Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Inspiring stories of three fullbacks and a centre-back at the WC Finals

      Playing against Denmark at the quarterfinal of the World Cup in 1998, Cafu picked up a silly yellow card that would keep him suspended him for the next match. Suddenly, Ze Carlos, Brazil's backup rightback, found himself on the starting lineup vs Holland in the semi-final.  Brazil in 1998 was loaded with superstars.   Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Bebeto, Dungo and Cafu were multi-millionaires.  Ze Carlos, however, was different.  He was a career journeyman.  A year before the WC Finals, he was playing for Matonense in the lower division and his salary was not enough to make ends meet.  So he sold melons in the street.  Then, Sao Paulo signed him in 1997.  Somehow, his performance caught the attention of Mario Zagello.  After a series of injuries within Brazil's player pool, Zagello called him up for the WC Finals.  He had never played for Brazil at any level.  Suddenly, he found himself in France playing with the defending WC champion.

      In 2002, there was another fullback named "Carlos" with a similar story.  Carlos Llamosa, a native of Colombia, gave up soccer in 1991 so that he could join his family in Queens, New York.  He had played for Atletico Huila in Colombia previously.  In 1991, there was no professional soccer in the United States.  The Major League Soccer did not start until 1996.  He worked as a janitor at the World Trade Center during the 1993 terrorist attack.  In 1995, he started playing again by joining New York Centaurs of the A-League.  Bruce Arena liked what he saw and brought him to DC United in 1997.  In 1998, he earned his first cap for the USA after becoming a citizen and would make the World Cup team in 2002 where he made two appearances.  

     Four years later, yet another fullback had a similar story.  In 2001, Fabio Grosso was an attacking midfielder playing for Chieti Calcio in the Serie C when Perugia in the Serie A signed him. He was almost 24 years old. Perugia converted him into a leftback.  He found some degree of successes in Serie A.  He earned his first cap for Italy.  However, in January, 2004, he was sold to Palermo, which was playing in Serie B.  Palermo won promotion in his first season there. In 2006, Marcello Lippi selected him for the World Cup Finals. He scored the winning goal vs Germany in the semi-final.  He screamed "I don't believe it!" as he ran across the field to celebrate. In the Final against France, he found himself taking the last penalty, the penalty that would decide the World Cup as the whole of Italy was watching.  Five years ago, he was an attack midfielder playing in Serie C.  And two and half years ago, he was still playing in Serie B.  And then, he was Italy's hero as Italy won its 4th World Cups.

     Jay DeMerit went undrafted after his college career finished in the United States,  He went to England to try his lucky.  He first joined Southall in 9th tier and then, Northwood in 7th tier of the English football.  In July, 2004, he played against Watford, a team in the English Championship, in na preseason match.  he impressed Watford's manager, Ray Lewington.  He was given a 1-year contract, but he ended up playing 6 years for them. In his second year, he would score the winning goal at the promotional playoff against Leeds United and Watford moved up to the Premiership the following year.  Two years after leaving the 9th tier of the English football, he became a player in the Premier League.  In 2010, he would play in the World Cup for the USA.

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