Monday 10 December 2018, 03:00

Serginho: I'm proud to be representing Brazil

  • Serginho chats to about being a proud Brazilian

  • He also discusses Zico, Guadalajara and Real Madrid

  • Kashima face Chivas at UAE 2018 on 15 Dec 2018

Brazil will be represented at this year’s FIFA Club World Cup. That’s the message, after the maiden all-Argentinian Copa Libertadores final, from a man whose green-and-yellow flag is as fundamental a travel item as his mobile phone or toothbrush.

“I’m extremely proud to be representing Brazil at the Club World Cup,” Serginho, the lead torchbearer in Kashima Antlers’ AFC Champions League conquest, enthusiastically told “The whole world watches you and to be representing my country, it’s a great feeling.

“Brazil has a big history in this competition. We almost had two teams in the Libertadores final. But with me, Leo [Silva], Leandro and the great Brazilians of Real Madrid, Brazil will be well represented. And everywhere I go, my flag goes too!”

The match - Second roundKashima Antlers - CD Guadalajara
Where:Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium
When:15 Dec 2018 - 17:00 Local time

That bandeira do Brasil only reached Japan in August. Serginho began the year on the Santos bench, disfavoured by coach Jair Ventura, the son of Jairzinho, but another FIFA World Cup™ legend facilitated the attacking midfielder’s journey to UAE 2018.

“At the start of 2018 I couldn’t have believed this would happen,” admitted Serginho. “I’d just been loaned to America Mineiro.

“Then Zico saw me play against Flamengo in Rio. He began to follow me. He recommended me and Kashima made an offer (Zico is Kashima’s technical director). I was elated to have been recommended by an idol like Zico.

“Three months after I joined, we won the Asian Champions League and now, incredibly, I’m going to play in the Club World Cup. My life’s changed a lot.”

The flip-flop in Serginho’s fortunes owes much to him remedying the kink in his armour: a lack of goals. The 23-year-old scored prolifically for America, and hit five goals in six appearances in the AFC Champions League.

“I’ve always given assists,” he said. “But this year I tried to get in the box more and started scoring a few goals. This gives you confidence, and I believe confidence is everything in football.”

Kashima overcame Auckland City 2-1, Mamelodi Sundowns 2-0 and Atletico Nacional 3-0 to reach the Japan 2016 final against Real Madrid, who only escaped their horns when a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick snatched a 4-2 victory after extra time. Go Oiwa’s Asian emperors will, nevertheless, face a firm examination from Mexican titans Guadalajara in Saturday’s quarter-final.

“It will be a very tough game,” said Serginho. “The standard of Mexican clubs is high. We don’t know too much about Chivas, but we’ll be studying them and it’s important we stick to the strategy our coach requests.

“I’m already realising a childhood ambition by playing at the Club World Cup, but if we progress and play against Real Madrid, it would be realising two dreams in one. But we’re taking it game by game.

“Playing in the Club World Cup has been a dream for me since I was a kid. It’s always been at the end of the year, when we were on holidays from school, so everyone would always watch it. I remember Sao Paulo, Inter becoming champions.

“I use to imagine how amazing it would be to play in the competition. When you dream, you chase those dreams and you can realise them.”

Something else Serginho dreamed of over his four months in Japan was spending Christmas with his family in Brazil. Now, his mother and father are packing their suitcases for Abu Dhabi and, if Serginho’s idyllic 2018 extends on to Emirati ground and Kashima reach the final – on the evening of 22 December – the Monte Aprazivel native and his wife will spend the following day frantically scrambling around for last-minute flights from Japan to Brazil.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “All I’m thinking about is the Club World Cup. Christmas is an afterthought.”

Sushi instead of turkey for Christmas? It suddenly sounds tantalising to Senhor and Senhora Soler.