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When I felt the pain in my knee, my soul went out of my body. I knew from the moment that I hit the ground that I was not going to be on the plane to Russia for the World Cup.
In the changing room, the PSG doctors told me that we would have to wait until the next day to get the results of some tests, but I knew in my heart that it was over. Everyone came in celebrating with the Coupe de France trophy, and I never want to show any negative emotion around my teammates — if you know Dani Alves then you know I’m always one happy motherfucker — so I was smiling and trying to have fun. But everybody could see in my eyes that something was wrong.
I only cried one time, when I was by myself. And let me tell you something — I don’t want anybody to cry for me. I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me. I have lived my dreams. Dani Alves is not going to the World Cup, but he is still one happy motherfucker.
I will be watching Brazil the same way I used to watch when I was a little kid on the farm. Only my TV is gonna be a hell of a lot bigger this time! Now, I told you before how I grew up sleeping on a concrete bed. I told you how I used to have to wake up at five in the morning to help my dad spray chemicals on all the crops on our farm, and then I had to bike 10 kilometers to school. A lot of people were telling me after they read the story, “Damn, Dani, you had it rough as a kid!” But no, man, compared to a lot of people in our town, we had it good.
My dad used to hustle selling the vegetables from our farm, and he also had a little bar business on the side, so we had one of the only televisions around. It was an old TV from the ’70s, and my dad used to wrap steel wool around the antenna to pick up channels from far away. The picture would be fuzzy as hell, but it worked. Except on cloudy days — then you were screwed!
My dad was like a sick patient for football. He was obsessed. So this little TV was everything to him. It made him kind of like the mayor of the town. I remember during the ’94 World Cup, our house was the center of the world. The whole country shut down for a month, and nobody in our town had anywhere to go to watch the matches, so everybody came to our house. Like, everybody. It was like our house turned into a mini football stadium. Imagine 50 people gathered around a little TV, yelling and screaming and partying.
What’s funny is, in Brazil you always hear about kids growing up painting the street green and yellow, right? Well, we were from the roça ― the country, the middle of nowhere. So we didn’t have no streets to paint! You would’ve had to paint the side of a cow or something. So instead, we brought the party to our houses. We had those little plastic Brazilian flags everywhere. That was the scene at our house in ’94. Party time, bro.
When the matches started, it was like we were taking the field for real. In England, in France, in Germany, they love football, yes. But they’re just fans. They’re passionate, but they’re watching. In Brazil, we’re not just watching. We’re playing, you know what I’m saying?
I realized the difference when I was 10 years old, watching Cafu and Romário on that little TV. When they attacked, we attacked with them, When they defended, we defended with them. We’re crossing our fingers, we’re tense, we’re sweating, like we were really playing. People say football in Brazil is a religious experience. But it’s more like a physical experience. I used to get so nervous that I couldn’t sit still, so I’d go get some empty fertilizer buckets from the barn. I’d sit on one and then I’d start drumming on the other with my hands, and I’d get everybody singing.
The World Cup was like something from another world. Everything stopped. The whole country was together, living every moment with one another. In Brazil, you’re very aware of class, you know? But during the World Cup, you have people in a high class, people in a low class — all of a sudden, it doesn’t matter. It’s like, for one month, we all put that jersey on, and everyone’s the exact same. I remember feeling that for the first time in ’94, and I said to myself, “I want to live what Romário is living. I want to be on the TV, wearing that bright yellow shirt.”
I got to live that dream from the time I was 18 years old. I got to wear that yellow shirt for real. I got to bleed my country. Now, for this World Cup, I will just have to attack with the rest of the nation.
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I believe that this team can win the trophy. We have the talent and the superstars, but more importantly, we also have a maestro. Tite has been able to create an incredible ambience since he took over the team, and he’s shown the players that we cannot be soloists. We must be in perfect harmony in order to achieve our dreams.
I have been with the senior team for 12 years, and this is the strongest our connection has ever been — in organization, in structure, in ideas, in everything. We have a good mix of younger players, like Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho, and also the older players who remember the heartache of the last World Cup and want to make things right.
I don’t consider myself a veteran. As you can see, my spirit is about 13 years old. Who knows, maybe when the 2022 World Cup comes around, I will still be competing for a place on the team. My body will be 39, but my spirit will have only turned 17.
You know, I tell my teammates this story sometimes, and this is the story I will leave you with …
When we won the Champions League at Barcelona in 2015, a lot of people doubted that we could win the treble again. But among the players, we really believed in one another, and when we beat Juventus in the final, I ran straight to Adriano after the whistle. I looked at him, and he looked at me, and we just started yelling — but, like, really screaming. We didn’t know what to do.
Afterwards, I watched the footage on TV, and I said to myself, “What the hell are you doing, bro?” It looked ridiculous. But we couldn’t do anything else. We were overcome with an emotion that I can’t explain. We’re yelling, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, shit! Shiiiiiiiiiiiit! We did it again! Shiiiiiiiiiiiit!”
What is that feeling? It’s the feeling of being a kid. You can’t even say any words. You can only scream.
If we win the World Cup, I won’t be screaming. For once, I promise you, I will shut my mouth. There will be no words coming from Dani Alves. I won’t be saying anything. I will only be crying.