Thursday 07 November 2019, 09:21

Pele inspiring Brazil’s goal hero to new heights

  • Kaio Jorge converts free-kick and penalty in Round of 16 win over Chile

  • Santos player cites Pele as his career role model

  • Brazil No9 is his team’s top scorer at the tournament with three goals

Pele’s legacy in the game has never been in question, but it faces its biggest challenge today from social media and video games that are so influential among new generations of football lovers. Nevertheless, the greatest player Brazil has ever produced remains a guiding light for the country’s youngsters. A case in point is Kaio Jorge. Though O Rei retired from the game 25 years before the teenage forward was born, in 2002, he is his main source of inspiration at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™.

On Wednesday, the Seleção No9 channelled that inspiration with a match-winning performance in the host nation’s Round of 16 tie with Chile in Brasilia, scoring two of his side’s goals in their 3-2 win. After guiding a free-kick into the back of the net with unerring accuracy, he then converted a penalty and even had a third goal ruled out by VAR.

Having announced in a recent interview that Pele was his favourite player, Kaio confirmed his preference for the Brazil legend over today’s stars in a post-match chat with “I’ve heard a lot about him and everyone who knows about football in Brazil knows that he’s our king. I’ve just got to idolise him because he’s amazing.”

The 17-year-old has twice been in the presence of the legendary forward, a FIFA World Cup™ winner at 1958, 1962 and 1970. As a youth player at Santos, the club that O Rei played for with such distinction, Kaio lives and breathes his legacy, with one of those encounters coming at an event held at the city’s Pele Museum.

Homework pays off

The hard-fought win over the Chileans was Brazil's toughest match at the tournament so far, a match on which Kaio stamped his authority. “It’s a very tough competition and there are no easy games,” he said after a tie in which Chile had come from behind to lead 2-1 as half-time approached. “We started well but switched off towards the end of the first half.”

The forward caught the eye with his first goal, firing a free-kick into the corner guarded by Chile keeper Julio Fierro. “I’d been taking free-kicks since I was in the U-11s and then I stopped,” said Kaio. “I’ve been practising them a lot in training recently, though. We spoke before the game about their keeper moving a lot. Sure enough, I saw him shuffling across and put it right where he’d come from.”

Though he was delighted with his side’s safe passage into the last eight, Kaio’s joy was tempered by the sight of fellow forward Talles Magno suffering a thigh injury at the end of the game, an injury serious enough for the player to be carried off by his team-mates.

Though Kaio has no idea who will be lining up with him in attack in the quarter-finals, he knows he will not be lacking in support from the stands. Like his team-mates, he has his family cheering him on at Brazil 2019, with his cousins and grandparents having travelled from Recife, the city where he was born.

His mother, Atenas Karina, and father, Jorge Ramos, have made the trip from the family home in Santos. They have brought with them a home-made banner bearing Kaio’s face, the Brazil flag and the Santos badge, visible proof that the colours Pele once represented with such distinction are the same as those of his loyal fan Kaio.