Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Henrique a true role model for young footballers

Photo:  Henrique at Tasmania's Australian Futsal Association headquarters at Goodwood yesterday [PlessPix]

One of the A-League’s most well-known figures, Brazilian striker Henrique Andrade Silva, who was a star with Brisbane Roar, was in Tasmania this week.

The 34-year-old Henrique, as he is known, was in Hobart yesterday and in Launceston today conducting Futsal clinics as part of the Australian Futsal Association junior clinics in the school holidays.

Henrique goes to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales after leaving Launceston to conduct more clinics.

He played Futsal in Brazil from the age of 9 until he was 14.

Following his retirement from the game in 2019, he has been employed by the Australian Futsal Association, whose CEO is Alistair Miller.

“Futsal teaches you skills and, most importantly, to think quickly,” Henrique explained to me yesterday over a hot chocolate at Glenorchy’s The Coffee Club, a café franchise that is one of his former A-League club’s major sponsors.

Photo:  Henrique with the author at The Coffee Club in Glenorchy [Photo by Romeo Frediani]

I had a cappuccino, but ‘Ricci’, as he likes to be known, was all ‘coffeed out’ after a day of clinics at the Tasmanian headquarters of the Association in Goodwood and chose hot chocolate instead.

Born in Sao Paulo, Henrique’s family moved to Belo Horizonte while he was still young.

When he was nine years old, he went to Futsal training at a local club, but the coach refused to let him participate because he didn’t have the correct footwear.

Henrique was devastated.  His mother was too poor to buy him the proper shoes.

When the coach heard this, he relented and bought the boy a pair of shoes so that he could train and his talent soon became evident.

Many Brazilian footballers put their technique and skill down to an early grounding in Futsal, which is played with a heavier ball on a court similar in size to that used for basketball.

Henrique concentrated on outdoor football from 14 years of age and was in the junior ranks at Cruzeiro, the club of 1970 World Cup star Tostao.

In 1965, I saw Tostao play for Cruzeiro against German club Eintracht Frankfurt.  Five years later, he was a star of Pele’s World Cup winning Brazil, the Seleção.

Henrique confirmed that Tostao is now a doctor and a leading football columnist in Brazil.

Photo:  Australian Futsal Association managers in Tasmania, Raelene Hennicke and Romeo Frediani, with Henrique at The Coffee Club [PlessPix]

A move to Feyenoord in the Netherlands in 2003-04 proved fruitless for Henrique and after spells with some Brazilian clubs (although he never played senior football for Cruzeiro, he did play for Clube America in Serie C) he was signed on loan by Brisbane Roar in 2009 and stayed until 2016, playing 136 games and scoring 39 goals.

His most memorable goal was the winner in extra-time in the 2014 A-League Grand Final against Western Sydney Wanderers before a record crowd of 51,153 at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

Henrique, a modest, deeply religious man, told me an amazing story about that 2-1 win.

Six months earlier, he had been finding it difficult to earn a place in the starting line-up at Brisbane Roar and felt down in the dumps.

After a particular game in which he hadn’t played, he was leaving the arena when a man in the crowd beckoned to him.

He went over and found out that the man was a pastor and a fellow Brazilian.

The man told him to believe in God, have confidence in himself and keep his chin up.  He told Henrique that if he did those things he would score the winner in the Grand Final.

Henrique was somewhat taken aback as it was six months before the A-League Grand Final and Brisbane Roar were not even guaranteed of making the final.

Brisbane did make the final, and Western Sydney Wanderers led 1-0 until an 86th-minute goal by Besart Berisha made it 1-1 and took the game into extra-time.

Henrique had missed a sitter when Brisbane were a goal down and when skipper Matt McKay trotted over and asked him how he could possibly have missed it, Henrique replied that he was going to score the winner and not the equaliser.

And, that’s exactly what he did, in the 108th minute.

The pastor’s prediction had become true and Henrique was converted.  He is a devout Christian and lives with his Brazilian wife and two young children in a Brisbane suburb.

He has become an Australian citizen, but agrees he won’t be called up for the Socceroos any time soon.

It doesn’t worry him.  His family and making them happy are his priorities these days.

He has his ‘B’ coaching licence and will soon go for his ‘A’ Licence and he hopes to pursue a coaching career.

He will take a year off at some time and visit all the places in Brazil he hasn’t seen, including the famous Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro, and the opera house in Manaus, a city in the heart of the Amazon rain forest.

Playing football in Brazil was full on and allowed little time for sightseeing during the team’s travels.

Henrique also played in Malaysia and Thailand before returning to Australia for the 2016-17 A-League season with Adelaide United.

He rejoined Brisbane Roar for the 2018-19 season, when he played 32 games and scored 6 goals.

Photo:  'Ricci' about to enjoy a hot chocolate [PlessPix]

I found Henrique to be refreshingly modest about his football career and admired his sensible approach to life and family.

He is certainly not ego-driven, as many famous football stars are, and it was a pleasure to meet him.

The kids attending his Australian Futsal Association coaching clinics couldn’t have a better coach or role model.

1 comment:

Richo said...

Thanks for sharing that experience Walter.