Defender, midfielder and Palmeiras captain, Felipe Melo, wants Brazil to reduce political polarization and unite to overcome the pandemic of the new coronavirus. The 36-year-old said in an exclusive interview with Estadão over the phone that maintains support for President Jair Bolsonaro and regretted that the country is very fragmented by party differences in the midst of a health crisis.
In isolation at the beach house in Paraty (RJ), the player has the company of his wife and children, as well as keeping in touch with Palmeiras to perform a training routine. The team captain defends that football cannot be in a hurry to return and praised the club’s stance of negotiating with the cast a salary reduction of 25% to contain costs and thus avoid the dismissal of other employees.
How has it been going without football?
It is complicated because there is no routine in the locker room and field, to go there every day, meet your friends, have the review, play football, do the training. I confess that in no way do concentrations bring me homesickness. To be honest, at 36 I don’t miss it, but I miss the locker room, football. Although the children are with me and we play football every day, it is not the same thing as you entering the stadium, having fans and having games.
As the team captain, what was your role in the collective negotiation of the squad to reduce wages?
I don’t like to talk only about myself. We were all essential in this matter. As the team captain I had to “get the car out of the way”. But everyone participated. I had no difficulty. The truth is that both Anderson Barros (football director), as well as our president (Mauricio Galiotte), Cicero (Souza, football manager) and (Vanderlei) Luxembourg were essential when they arrived and said: “Palmeiras will not send official though “. In minutes, all players gave their approval and we thought of helping the employees’ families. We have seen situations of big clubs dismissing an employee who earns R $ 1.5 thousand. This is cowardice! It is cowardice because it ends the life of a person who has years in the club, who has people who are supported by them. Suddenly the guy comes into the house and commits suicide. So, Palmeiras was surgical at that point. There were so many sponsors who ran and left their clubs and our sponsors kept their post, so that Palmeiras could keep its employees. This is very important.
What will be the main losses for a player with this stop?
We are on a longer vacation. We are used to taking 30 days, now we have stopped for 80 days. The field and ball item that are really the most important. We will have to go back and feel the weight of the ball again, like a long pass and such. That in a week we recover. But on the pitch, the intensity of the game will take time. This is hopeless. It may take about five to ten games, because over time you will regain what you lost with that downtime. It’s like a new season. I usually say that who knows is hopeless. Don’t unlearn.
Is your family complying with the isolation guidelines?
I have a 75 year old grandmother who is in the risk group. My father and mother are people in exuberant physical form, but they are taking all precautions, staying at home, wearing masks, gloves and gel alcohol. Follow all necessary procedures. We understand that taking this care is important because it protects them and others as well. But I confess that my concern is not so much with them, because they are people who are in good condition and take care of themselves a lot. I’ve seen reports that showed deaths in the favela. We are in a war. We must take all precautions.
Do you believe that football needs patience to return?
I believe that Palmeiras is acting in a surgical way. At no time will he do anything that is not authorized by the mayor, governor and WHO (World Health Organization). We will not bite anyone. Of course, we want to go back. I am in favor of the return of football, but with caution and security for everyone. There is no use tomorrow, for example, releasing to play football and we go back and have a crowd, with a packed stadium. What’s the use? I, Felipe Melo, am in favor of the return of football, yes, but with care for everyone. Nor does it help me to train, work and catch the virus, but to get home and transmit it to my father, to my children. They are people we have to take care of. You must return as safely as possible. Nothing has to be done in a hurry.
Some teams have returned to training. Can’t they be at an advantage?
Of course, whoever came back may be too far ahead, but no one is standing still. Just as we at Palmeiras are doing our homework, so have others. In my way of thinking, some teams from Rio de Janeiro are training to come back and play the Campeonato Carioca and we here, we can train again to play Paulista. But up front, when we meet in the Brazilian, so much time has passed that everyone will be on the same level.
Have you followed the news about Brazil? What do you think?
I don’t follow, I don’t see anything. We don’t see news. There’s such a big political fight, right, man? I don’t understand anything about politics. My priority is not to make my children scared. My priority is to help those who need it most. I only watch television to watch football or film.
Despite not following, you have always positioned yourself politically …
There are certain people when they come out to the right, left or center, they end up taking a bigger stone. But the truth is that any little thing that I do is already stoned. So, one more or less stone … The time is not to talk about politics. The moment is not to know if the guy in charge is the one on the left or the right, if he is a man or a woman, if he has six fingers on his foot or hand. The important thing now is unity, to end this war, with this virus that is taking so many people. I answer what has to be answered. For me, what others think doesn’t matter. I am always transparent in the answers. If someone comes to talk to me about politics, first I don’t understand and another is not the time. As president, governor and minister, everyone wants to end this virus. It is a moment of union between Brazil and the world.
Do you think about being technical in the future?
I think about staying in football. If I’m going to be a coach, sports commentator, sports director, then I don’t know. I don’t have a priority. My priority is to continue in football.