We interviewed Juliano Belleti, Legends player and FC Barcelona ambassor
Juliano Belletti may have just turned 43, but he’s still in the same shape as he was when he was 25. He’s a Barça Legends player, an ambassador for the Club, the creator of football schools and artificial turf and has a thousand other things on the go, such as giving company talks in which he aims to teach all that he’s learnt throughout his career as a footballer. Among other things, his portfolio includes championships in three different countries, a Champions League, and a World Cup.
“I share my experience with companies, football clubs or schools... basically wherever I’m needed. I talk to them about the advantages of training, teamwork and competition. I tell them the story of a boy who started off as a futsal goalkeeper and ended up scoring the winning goal in a Paris final”.
That Paris goal, oh my! Do they still mention it to you?
Every day! People are very kind. When I’m at Barcelona airport there’s always a police officer or somebody around who greets me with a “look, it’s Belletti, the hero of Paris!” And the same happens when I’m out and about. I feel very much appreciated here.
Maybe that’s the reason why you’re an ambassador for the Club. A Brazilian ambassador.
Indeed, in my own country they still don’t quite understand, and I’m often asked, “but if you’re Brazilian, how come you’re an ambassador for Barça?” Well, because it’s global and exists around the world. They know that I like working and love what the Club does, and I want to help because I believe in the same values. It’s important to contribute to society. And I try to do so, just like Barça. It’s not about just turning up for events. There are days when you spend five hours out in the sun, and others when you don’t eat. It’s not always easy, but it doesn’t bother me because I know the brand’s power to contribute to society through football.
You must have a good understanding of what the Club aims to transmit...
And to believe in it! I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. You can’t lie when talking to children: you need to know how to converse with them, to come up with an idea, understand it, share it and work on it, depending on who it’s aimed at.
You also visit supporters’ clubs. This is actually a new experience because the players are very far removed from the supporters.
Indeed, the player is isolated out of necessity. You have to withstand the pressure of the results, the people, the boards, the press, the fans... The pressure forms a bubble around you that makes you feel safe, comfortable and ready to work when the time comes. You also have to perform well on the pitch, so it’s important to be focused. When this is all over and you don’t have to win, you no longer have this responsibility; you don’t get torn apart by the press, your job’s not on the line.
And what about when you come out of the bubble?
That’s when you realise that the world is much simpler than you thought when you were a footballer. The people want to talk to you, get to know you as a person, take photos... but when you’re a footballer it’s impossible. Now I get to enjoy this each time I visit a supporters’ club.
And, of course, they also ask you about the Paris goal... So allow me to do the same... what do you remember about that goal?
They’re interested in my reaction to the goal in Paris, about what was going through my mind at that time. I know I never really stood out as a player, I was working for Ronnie, for Samuel, for Deco, and I wasn’t looking to take the spotlight just for myself. They were three years of hard work, and the only thing that is remembered is that goal. I hadn’t prepared myself for that moment or that final in a day, a week or a month. I’d been preparing for it my whole life.
A right-back who turns a final around, and one who started off as a futsal goalkeeper...
That’s right, a right-back who at 11 years old won a Brazilian league and three leagues in Paraná. My father was an 11-a-side football goalie and in the 1970 World Cup, he almost made it to third place in the national team. I wanted to be like him.
When you played futsal, you were already an innovator without knowing it...
I was indeed, I’ve never been intimidated by change. That’s another thing football taught me, and it’s been a process of constant preparation, of gathering skills. In China, they say that everything you learn ends up coming in useful at some point, and it’s true. I’ve done marketing, communications, social networking... I’ve studied a great deal and become involved. When they’ve come along asking to use my name, I’ve always said that only if I can chip in, use my experience. It happened with Arena Belletti, the football school, which is now a school for very young children and adults.