NPSL fans may know that Jorge Ferreira da Silva – better known as Palhinha – is the President of Boston City FC. What they may not know, however, is that Palhinha is also quite a legendary figure in Brazilian soccer folklore.
The Minas Gerais native not only won several titles in Brazil’s Série A, he also won the Copa Libertadores twice with São Paulo and once with Cruzeiro. In his heyday, Palhinha was a prominent attacking player who finished as the top scorer in the 1992 edition of Copa Libertadores.
In fact, he was so prominent that he was among the chosen few to don the colors of the verde amarelha in the 1993 edition of Copa América. Now living in the U.S., Palhinha is excited that this country was chosen to be the host for the centennial edition of the tournament.
“Copa América is taking place in the best country in the world, with the best structure, and with all the favorable conditions to have the best games,” he said. “The benefit [of hosting the tournament] is that with every day that goes by here, soccer is being seen more and loved more by the [U.S.] population, which will certainly make them more interested in soccer.”
Having helped his country qualify for the 1994 World Cup, Palhinha knows the sort of pressure that Brazilian players are under any time they suit up to represent Brazil.
“Wearing the Brazilian team’s jersey – even for a friendly game – puts a lot of pressure [on you], because everybody wants to have this kind of opportunity. In Brazil, the Brazilian press does not expect any result other than victory, so the pressure always exists because the weight of the Brazilian jersey is quite heavy,” said Palhinha.
Brazil bowed out of the tournament in the group stage, far earlier than anyone expected, something that has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Brazilians. While many attribute Brazil’s poor performance to the absence of Neymar, Palhinha is not among those, instead citing lack of practice time as the cause.
“A team cannot be dependent on just one player. So I think it’s just that they don’t have much time to practice,” he stated. “Once the trainer calls up the players he has one week or ten days, at most, to prepare that team. And it’s very hard when the players come from their club teams and don’t have enough time to be together.”
Unlike many who have cited the lack of a Brazilian striker in the mold of Romario or Ronaldo as the chink in Brazil’s armor, Palhinha believes the seleção has the right players, it just needs the sort of cohesion that comes with practicing together often.
“Practicing a lot, working a lot, having more time to work together… that will certainly [help Brazil] return to the power and strength that it had, because the team has players with quality,” he mentioned.
With Brazil’s Copa America now in the rearview mirror, Palhinha believes the Rio 2016 Olympics will put even more pressure on the Brazilian soccer team, forcing them to deliver a gold cup to satisfy fans keep the pressure off the team.
“[The Olympics] will be very important because in Copa América Centenario they did not well, so imagine the pressure the team will be under playing in Brazil itself. I think it increases a lot and Brazil is more than obligated to conquer the gold medal in the Olympics. Otherwise, the Brazilian team will be under a lot more pressured until the World Cup.”
Having played for the team, Palhinha’s words carry as much weight as anyone’s.