London 2012
Gozde Sonsirma (left) of Turkey spikes against Castro, Claudino and Pequeno (BRA)
Sheilla celebrating
Olympic defending champions Brazil are ready to play world No. 3 China in a crucial match for the South American side in Pool B of the women's tournament
Brazil's players celebrate
Brazil celebrate
Hero Sheilla Castro (BRA) and Yimei Wang (CHN)

 

Sheilla and the unexpected Brazil

London, Great Britain, August 3, 2012 – Sheilla Tavares de Castro, universally known simply as Sheilla, is a fantastic player and a funny person. How many people would have named their dog after an antiflogistic? Sheilla did. Brazilians are particularly superstitious? Sheilla was the first Brazilian player ever to ask for jersey number 13. The list is longer, but this should be enough.

London, Great Britain, August 3, 2012 – Sheilla Tavares de Castro, universally known simply as Sheilla, is a fantastic player and a funny person. How many people would have named their dog after an antiflogistic? Sheilla did. Brazilians are particularly superstitious? Sheilla was the first Brazilian player ever to ask for jersey number 13. The list is longer, but this should be enough.

She was thirteen when a teacher brought her to her first club, Mackenzie Esporte, saying. “I think you’ll become a strong player.” She started as middle blocker, then was moved to outside hitter, the role that made her a star.

At that time she probably had not in mind about leaving her country and playing abroad for many years: exactly four seasons, all spent in Italy with the same club. “Saudade” is a Brazilian word which sounds sad even when pronounced. It’s a sort of homesickness, but the word has thin shades which are hard to translate. To translate practically her “saudade”, Sheilla used to sign single year contracts when abroad, just in case.

And when she decided to go back to Brazil in 2008, she was no more a 7 points player, so she was more requested than ever. With the Brazilian ranking system, a club could have only two players ranked 7 points (usually national team players): the system was created to balance the championship and avoid grouping top players in a few teams. By going abroad, also the best athletes are reset to zero.

Now her value is something difficult to measure in numbers: “I still feel that if I’m not playing with the right mood, the whole team is following me.” This sounds as the translation of “being a leader.”

She entered the FIVB Heroes lounge on Friday at Earls Court a little bit more relaxed, after their victory against China. However, the standings after the first days of competition are not as expected. “I believe we’re still a strong team, but we struggled on the very first days here” confirms the Brazilian diagonal hitter.

The Brazilian team is showing strange faces, with a mix of concentration and anxiety which is not so familiar for million of Brazilian fans watching the match on TV. “We are not playing with our typical cheerfullness. You all know what’s our style. When we get a tough point, we start to run all over the court, jumping and celebrating. Now we are not doing it. Don’t ask me why. We made too many mistakes, and when you’re doing it it’s hard to smile. We were training so well and so hard before coming here but now we’re looking at the ranking points and we’re still not sure to make it to the quarter finals. However, against China we’ve started to show our style again. At the end it was the first match of London 2102 where we were really the team Brazil I know.”

The change of starting setter after many years with Fofao, who’s one of Sheilla’s favourite teammates, might have changed the balance of the team. Until now, coach Ze Roberto often switched among Fernardinha Ferreira and Danielle Lins.

“Well, the fact is that only six of us have Olympic experience. When you arrive at the village, everything is so exciting: and when you play, then everything is different. Anyway, I find our life easier compared to Beijing. The village is great here. It’s smaller, everything is near and you don’t have to walk a lot.”

With still only one match to go, against Serbia, Brazil is now called to perform a definite wriggle to get the fourth place which grants the quarter finals. “Then maybe Russia or Italy will wait for us. But will see, it’s not time to make thoughts until we have not made it there.”

To prepare at their best this Olympic Games, Brazil tried to have all the boys back home in Superliga, the Brazilian championship. And the girls, too.

“Apart from Paula and Mari, we’re all in Brazil now. New sponsors have come and they are making our championship bigger and interesting. The pressure? In Brazil, when you arrive second you’ve failed.”

Wearing the typical brazilian slipeers, a long sentence tattooed on the side of her foot spills curiosity among the reporters in the room. “Quando eu menos esperava, encontrei meu amor”. Those are the last lyrics of “Mãe Natureza”, a song by Brazilian musician Armandinho and sounds like “When it was unexpected, I met my love”.

“Have you?” asks a journalist.

“Yes” she smiles.

 

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In Brazil, when you arrive second you’ve failed
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Additional information

Brazil José “Ze” Roberto Guimarães is the only coach who won an Olympic medal match with both gender. After the men’s gold in Barcelona, he got the gold in Beijing with the women’s team. USA Hugh McCutcheon is the only one who can pair his record here in London