February 15, 2019


How Watford's Heurelho Gomes juggles his faith in people, Jesus and Jair Bolsonaro: Interview: As the popular goalkeeper approaches retirement and a new career as a football agent, he reflects on the challenges Brazilians face both in the Premier League and back home in a divided nation (Jack Pitt-Brooke, 2/15/19, Independent)

No one in English football has a bad word to say about Heurelho Gomes. He will retire this summer, 11 years after he arrived here, with the good wishes of everyone he has met. A cult hero at Tottenham, an authentic hero at Watford, he has won people over with his enthusiasm, professionalism and personal warmth. [...]

You do not have to spend very long with Gomes to realise that his faith is what drives his life. Like one third of Brazilians, including many footballers - Kaka, David Luiz, Willian - he is part of Brazil's evangelical community, and he worships at the Christian Community of London, a popular church for Brazilian evangelicals here. "People change a lot the way they worship God, they find the right way to do it. God is opening the mind of the people, that is why people are changing. I was a Catholic, my family is Catholic, but Jesus just grabbed me by the hand and said 'this is the way I want you to follow.'"

It is not the practice, but the faith itself, that Gomes says has changed his life. "Religion is not important, Jesus is important to me. People think religion will change you, Jesus will change you. It is very important to me to follow him. Some people are in church, but they are not changed. Some people take religion to hide themselves, and when they are out of church, they behave the same. If I behave on the pitch, I have to behave off the pitch as well. I have to be an example. Religion doesn't change people. Jesus, when you accept him, will change you."

When far-right Jair Bolsonaro won the run-off round of the Brazilian presidential election in October, nearly 70% of evangelicals voted for him. He was well-supported in the Brazilian sports community, from within UFC, ju-jitsu, and professional surfing and of course football, with Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Felipe Melo, Lucas Moura and many more throwing their support behind the former army captain. So how much of a surprise should it have been to see Gomes smiling in a 'Bolsonaro Presidente' t-shirt in a post on his Instagram from last October? It does feel at odds with everything else we know about Gomes, his compassion, his warmth and sense of caring for others.

Gomes insists that Brazil was in such a bad state after years of PT (workers' party) rule and corruption that it needed the painful medicine of Bolsonaro. Even though Gomes quickly made clear he could not support every policy of his new president, a man who supports the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and police violence in the favelas.

"We were just going down, down, down, down. We were already there. It is going to take a long time for us to grow again, because of the corruption, and the people just ignoring it.

"We need a change in Brazil. And he was the one and only one that can change the way. I probably don't support the whole of his ideas. But I support the change...we need a change. That is why we needed to do something, to change everything that was going on in Brazil. The economy has changed already. So he was the only way to change the way that politics were going in Brazil."

Posted by at February 15, 2019 9:02 AM