In a letter published by “The Players Tribune”, Alexsander spoke about several topics. The beginning of his career, his time at Fluminense, ups and downs, his relationship with his family and teammates and much more. For the club where he was revealed, the midfielder lives with the expectation of playing in the Libertadores final and – who knows? – make history. Check out the full publication:
“Brother, do you know what a relief hug is? No? So let me tell you, because I know this stop backwards and forwards and top to bottom.
Let’s say that a hug of relief is like the ball, the boot, the Maracanã and the Fluminense shirt. It’s part of my football journey.
So, I’m from the Primavera community, in Cavalcanti, north of Rio. I was born and raised at the top of the hill, very high up. And the community doesn’t have that name for nothing. There everyone knows each other, helps each other as they can, cheers for each other, laughs together when they achieve and cries together when they fall.
But sometimes things get complicated. It’s a police operation, it’s an exchange of fire, it’s a stray bullet… those things that they show on TV all the time.
So, in the beginning, going to train was never simple for me. I missed a lot of training on days when stepping outside the house was too risky. The sun shining outside, I was dying to play, but locked up and hearing the noises, the screams, the crying and the rush at our door.
At those times, my fear was no greater than my sadness. Not being able to train left me devastated. Then, when things became, let’s say, “normal”, I was able to leave.
Just imagine: a 12-year-old kid going to school in Cascadura at 6 in the morning, from there to field training in Xerém in the afternoon, then straight to futsal in Laranjeiras at night and returning to Cavalcanti just after midnight. All by bus, alone and without a cell phone.
Wow, my mother was very distressed. Very. You have no idea.
Every night she waited for me down on the hill so we could go home together. And every night, as soon as she saw me, she would run over and give me a hug of relief.
He wouldn’t let me go.
I can’t say how long that hug lasted.
It took so long that I could feel her heart slowly slowing down and gradually getting into a normal rhythm. Then we walked in silence through the alleys and I thought: Did she stay in this distress all day?
Yes, she had stayed.
Wow, then I’m going to make it all worth it.
I think that’s how I became a football player. Every hug of relief that took away my mother’s distress, told me to honor the left hand that God gave me and fall within, that one day my chance would appear and I would be able to make up for everything.
The chances, in fact, did not appear. They were dug by my mother, who, despite her heart breaking all the time because of these troubles, never asked me to give up. On the contrary. She was the one who put me in the community’s social project when I was five years old. Afterwards, the teacher told her to look for something more serious for me, because I had a way with the ball, and she took me to Mackenzie, in Méier.
Further on, to this day I don’t know how, but my mother always tried to give me a better life, she managed to try out for Fluminense’s futsal team. I was approved and then the magic began.
I remember it as if it were yesterday: leaving home for the first day of training in Laranjeiras, my mother holds me by the shoulders, looks deep into my eyes, a little tense but happy, and sends the lyrics:
— Alex, do what you know and don’t try to be better than anyone. You just have to compete with yourself. This is your beginning. Now go. I will always be rooting for you and waiting for you with a hug.
This review with Ms. Lidiane helped me several times later, when I made the transition to soccer and went to train in Xerém. I’m not referring to the technical part, I didn’t find that strange. Because of my quick style, of thinking before the ball arrives and being able to unwind when it’s crunch time, I adapted quickly to the field. And look, they are very different games from each other.
But that’s one of the magics of football: I think there are things that come with us. I’m saying this… You look at guys like Marcelo and André playing and you know that not everything they learned; a lot of things were born with them, and changing the court for the field ends up being a bit of getting used to.
Now, magic doesn’t guarantee everything. It doesn’t guarantee that we will never trip, fall and break ourselves. I had a bad time when I was on Fluminense’s dismissal list for the first time. The terror of every youth base, at any club, is the layoff list. Despite the things I came to know, the many others I learned, there were kids there playing more. And those on the layoff list want to show everything they know to get out of it and get rid of that lump in their throat. The feeling is terrible.
At that time, in Xerém, from inside the field I looked around and saw a bunch of kids sitting on the wall waiting to take a test and possibly take my place. Is it distress that calls? So… Being on the layoff list showed me clearly how my mother felt with me outside the house all day while she was shooting in the favela. She showed me that fear comes from our inability to hold destiny in our hands. Of doing everything, everything, everything and still not being enough.
The fall was inevitable: I was released from Fluminense’s under-14 squad and a heavy cloud settled at home. Not even the injuries I had recently left me so upset. I was sad to see my dream going down the drain, my mother was sad to see me sad and I was even sadder to be causing her sadness.
It felt like a one-way trip to the bottom of the well. But for Ms. Lidiane there is no rock bottom, right?
I don’t know how she got me a test at Vasco. I did it and failed. Then, test in Madureira. I passed and stayed there for a year, playing little. It was a relief to know that not all was lost. But every night, when we found ourselves at the bottom of the hill to go home, the first thing I said as soon as I managed to free myself from her embrace was like this:
— Mom, I don’t know how, but I’m going back to Fluminense.
There was only one way. Start all over again, with futsal, and try to cross the bridge to Xerém once again.
That’s what I did.
Everything is the same, including the bad part. The futsal guys welcomed me, I did well, made the transition to the field and… I ended up on the layoff list again. But then the world stopped. The pandemic has put everything on hold.
With training and school classes suspended, I trained via Zoom and played naked with my friends on the dirt field on the hill. Despite the apprehension and uncertainty due to the virus, I loved those rachões. Because it was like that there: there was no foul, you could get down and the game wouldn’t stop. This forced me to be lighter. Release the ball quickly, think quickly, clear myself quickly, adjust my body quickly, dribble and shoot quickly. Otherwise he would get hit.
When we resumed in-person training, I surprised myself. I was playing looser, smoother. My coaches noticed it too. They held a meeting. They decided to take me off the left flank and put me in midfield. From then on, everything went well. And I finally felt like a son of Xerém!
It didn’t take long for Fernando Diniz to pull me into the professional team. In my first game, against São Paulo, when he called my name at halftime, I started sweating. I soaked my shirt before entering the field. It felt like a confused dream. I was a little flustered.
Some random and messy images were mixed up in my head. Me at Leopoldina waiting for the bus, my name crossed out on a list, us hunkered down at home on a shooting day, my mother’s heart racing, Marcelo leaving the video game to visit us in Xerém and asking, kid by kid, one by One, how things were going, if he could help with anything… And deep down, bringing me to reality, Diniz’s voice:
— Alexsander, pay attention! What you did at the base, you will do here, without fear of making mistakes. If you have to give a pen, you give a pen. You made a mistake, no problem. Just run to recover the ball. Did you understand?
I understood! And the next thing I knew, I was touching the ball for the first time in a professional game: a strong shot from outside the area, which the São Paulo goalkeeper saved and Cano grabbed the rebound to equalize.
From then on, more unbelievable things started to happen to me, like scoring a goal in the Carioca Championship decision against Flamengo, in a packed Maraca. It was so surreal that I even got a little lost. I didn’t know where to run, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, I wanted to scream, but I didn’t know what to say.
In the midst of the madness, I only calmed down when I felt the chant of our fans arrive, surround me and lift me off the ground as if it were a ripple. A feeling of peace that I had never felt before. Since then, I’ve been on the field wanting just that: to float in the corner of the tricolor crowd again, again, again, again…
And now we are in the Libertadores final. I know the size of this stop well. But I learned to think game by game. Because from the beginning, that’s what Diniz repeated to us: in football, we have to live, in the best way possible, in the present.
It doesn’t matter if we did well in the last match, it doesn’t matter if we lost, if we scored, it doesn’t matter if we’re missing or who’s going to play next weekend.
It’s over, forget all that.
It’s the here and now that counts.
That’s how we arrived at the decision. One fight at a time and knowing the wound that the 2008 final opened in the fans’ chests. I was only five years old, I don’t remember almost anything about that penalty shootout defeat to LDU. But I know that the wound is big, deep and burns inside me too, because I look at it every day.
You know, I have a particular commitment to this decision. Actually, two.
One with Marcelo, because he is my reference, my inspiration. Saturday against Boca I’m going to run everything I already run and a little more for Marcelo, if I need to. Because this guy has no equal. He more than anyone knows what it’s like to be a kid from Xerém, having difficulty going to training, leaving futsal for the field and conquering the world. Marcelo has always been my idol, the player I wanted to be when he grew up.
The day I got seriously injured, in a game against Cruzeiro, Marcelo was voted man of the match. And I think that, until the end of my life, I will forget the pain I was feeling, but never his words in the locker room. I lay there on the stretcher thinking if it was the end of me, if one day I was going to play again, Marcelo comes straight and gives me his prize:
— Take it as yours, kid. Even though you got hurt, you were the best today. Come back soon because we need you.
Damn! I need to say more? Marcelo is a monster. All my respect and admiration, brother.
The other commitment is with my history at Fluminense, with my family, with my father and, especially, with my mother, because of everything I told you before.
Because she taught me what an affliction is, what a racing heart is, a hug of relief, showing me that football is the life we dream of while the shots crackle outside.
Thank you mom.
So, if everything goes well, Saturday at Maraca I’ll be the one who will give you a hug of relief.
A hug of relief from every tricolor fan who makes me float. To whom I will always be grateful for all the support and all the sacrifice to come and see Flu…
My great love.