After that, I had a conversation with my father – I asked him not to put pressure on me so much. Dad took it very adequately – everything has changed since that day. When I played, I said to myself: “Hey, this is just football. Play as if in front of you is not a gate, but slippers.

Guimaraes was rejected by Botafogo and Fluminense. At 13, he lived in a room with rats running around.

“I played at full strength after I overcame the psychological block, but my path was not like the history of a superstar. Very soon I tried my hand at Botafogo and Fluminense, but they refused me there. After that, of course, I wanted to quit everything, but every time my mother told me the story of Cafu – how he was rejected in all the clubs.

She told me: “Go to your dream.” She was my biggest support. Mom always believed in me, so I survived everything.

After the failures at Botafogo and Fluminense, I was picked up by Mario Jorge, the same person who made me believe in myself. Then he coached the Audax Sao Paulo club and took me even without watching. I had to move to another city and live alone – at the age of 13.

I will never forget how we drove five hours to Sao Paulo in my father’s taxi. Parents had to leave the child in a strange city with a bunch of children he did not know – in a room with two dozen bunk beds.