The Unique Story of a Player Born in Ireland Called up to the Cape Verde National Team via LinkedIn

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“It started as a joke, finally being called to the national team through social media. How come? This is the story.”

ONENEWS.MY.ID – In recent years, summoning descendant players is becoming a worldwide trend. However, not all of the targeted players can be easily contacted due to their busy schedules, language barriers, and technology issues. An example is experienced by Roberto Lopes with the Cape Verde national team.

Lopes was born in Dublin, Ireland, on June 17, 1992. His father is from Cape Verde and his mother is Irish. Since childhood Lopes lived in Ireland and never went to his father’s hometown. He also speaks no Portuguese and has never met the people of the Cape Verde Football Association (FCF).

As a result, since childhood Lopes never aspired to play for Cape Verde. At the junior level, the Shamrock Rovers defender decided to defend Ireland U-19s.

All of Lopes’ views then changed while playing at the Bohemians in 2010-2016. At that time, his teammate, Ayman Ben Mohamed, was called up by Tunisia for international matches. Just like Lopes, Ayman was also born and raised in Ireland to a father who came from Tunisia.

At that time, Lopes joked that he could also play in the national team (Cape Verde) too. “Ayman had a very good season and was called up after declaring himself Tunisian,” Lopes told BBC Sport Africa.

“I was doing an interview and joking that I could also play for the national team because I’m from Cape Verde, and I’ll be finalizing the paperwork soon. As it turned out, there was a journalist who took it seriously and went a little further. Then, he contacted someone in Cape Verde. But, nothing materialized,” added Lopes.

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However, three years later, after moving to Shamrock, and with the club competing in the Champions League and Europa League, Lopes got a message on his LinkedIn profile. The message is from Cape Verde.

“I made a profile (Linkedln) when I was in college. But, never really saw it. I got a message from the coach at the time, Rui Aguas. But, he wrote to me in Portuguese. I just thought it was a spam message and I didn’t notice it,” Lopes said.

“About nine months later, he texted me back. He said, ‘Hi Roberto, have you had a chance to consider what I said to you?’ I feel very rude for not replying months earlier,” Lopes added.

“I copied the message and put it into Google Translate. And, it basically said: ‘We’re looking for a new player into the Cape Verde squad and are you interested?’ I’m really excited about it. I was like, ‘Yeah, 100% I want to be part of the squad’. I’m ready,” said Lopes.

From that joke and through social media, Lopes finally got the chance to defend the national team in FIFA matches. He immediately completed the required documents and then went to France to join Cape Verde in the friendly match against Togo, 10 October 2019.

Of course, it’s not easy. The reason, he did not speak Portuguese at all. Since birth, his father has settled in Dublin after retiring as a chef on a cruise ship. At home, Lopes senior also always speaks English. His father never taught Portuguese either.

But, the language of football is universal. When you don’t know the lingua franca with your team-mates, you can still understand what they mean on the pitch.

“I was very nervous. But, as soon as I left, all doubts and fears just disappeared because everyone made me feel so welcome. My team-mates would try to come up to me and say: ‘How are you, are you okay?’ And, when you are on the pitch, football has its own language,” Lopes said.

“I made Spotify try to find Cape Verde songs. I learned the national anthem and sang it at games,” Lopes said.

Lopes then transformed into a core player for Cape Verde. During the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers, he played every minute of six matches. Lopes also played in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers. Cape Verde finished second in Group F and earned a ticket to the finals.

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which has been pushed back to January 2022, is Lopes’ first international competition with his father’s country. Cape Verde will be in Group A with hosts Cameroon, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. If they are lucky, they can qualify for the round of 16.

“I’ve been really lucky. This team, as well as the coach, have obviously accepted me and trusted me. So I just have to try to give my all every time I wear the Cape Verde jersey. I’m very proud to represent myself, my family and Cape Verde I’m happy to be a part of it, “said Lopes.

What makes Lopes adaptable is that Cape Verde is a small country. However, the country on the west coast of Africa, a former Portuguese colony, has a diaspora spread across Europe. So, there are many lineage players in the squad.

“One thing that stands out in training is the quality of the players. There are superstars like Garry Rodrigues and Ryan Mendes, who have played in Ligue 1. There’s also Steven Fortes and Kenny Rocha. Even players who are in the Portuguese Second Division, or in Cyprus. , very tough and technically strong,” said Lopes.

“They constantly push us to different levels. You take it when you return home, to your club. If I want to improve, I have to be able to perform at that level. So you try to take yourself the game to the next level.” Lopez said.

“We want to get out of the group stage. Of course. I don’t think you can think too much after that, because there are a lot of top teams that have qualified for this tournament,” said Lopes.

“We are in a very strong group with Cameroon and Burkina Faso. I don’t know much about Ethiopia. But, if they are there, they are an accomplished squad. The most important thing is that we approach the first game with a mentality.”

(atmaja wijaya/you)

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