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May 29, 2014

Dante fulfilling Brazilian dream

Brazilian defender Dante celebrates his goal versus Italy in last summer's Confederations Cup.
Brazilian defender Dante celebrates his goal versus Italy in last summer's Confederations Cup.

August 13, 2008. The ball was placed on the mark at the Maurice Dufrasne Stadium after 12 minutes of the first half, and it was up to Dante to take the opportunity to score the goal that could reveal him to the world. It was a duel of the qualifying round of the Champions League between Standard Liege and Liverpool. The winner would be classified for the group phase of Europe's most prestigious club tournament. The Liverpool goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, saved the penalty kick and the game ended in a 0-0 tie. In the return leg, the Belgians held the tie until the overtime, but at the end of the second half Dirk Kuyt scored the goal that gave Liverpool the coveted spot. What would have happened to Dante's career if the penalty six years ago in Liege had landed in the net and his team had continued? The fullback ended up becoming a success regardless of that shot. But the path could have been shorter. Sixteen years have passed since his debut as a professional player in 1997 for Catuense of Bahia, until he was first called up for Brazil's national team last year. There was Galícia, Capivariano and Juventude; Dante tried out everywhere in Brazil, but did not get the recognition of the national public. It was necessary to leave the country. He had his first international experience with the French club Lille. "I knew it would be a huge challenge. I did not speak the language, did not know anyone and had no one close to him. But I accepted the challenge," said the 'Soteropolitano'. The beginning was positive, he started out as first-string. But he soon faced more difficulties. "When I got back from my vacation, I had problems adapting. The preseason was difficult, I had really physical problems. We rode our bikes for two and a half hours on the mountains. It was too much for me, I was young. Others were better and passed me." Besides the mountain, Dante suffered from pelvic pain, which he couldn't get rid of. The French doctors guaranteed he did not have to operate, while the player continued on getting hurt playing. When he finally found a solution for the case after staying off the field, the Brazilian decided a change of scenery. He chose Charleroi as his destiny. In Belgium, Dante had no more problems with the French language, there were Brazilian companions and the spot among the first-string players was guaranteed. One year later, he was on a cutting-edge team and Liege almost went unbeaten to win the Belgian championship. After another year, Borussia Mönchengladbach was calling him and Dante was playing soccer in Germany. The team was small, but a fourth place in the 2012 Bundesliga got Bayern Munich interested in the fullback. "In January, my manager told me they were interested and, six months before opening up the market, they were already searching. I was very happy, I couldn't believe it, I didn't know if it would work until they sent me the proposal." From there on, there was no doubt that Dante had succeeded. "I knew that, as time went by, it started to become more difficult for me, but I never doubted it, I never thought of giving up or going back to Brazil. I missed it, but I had to stand it. When I took an eight-month break, I became insecure and wondered if I'd get a chance to make the high level team again." The Brazilian national team never left Dante's mind even during the moments of doubt. "I thought about that while playing for Juventude, Lille, Charleroi, Gladbach, Bayern. Everyone always said that I was unknown, that I was reaching that age and for me to apply for the second nationality. Of course it was a combination of things, Felipão's (Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari) arrival to the Brazilian national team, my good performance on Bayern and him seeing me. But I think it is really destiny and that's how it should be."