“[Riquelme] advised the brawl with such affection that it looked afterwards him all over the pitch, with the abasement of a dog kissing his feet.” — Brazilian 1970 World Cup winner Tostao.
“If we accept to biking from point A to point B, anybody would booty the six-lane artery and get there as bound as possible. Everyone, except Riquelme. He would accept the ambagious abundance road, that takes six hours, but that fills your eyes with scenes of admirable landscapes.” — Former Argentina and Real Madrid star Jorge Valdano.
“I enjoyed football to the maximum. I achievement the bodies accept enjoyed it alongside me. I approved to accept a acceptable time.” — Juan Roman Riquelme.
There is a acclaimed adage in South America that “Brazilians adulation to abhorrence Argentinians, while Argentinians abhorrence to adulation Brazilians,” but aback it comes to Juan Roman Riquelme, stereotypes and conventions rarely apply.
The above Argentina all-embracing became a footballing fable during two spells at Boca Juniors, in amid a admirable spell in Spain for Barcelona and abnormally Villarreal in the mid-2000s.
Riquelme’s unique, accidental accuracy was a absolute archetype of jogo bonito (the admirable game), but he never represented a Brazilian aggregation in his career. Instead, admirers in the country alone anytime got to watch him do accident to their teams.
And yet, booty a attending at the aggregation bedding from the contempo Copa Sao Paulo and you will see that, six years aback his retirement, Riquelme’s name still echoes all about Brazilian football…literally.
Attracting crowds of 10,000 fans, scouts from Europe’s big accoutrements and able agents, the Copa Sao Paulo opens the blind to the football division in Brazil every January. It’s the country’s arch adolescence tournament, but it’s additionally broadly admired as its best democratic.
This season’s copy featured 127 teams from every bend of the continent-sized nation, casting Brazilian giants adjoin barely-heard-of minnows over three weeks beyond the accompaniment of Sao Paulo.
With no top-flight matches cartoon attention, the Copinha, as it is affectionately known, is the capital antecedent of calm football on TV in January.
For abounding players, the U20 antagonism is apparent as a once-in-a-lifetime befalling to get themselves into the accent and, with some luck, acquire a advantageous move.
Rewind a year, and Gabriel Martinelli begin himself in that actual position, authoritative account with Brazilian third-tier club Ituano; now he’s bagging goals for Arsenal in the Arch League.
The Brazilian wonderkid is aloof the latest aptitude to auspiciously booty a aisle that was additionally followed by the brand of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Casemiro and Marquinhos.
However, with over 3,000 teenagers acquisitive to accomplish the aforementioned goal, it’s not accessible to angle out.
Riquelme Sousa Silva was amid those who afflicted this season, applique six goals in bristles games, including a hat-trick, to advice Atletico Goianiense almanac their best-ever attack in the Copinha.
Yet, as he had somehow been anticipating, best of the questions he took afterwards had annihilation to do with his analgesic aptitude central the box.
“They were mostly about my name,” he chuckles, answer why he was christened afterwards the Argentinian above midfielder.
“It was because of my uncle—he was a huge fan of Boca Juniors about the time I was built-in [in 2001], and then, one night, they say they were watching this Boca bout and he asked my ancestor if he could name me afterwards Riquelme. My ancestor accepted, alike acceptance he didn’t apperceive abundant about him and wasn’t absolutely into football.
“My mother had added affairs for me, but eventually she consented too.”
Raised in Aguiarnopolis, a countryside boondocks in Tocantins accompaniment with a citizenry of aloof over 5,000, Atletico’s 18-year-old striker says he had never met any added Brazilians with the aforementioned name.
He wouldn’t accept had to attending far in Copa Sao Paulo, though, to acquisition a namesake.
In total, there were 12 boys alleged afterwards Riquelme arena at this year’s tournament—enough to acreage a accomplished team, with addition Riquelme on the bench.
All of them were built-in in the aboriginal 2000s, aback Boca disqualified South American football. Aback then, the Buenos Aires giants won the Copa Libertadores three times in four years, thrashing Brazilian abandon forth the way.
No amount whom they played against, they looked invincible, abundant of it actuality bottomward to Riquelme’s breeding on the brawl as he dictated their accent with his archetypal style.
The way he played the bold abounding Brazilians with homesickness because their own country seemed clumsy to aftermath ancient playmakers of his ilk. “In the past, we acclimated to accept players like Riquelme,” Pele reflected in an account with Brazilian television in 2006.
This attraction contributed to the acceleration of what ability be alleged the “Generation Riquelme” in Brazil.
They are all agnate in name but afar by aloof a few letters, as accent during the Copinha: Amid the 12 Riquelmes, there were some anarchistic spellings, such as Rikelme, Rickelme, Rikelmi, Riquelmy, Riquelmo and alike an Aimar Riquelme (mixing the Boca fable with Pablo Aimar, an iconic amateur for Boca’s angry rivals, River Plate).
Two of the Riquelmes featured for Cruzeiro and started calm in a bold during the accumulation stage. It wasn’t a altered bearings at the club either. With bristles players alleged afterwards Riquelme in their academy, Cruzeiro included four of them in a matchday band aftermost year.
The U20 team’s coach, Celio Lucio, a above centre-back who won the Copa Libertadores with the club in 1997, deals with them in his circadian routine.
“It isn’t that difficult [to acquaint them apart] because they accept altered haircuts, don’t comedy in the aforementioned position, and added importantly, they aren’t all in the aforementioned age group,” he explains, while acceptance he is not the better fan of allotment kids afterwards greats.
“This accomplished affair brings a actual big accountability on the athletes. I bethink seeing a lot of boys alleged Lineker around. These are situations that should be handled actual carefully, ambitious some cerebral assignment to accomplish abiding their names don’t become a accountability at some point.”
According to the latest citizenry census, taken in 2010, there are 622 Brazilians alleged afterwards allegorical English striker Gary Lineker.
That’s boilerplate abreast the acceptance that Riquelme has reached, though, leaping from 202 registrations in the ’90s to 14,037 in the 2000s. It represents a advance of 6,894 percent, the second-biggest among macho names in the period.
The aboriginal one? Rikelme, which added 10,057 percent afterwards activity from 26 to 2,641 babies in the aforementioned interval.
And it is not aloof football admirers who accept been giving their babyish the name of the Argentine maestro; footballers accept been at it too.
Former Porto and Brazil all-embracing goalkeeper Helton Arruda christened one of his sons Riquelme, while Ronaldo Angelim, a retired centre-back who denticulate Flamengo’s Brasileirao title-winning ambition in 2009, did the same.
“He was a abundant midfielder, addition I enjoyed watching play,” Angelim says. “But it was absolutely because of my ex-wife [Ricassia]. We had already best a [football] name agnate to abundance for our aboriginal son, Ronald de Boer, so aback we heard that our additional one was coming, we alleged him afterwards her.”
Despite his babyish face and accustomed shyness, Riquelme, who abounding accede to be Boca’s best greatest player, was a advocate in all senses of the term.
It’s no accompaniment that El Grafico annual had him on one of its celebrated covers as Che Guevara. His die-hard admirers alarm themselves “soldiers of Riquelme.” They ability accept never realised, however, that his army was so big in Brazil as well.
Ezequiel Fernandez Moores, Argentina’s arch sports columnist, has followed Riquelme aback he bankrupt through at La Bombonera in 1996 and absolutely understands the allure he causes on the added ancillary of the frontier.
“If Brazil is the home of aesthetic football, then, it seems analytic to me, that they pay admiration to the best aesthetic amateur we’ve had in contempo times,” Moores argues.
“[Diego] Maradona and [Lionel] Messi are from addition dimension, acclaimed on a abundant added all-around scale. Riquelme is a audible phenomenon. He’s admired by those who absolutely get this game, who apperceive he did absurd things not because of his accomplished address and skills, but because of his character, his dignity, as an artisan of the ball.
“Therefore, it doesn’t appear as a abruptness that aback [Danielle] De Rossi was apparent at Boca, he accustomed accepting a WhatsApp accumulation with altered players, all of them midfielders, one of whom’s photo was of Riquelme.
“For that reason, I accept he had such appulse in Brazil. Not aloof because his best memorable masterclasses were adjoin Brazilian clubs in absolute matches, but additionally for continuing for a blazon of football that no best exists, from the past, one area the brawl was confused about and the amateur didn’t charge to run so much. Perhaps, this explains this homesickness about Riquelme.
“Like Zidane, they accept a admirable name, an aesthetic one as well: Zinedine and Roman.”
While Brazil accept a accomplished bearing of Riquelmes advancing through their adolescence ranks, it’s aloof as analytical that the aforementioned will never appear in Argentina while it’s not an accustomed name at the country’s allotment offices.
The abutting they will get are the 193 boys alleged Juan Roman in 2002, a time aback the Boca Juniors idol was antibacterial Brazilians and overextension the fable that makes his compatriots still accredit to him as “the aftermost abundant No. 10.”
Brazil, however, may be gearing up to bang aback with their actual own Riquelme in the abreast future.
Follow Marcus on Twitter: @_marcus_alves.
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