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From culture shock to cult hero
WHEN Bruno Ribeiro swapped the beaches of Sao Paulo for East Lancashire, it was supposed to be the realisation of what he had dreamed of for most of his life.
More than a year later, Blackburn Rovers’ boy from Brazil has only just woken from a very real nightmare after months of being frozen out at Ewood Park and left longing for the blue skies of South America.
Homesickness, loneliness and communication problems were just some of the problems facing Rovers’ right-back as, through no fault of his own, he was left something of an Ewood Park laughing stock.
Ribeiro’s Rovers career looked over before it had started having not featured in a single first team squad last season, after being plucked from Brazil’s lower leagues by owners Venky’s.
Then manager Steve Kean had likened him to Manchester United legend Denis Irwin but comparisons with Lord Lucan were perhaps more apt with Ribeiro growing infamous by his absence.
Just a glance at the 29-year-old as he approached me in the reception at Brockhall earlier this week showed how things have suddenly changed.
Smiling, locked in conversation with a couple of Rovers’ Portuguese exports, and happy to talk about the future, Ribeiro can finally see his English football dream being realised.
He said: “It was a hard time for me. I was just playing games in the reserves and I was missing my family. It is a different country, different weather. Now I am enjoying England.
“I came here on my own. My family is in Brazil and they come sometimes. They spend one month here and two months in Brazil. I have some friends here but it was difficult last season and I missed a lot of things that I used to have.
“Last season, I was always confident in my ability but I tried to come back to Brazil on loan. I knew I was not playing here and had no chance, so I tried some clubs in Brazil to go on loan.
“I am enjoying things now. I have waited a long time for the chance and I will work hard to make sure I take my space in the team.
“I am enjoying it here. It is my second season here and my first season was a little bit hard for me because I didn’t play any game for the first team. Now I enjoy more because I have played some games and I want to keep that going.”
Ribeiro has already made five Championship appearances for Rovers this season and has become something of a cult figure among sections of Ewood Park after his unlikely emergence.
‘Ribeiro’ memorabilia is even on sale in the official club store and he is determined to make sure it is second season lucky for his own English adventure.
“It has all worked out well,” he said. “I didn’t leave and I have got some chance here. That is better for me. Now I have to take this chance.
“It was so strange when I played my first games and heard the fans chant ‘Bruno’. I was very happy because they know me now and I try to do well for them.
“We know it is hard work. This league is very hard, a lot of teams are the same quality and a lot of teams are close in the league. It is very difficult to get promoted but Blackburn is a big club and we have to. We want to get promotion.
“It would be wonderful for me if we got promotion. I didn’t play the season we got relegated so if I am playing and the club go up it would be wonderful for me.”
So how different is life in Blackburn to Brazil? Apart from the obvious climate differences, the man formerly based in Sao Paulo state admits there were plenty of hurdles he had to overcome.
“It was very different. The football was very different, I just played in Brazil before and when I got this chance I was thinking it would be a good opportunity to learn different football and a different language. The first season was for learning and this season will be better.
“I could not speak the language. My English was just what I had learned from school, a few sentences. Now my English has improved.
“On my own at home last season I used to teach myself from the internet, this season with some Portuguese guys in the club, a teacher comes in two times a week to teach.
“We speak the same language and now I am trying to help them because, except Nuno Gomes, they don’t speak the language.
“I am helping them and like a translator when they need to say something.
“The difference is a lot. Here the pitch is always wet and so the game is quicker, in Brazil most times we play with a dry pitch so it is slower. Here it is very physical. I never played against such big guys in Brazil. Now I am fit and ready to play.”
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