Neymar delivered for Brazil at the 2016 Olympic Games. Now it’s time for “Paralympic Pele”.
That moniker feels a bit patronizing…until you see Brazil football sensation, Jeferson da Conceicao Goncalve, aka Jefinho, weave through a crowd with the ball in total control before blasting it by the goal keeper. It’s amazing to watch under any circumstances, but when you realize that the football players on the pitch are blind, you realize you’re watching something outer worldly.
If not for Jefinho, Brazil would not have made it to the finals against Iran in five-aside football at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Brazil won 1-0, to take gold for their fourth straight Paralympics since the sports debut at the 2004 Athens Games.
“I always thought about this moment: listening to our national anthem in a packed stadium at home with a Paralympic gold medal around my neck,” he said in this article from paralympic.org. “We are used to winning, but doing it in our country is different and beautiful.”
In the semi-finals against China, with Brazil behind 1-0, Jefinho took control and scored two spectacular goals. Imagine playing five-on-five soccer with blindfolds on. You can hear the sound of the ball as they are designed with small objects inside that rattle around and indicate audibly where the ball is for the players. They can hear the directions of their coach and other players, as well as their goal keeper, who under the rules, can be fully sighted.
That’s why it’s so important for the spectators to keep it quiet so that the players can perform. And yet, this is Brazil, where they like to get loud, and it’s soccer, which is religion in Brazil.
“It’s so difficult. We’re trying but we really want to shout,” said Sonia Lima, in this Reuters article. “When they get near the goal I just want to scream: ‘Take a shot dammit.'”
Fortunately, Jefinho did. Watch the video below in amazement!