By Christopher Di Nunzio and Denise Mpinga. Brazil's people, the food, the landscape and of course Brazilians' crazy passion for soccer is intoxicating. We caught up with international soccer star, Adriano Ribeiro, otherwise known as Adriano. At the time, he was playing for Italian team, Inter-Milan as a striker and was on loan to Brazilian team Sao Paulo. He shared his passions with us -soccer and of course his homeland, Brazil.
What was it like growing up in Brazil? By all accounts, you grew up in one of Rio's favelas and played for Rio's Club Flamengo, which is in a middle class neighborhood. There's so much in the press about the huge disparity in Brazil between rich and poor. Did you feel that growing up?
I was born in Vila Cruzeiro, which is a very poor location in Rio de Janeiro's metropolitan area. But even living there, with a lot of problems around, I was a normal kid. I played with some friends, went to school, etc. Flamengo's club is located exactly in a middle class neighborhood. Of course I could feel the difference when moving from my favela to the club every day, but just in a logistic perspective.
Because in a social point of view, I already knew and saw a lot of workers moving weekly to the richest city area to work hard and earn some money. So, I didn't feel bad about that. It was (and it's still is) the reality.
Did you finish school?
Unfortunately not. In the world of soccer, this is a very difficult thing to happen. The schedule is tough, regarding training sessions, trips and competitions.
How many languages do you speak? Portuguese and Italian.
How many brothers and sisters do you have? What about extended family?
I have one brother (7 years old), seven aunts, four uncles, my grandmother and some cousins.
What was your worst experience as a child? Some violent moments I saw in the favela where I lived.
What was your best experience growing up in Brazil? The friendship I had with other boys when playing with them in the favela.
What was the most important lesson your father taught you? He really didn't appreciate alcoholic beverages. So, I grew up with good health and fitness conditions which helped me to become a player.
What is the most important lesson your mother taught you? To be always a humble person.
What legacy do you want to leave to your son as a man? I would like to leave him a message of focusing on the main goals he wants in his life and to fight for them.
We read that you have a tatoo that says "Jesus walks with me," what inspired that? That's something like a "mantra" my grandmother always said when I was a child.
What do you find most beautiful in a woman? Brazilian men (especially "Cariocas" - people who were born in Rio de Janeiro) really like to see Brazilian women's bodies. You know...small swimming suits ("bikinis"). I would include myself in that.
What music would you compare to the rhythm of soccer? I personally like to hear hip hop before the matches. But for Brazilians, samba inspires us a lot...
The samba culture of Brazil seems to be the thing that makes Brazilian players so unique and enjoyable to watch. Do you agree? I think so. Brazilians are a happy people. If you are happy, you sing and dance....we also like very much to play soccer. So, when you mix that, we try to play as happy people, having fun and moving as dancers.
Why is soccer so deeply rooted in Brazilian culture? I really don't know how to explain that. For sure, the young boys who live in poor areas look for a way out through soccer. In a country like Brazil, where we have a bad education system and very few opportunities, soccer is the quickest way to be a respectful citizen. It gives us some chance to improve our families' life conditions, financially speaking.
What do you love most about Brazil? Why do you think Brazilian culture has such a worldwide appeal? I like the people of my country. I think the happiness and the way Brazilians treat each other is something beautiful, even in a poor country with a lot of problems like ours.
If you could suggest one thing to experience while visiting Brazil, what would it be? I think visiting the Amazon Rain Forest and Rio during the Carnaval. Anyone could feel a bit a part of Brazil.