Eduardo: strange foreigner

Dear fans! We offer you an exclusive interview with Shakhtar forward Eduardo, which was published in the latest issue of Shakhtar e-magazine. Let us remind you that the latest issue of the online club publication is available for free download.

He is our local guy! He is native, so close, our inside guy! It seems that this year never happened without Eduardo. Today, we, together with Dudu, relive two moments: when he left Shakhtar, and when he returned ...

Foreign native

- Eduardo, what emotions experiences the individual who joins a team for the second time? The moment you were leaving Shakhtar, did you have a feeling that you would come back?
- To be honest, I wasn’t even able to say goodbye to my teammates. We were playing the last match, as far as I remember, in Cherkasy. After the game, they all went to Kyiv and from there they flew to their home countries. In the shower I felt some emptiness. I was upset because I could not say goodbye not only to the players, but also to the employees of the club.

- When you were leaving, had your contract already expired?
- I had another month on my contract.

- Was it you who wanted to leave or was it the club who didn’t want to extend the deal? Or, maybe, the family insisted on that? What happened?
- Back then, my thoughts were about some different things. I went to join the national team to prepare for the World Cup. The club wanted to extend the contract with me, but I decided it would be better for me to leave. The situation in Donetsk was, shall we say, delicate. Some media continuously spread the information that there might be no football in the region any longer. I could not understand what was actually going on. After the World Cup I stayed in Brazil, I spent the holidays with my family and relatives. They told me: “You have played for 15 years in Europe. We nearly did not see you, you were always so far away. It would be nice if you stayed in Rio de Janeiro, played here, would be closer to us, and I would better know Brazilian football. And then I received an offer from Flamengo.

- And why was it just a one-year deal with Flamengo?
- It was an eighteen-month one, therefore through December 2015. In Brazil, I experienced some really good moments. After all, that’s my home country, I had my family by my side. But then I got a call from Shakhtar, they asked me if I wanted to go back there? I replied that I did, but I still had another six months left on my contract, and it was difficult to say  whether they would let me go or not ... In short, I decided to personally go to the senior executives of Flamengo and explain this situation to them in a human way. I told them that I had received an offer from Shakhtar, and that I would like to return there. Fortunately, everything was resolved, they let me go, and here I am.

- You have said many times that you feel more European than Brazilian.
- For ten years now have I been married to a Croatian woman, while we have been together for 14 years all in all. My daughter was born in Croatia. My son, we could say, is a Ukrainian, because he was born in Donetsk. Of course, when I was in Brazil, my behaviour was significantly different from that of Brazilians.

- Did you feel yourself that you were different?
- Yes, I felt like a foreigner in Brazil. If we talk about football, I knew the training process quite well. But I felt like a stranger in the street, in public transport. The mentality of other people was different, they behaved quite differently. Of course, when I stayed with my family, everything was fine, but at other times I still felt like a foreigner.

- What is it like – to look at the Brazilians through the eyes of a European?
- Let's put it like this – the Brazilian perceives a European positively. Because the difference is huge. Brazil is still largely lagging behind Europe, it is just developing now. Even we, Brazilians, say that everything that exists in Europe - be it cars, buildings, technology – we will have in just ten years’ time. We honestly admit it. I wouldn’t surprise you if I say that Brazilians are jolly, they always gather in a big company, life is a festival for them. Perhaps that’s the effect of the carnival, which charges the locals with some huge positive energy. The Brazilians joke that they have a ten-year lag because the carnival traditionally begins in February, while the new calendar year starts only after all the celebrations, that is in March. It causes the time difference.

- How do you currently perceive your family, who remain in Brazil? Or how do your relatives perceive you?
- Just normally, my relatives do not notice any oddities in me. They, on the contrary, take pride in me: for the fact that I managed to learn a lot, to make it to a higher level compared to my friends of the same age in Brazil. Let me give you another example. One Brazilian invites another one for a party, just alone! In fact, another ten people come with the guest: himself, his wife, his child, his aunt, his uncle, the grandparents ... Meanwhile, I behave differently, in a more restrained manner. When I invite someone, then I just say straightforwardly: I look forward to seeing you and your spouse. Unfortunately, people sometimes get just a bit too smart. And I'm glad that I learnt how to resist it.

- And how do they perceive your family in Brazil in light of the fact that their son has become a real European? Does your family enjoy a special status and authority?
- No, they enjoy no royal privileges. I have the most ordinary family, not having any star illness at all, being no different from many others. The only thing is that some friend of my grandmother might say: “Eduardo is somewhat strange. Very serious, not smiling. He’s somewhat strange.”

- The level of your education and upbringing is high enough. You are just like an international diplomat. Who are your parents?
- Previously, my family lived in the favelas. But it wasn’t those terrible, abandoned slums that you see in the movies. Just sleeping areas. I was brought up by my mother, because my father left us when I was just eighteen months old. He recently reappeared on the horizon, but I do not want to talk about that. So I grew up with my mother, my grandmother and my great-grandparents. And they had no special education, they are just good, kind people.

- Have you got any brothers or sisters?

- I have a stepbrother - from my stepfather. He is very different from me. He was born in 1990. He played football, but did not achieve any good results, being currently engaged in architecture, he makes designs.

At home among strangers

- We met you on a tour of Brazil. How did you feel at the moment when you learnt that Shakhtar would come, Darijo and all your friends?
- I just ... got sad at once. I could not escape the thought: “Now they are coming together to Brazil, and I'm not with them!”

- Was coming to Shakhtar’s hotel your idea?
- We so arranged it with Darijo. It was kind of: “Of course, I'll come to visit you! But, to be honest, I did not expect that there would be such a grand ceremony, swapping shirts, taking pics, shooting a video ... I was very pleased.

- How soon did you regret your leaving Shakhtar?
- Real regret came at the time when I learnt that Shakhtar had moved to another city. I realized that I had hastened it. Now the team do not have to live under fire, they play football, they will advance and grow. Fortunately, I'm here again. To be honest, it seems like I never left.

- What role did Darijo Srna play in your return to Shakhtar?
- We talked a lot with Darijo not only about football, but we also discussed some personal matters. We talk on the phone almost every day. This was especially true when the Pitmen were in Brazil. Once he asked me: “Why don’t you come back? Your name remains at Shakhtar. Here they know your game, the way you score. If you can continue in the same vein, just do not hesitate to come back.” And, of course, when I got a call from the club, I did not think twice. I explained the situation to my wife. She was also missing Europe.

- Did you have any feeling that you would get back into the team?
- I did! I was too concerned with that matter. When you stay for a long time at a good club, with the infrastructure and organization similar to that of Shakhtar, and then join an inferior side, you feel the difference straight away. I thought a lot about the return options, and my thoughts just came to life.

- Why did you leave the national team?
- I played for Croatia national team for 10 years. At some point, I thought about my being 31 already. Attacking players quickly wear out, get injured. This could be bad for my health in the future. Therefore, I decided that it was enough. I gained the whole lot of experience which I could get in the national team. Besides, I was able to devote more time to my family like that. Plus one more thing. Lately, they changed the system of qualification for the European Championship. If previously just 16 teams were allowed into the finals, now that’s 24 teams. It will be easier for Croatia national team to get there. They have a lot of good players, so the loss of Eduardo will not be felt strongly. Because of this, I left with a clear conscience.

- But there was a time when you changed your citizenship just in order to play for Croatia national team?

- No, it was not only because of Croatia national team. At that time I had dated my future wife for four years. We started to plan for the future, and I was able to obtain citizenship. This would facilitate the wedding procedure as well as our travelling to European countries, where I wanted to stay for the most of my life. Of course, when I got a Croatian passport, football managers began to look at me with different eyes, they took into account that I could play for the national team of their country. 

Fans' passions

- You have been asked many times about your terrible injury at Arsenal. But I still want to ask you a question. When the team meets with some tough opponents, you can see how the same Kucher and Stepanenko get injured. Do you fear to take to the pitch after the past experience?
- We can’t foresee everything. And, to be honest, every player taking the field, hardly thinks about the possibility of suffering an injury. If he thinks so, he will never fulfil his capacity. Of course, it’s bad when a footballer gets injured, but that’s a matter of just one second, it can happen to anyone. One must try to avoid such situations.

- You once said that you cannot watch videos of tour injury. Much time has passed since then. Do you watch it now?
- No I can’t! I cannot review the video, as well as other terrible footage. Just before our interview, I found out on the phone that they shot some journalists in the United States during the live broadcast. The camera even captured the flight of the bullet. But I did not watch it.

- If you're so sensitive and emotional individual, how do you manage to be a fearless fighter on the field?
- When you're in the game, you have completely different thoughts in your head. You never start thinking about some subtle feelings. Your main goal is winning whatever it takes, and you just go for it, so I do not think about that kind of things.

- You played in Croatia, England, Brazil and Ukraine. In these countries, they have different types of fans. Can you give me a brief idea of them?
- Probably, that’s present in every country, being most clearly evident in Brazil. There, they have two types of fans: you love the club forever, or you do that just occasionally. When a team wins, the players are the very best, and when they lose, the players may be even treated just like impersonal men. English fans can be compared with Ukrainian ones. If you win, of course, they are happy. But even if you lose, they still will never turn their backs on you. The next day you go out downtown, they will come up to you and say: “It's okay. You tried your best. Today it did not work, but tomorrow everything will be fine again and we will win.” In Croatia, the fans are interesting enough. I played for the best team in the country, plus for the national team. They give you the right to make just one mistake. You can win 9 out of 10 games, being allowed only one defeat - then it’s not a big deal. But if you lose twice ... On the part of the Croatian fans, everything will get much worse.

- Once Darijo said that the Croatian fans dug 11 graves for the players after a defeat... Are they really so aggressive?
- I can’t say anything about this case, I never heard it. But from my personal experience, I will give you an example dated 2005 or 2006. Our team had a bad period, we lost three games in a row. Another match was over, everyone left. The next day, as if nothing had happened, we exercised at the training centre. At that point, some 50 people ran in, some with bats, wearing masks, started demanding an explanation from us. We were seriously frightened then. Of course, it is dangerous to walk around the city after the defeat. They won’t beat you to death, but they will insult you a million times, take the number plates off your car, and so on. So the fans of different countries are different. In each of them, there is some specific pressure. But if we talk about Croatia and Brazil, many things come from the press there. Journalists get too far into the player’s personal life, they write a lot of bad things. For example, we lost the match. Someone opens the magazine and sees this: “A footballer bought this or that thing, then had this or that drink.” All those details are put together - and they bring forth the reason behind the players’ faults. They write just everything that comes to their mind: both the truth and lies.

- What is the most outrageous and untrue thing that you heard about yourself?
- I can’t remember. I never had any major problems. I hope that I will never face them in the future.

- Why do they call you Dudu?
- Just automatically: anyone who is born into the Portuguese-speaking country under the name Eduardo immediately becomes Dudu. It's like Maxim – Max.

- What changed at Shakhtar over the year when you were away? What’s your memory of the club when you left, and what did you make of it after your return?
- The style of play and the quality of the players remained the same or even improved. But a huge team cohesion appeared! Maybe because of the current situation. We are more united, this atmosphere is felt even in the dressing room. All the guys got focused on a common goal, they think about the same thing and understand each other just perfectly.

- And Mister?
- Mister seems to be getting just younger! He is preparing a great team. It’s the coach who is known not only throughout Europe, but all over the world. Mister knows what each player needs. He prepares us for matches of any level just as they do at the top European clubs. And this is very important.