Brazil’s Forgotten Sons


Duck, duck, goose.

The game of duck, duck, goose is familiar to many adults reminiscing on their youth. The tale of the duck and the goose will be a fable two Brazilian football stars hope they can write in the coming years.

Alexandre Pato is a name synonymous with the game of football. Having exploded on to the scene in Europe he quickly made a name for himself as one of the world’s deadliest marksmen – and rightly so. What few people know is that Pato is the both name of his birthplace, and his nickname. It translates directly to ‘duck’ in English.

Paulo Henrique Ganso was the ying to Neymar’s yang. The tale of Santos was the tale of Ganso and Neymar. He is commonly known just as Ganso which translates to ‘goose’ in English.

So, we have the duck and the goose.

Both of these players find themselves at a crossroads in their lives. At the ages of 24, both players have been ravaged by injury. Now, both finding themselves at Sao Paulo FC, they are hoping they can revive the embers of their fading careers.

Pato has no doubts as to what caused his injuries.

“I paid for my injuries and I still am paying for something that was not down to me but rather to the workload [at Milan]. Everybody can see the difference between when I was in Italy and since I’ve returned to Brazil.”

Alexandre Pato

Alexandre Pato

I completely agree and sympathise with Alexandre Pato. During one particular Champion’s League fixture versus Celtic, AC Milan had a meagre squad of only 13 players due to a collection of injuries. Specialists say Pato’s blistering pace will probably not return due to injury after injury at AC Milan.

Like Pato, Ganso had a bright start to his career. There was a time when Ganso was considered better than Neymar. As difficult as it may seem now, the slow, creative midfielder was heralded as the new number 10; a player worthy of succeeding the likes of Pele and Ronaldinho. Now the Barcelona star occupies that number.

As he grew in to adulthood Paulo Henrique Ganso shied away from the limelight. Uncomfortable in the presence of media, whereas his K-Pop styled friend Neymar shone brighter and brighter. The pressure was mounting and then the cracks appeared.

Paulo Henrique Ganso

Paulo Henrique Ganso

Knee surgery had Ganso side lined for 6 months. On his return, he lasted nine games and had to repeat the knee procedure. Horribly unfit on his return from the surgery, he was incapable of adapting his play to counter defensive midfielders which filled the space between the lines where he would usually play. Discontented, his agent spoke out:

“’Ganso is upset with the club. They put together a project for Neymar but forgot about Ganso.”

This unhappiness led Ganso to Sao Paulo. Here, I think is where the two young Brazilians can salvage their careers and earn the right to play at the highest level. It won’t be easy – it mightn’t even be possible. To have players disillusioned with their meteoric success early on in their respective careers can be a damaging thing. Only their own resolution can bring them back from the brink of being Brazil’s nearly men.

Just like when they were children, Alexandre Pato must be quick enough to evade pursuers and re-establish himself firmly within the inner circle that is the Brazilian national squad. Conversely, Paulo Henrique Ganso will never have the pace to catch the duck. He must control and dictate the pace of the game and craft his opportunities carefully.

The duck and the goose, Pato and Ganso.