Dani Alves has experienced many different moments. As he prepares to play in his third World Cup, the defender is frustrated by world events and social problems. The hope for a better society in the face of Covid-19 has been dashed by the rise of attitudes it deems unacceptable.
“People have lost their fear and respect for death,” he says. “Unfortunately, nothing has changed… I wish many things would have changed, but they haven’t. We are coming out of a pandemic and everyone thought things would change, but what happened was war.
“People have not changed, they continue to fight for power and disrespect has increased. “Whoever has made a fool of himself in life and on the Internet, makes more of it, because it gives to the audience.”
Alves noted that racist crimes have also increased. Throughout his career, he has been a victim. The most famous event happened in 2014 when he was in Barcelona. A banana was thrown onto the pitch in the game against Villarreal. Alves ceremoniously took the fruit and ate it.
Racism was never a taboo subject for him. Indeed, the 39-year-old introduced it in this interview. He did this in response to Nelson Piquet’s racist abuse of Lewis Hamilton. “It bothered me,” he says, “But not just for the fact itself. I’m not going to dig too deep into it because I’m pushing [a] it’s easy to go down drunk. It’s not just because of that [Piquet’s] statement. This is for everything that happens. What is happening is too much. If the greatest Formula 1 winner is attacked, despised, ostracized, imagine who is in society?
“I pray and ask for forgiveness for these people. My concern is with them, because they always prevent them from being somebody, from having opportunities. Not everyone gets the opportunity.”
Alves sent support to Hamilton after speaking out against Piquet. “It was a message for him to continue with his goal, which is huge,” says Alves. “He is a man who can change lives and has to keep fighting. We have a mission and no one will shake us.”
Back to matters on the pitch, Alves finds himself a free agent after a brief second spell at Barcelona. Finally a frustrating time and if Alves’ dream is to find a new club, it was fortunate that he was ready and able to play for his country in Qatar.
“I wasn’t sad,” Alves said of his six months at Camp Nou after the turmoil in Sao Paulo. “I am happy to return to Barcelona. I dreamed for five years, wanting to experience this second moment. The only thing I didn’t like was how my departure was handled.
“After I arrived, I made it clear that I am no longer a 20-year-old boy and I want to do everything head-on without hiding it. But this club has sinned in recent years. Barcelona doesn’t care about the people who make history for the club. Whom competition [Barcelona supporter], I would like Barcelona to do things differently. I am not talking about myself because my situation was a different scenario. I am eternally grateful to Xavi and the president for bringing me back.
“I found a club full of young people with incredible ideas on the pitch,” says Alves, who played 17 times in his second spell at Barcelona, making 247 appearances in his first eight trophy-laden years. “But it is necessary to improve the work outside this area. The mentality is completely opposite to what we built a few years ago. Everything that happens on the field is a reflection of what happens outside.
“I support Barcelona to go back to the top, but it is very complicated. Football is a more balanced, collective game. And it was left out in the club.”
Since Alves left Barcelona last month, he has been linked with a number of clubs, including Real Valladolid, which is majority-owned by Brazil legend Ronaldo. No deadline has been set for finding a new club, but the criteria are clear. “I like challenges and adapt to any situation,” Alves said. “Today I am unemployed, but interesting things have come out. I do research on places with good competitiveness.
“This is football. You should get together with people who want the same goal, who want to compete and win. I like to win. I want to go where I can win.”
Another club interested in transferring Alves is “Atletico Paranaense”, coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, where the defender played in the 2014 World Cup. If he decides to go there, he will return to a country where violence against football players is on the rise. Players from Bahia, Fortaleza, Grêmio and Parana have been beaten by fans since the beginning of the year. During a game held in January, a man with a knife entered the field to threaten someone during a U-20 match.
“We must develop Brazilian football, we must fight against violence in stadiums. What happened in the games is shameful,” said Alves. “People have kids, they want to see something they can admire. Otherwise, it turns into disappointment and trauma.
“We cannot sit on the story because then no chapter is written. I tried to do it, but I was crucified [in São Paulo]. I don’t rule out any situation, but if I return to Brazil, it will be at Athletico Paranaense.”
It is perhaps inevitable that Alves, who turns 39 in May, is being discussed when the prospect of extending his career is discussed. He admits it is a challenge but believes he can perform at the highest level. “I know that everyone is talking about my age, I am old, 20 years ago everyone wanted me, but not today. But I totally disagree because I have an experience today that I didn’t have 20 years ago. When there’s a big game, 20-year-olds get nervous and anxious, but I don’t.
“Age has positive and negative aspects. There are many things you do in your 20s that you don’t do when you’re older. Maturity comes from simply living. I also have the experience of experiencing almost everything in sports.”
Alves is one of the leaders in Brazil’s squad and participated in all periods of the World Cup. However, he knows he has to perform at a high level to earn a call-up to Tite’s World Cup squad. Their long-term and reliable relationship does not guarantee anything.
“No one plays because he is a friend of the coach. In the end, it’s his job that’s at stake,” Alves says. “He will not expose himself. He is not stupid. He needs players who need him. Tite and I have been working together for many years. It is a relationship in which one trusts and demands high performance from the other. He is very picky.
“How can someone leave the farm to become the greatest winner in football history? it’s work. I have no natural gift [Lionel] Messi, Neymar, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Romario. I know I have to work hard to get what I want. I have talent, but I work hard and have discipline.”
Capped 125 times for Brazil, including the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Alves is playing well to assess his prospects in Qatar. He is confident that his chances of winning the World Cup for the first time in 20 years are strong and he is going that far. Choice there is “are undoubtedly favorites. But according to the competitors, it was a favorite, because we experienced very different moments in these competitions
“We have already been tested a lot. We had a great learning experience. Now is the time to harvest the good fruits. We are on the right track and we must defend our right to be the favorite.”
If Alves does play at the World Cup, will it be the moment he chooses to retire? “The last dance is when you retire, but I think I’ll keep dancing. Dancing is always fun, no matter where it is or what kind of dance it is. I don’t think so. And the last dance is done. It is better to create a new chapter, a new series. This is another chapter of my life.”