It is not often that fields as apparently divergent as football, art and charity are brought together, but that is precisely what the ever-active Paulo Andre managed to do. A man who “cannot bear” to stand still, the native of Campinas in Sao Paulo state coined the idea for combining his writing, his art and day job as first-choice defender for Corinthians, in “Memories of Yokohama” in September 2012.
Andre began by writing a diary to record the events of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012, before subsequently organising a charity auction to sell items directly related to the tournament. With the help of his artist friend Bia Tambelli, as well as his team-mates, Andre produced 34 works of art using the boots worn in the final, the gloves of adidas Golden Ball winner Cassio and even a chalkboard from coach Tite.
While Andre may not have found the net during the intense encounters with Al Ahly and Chelsea in Japan, he certainly hit the mark in dramatic style one evening in February. The auction in Sao Paulo raised 829,000 Brazilian Reais, all of which was donated to his charity and other worthy causes. “Watching the prices go up and seeing the people participate created an emotion similar to celebrating a goal,” Andre told FIFA.com. “Seeing that all the organisation and commitment to putting on the event had been worthwhile. I was very surprised and satisfied.”
Andre’s boundless energy began at a young age. He would spend entire days at the sports club, playing ball games of all varieties. After recently saying that he would have made a better tennis player than a footballer - comments Andre says “were only a joke,” - he went on to confuse the inquiring journalist by declaring: “I was the number two player in the state of Sao Paulo.”
Once he made up his mind to be a footballer, Andre left home aged 14. “I was never sure that I would succeed. The uncertainty ate away at me and I had to prepare for the worst. There are lots of people who try to become footballers in Brazil, so I had to look for a back-up, a plan B. That made me better prepared for other opportunities.”
However, Andre prevailed and after rising through the youth ranks at Sao Paulo and Guarani he became captain at Atletico Paranaense. In 2006 the defender moved to French side Le Mans, before returning to his homeland with Corinthians three years later. All the while, Andre turned his attentions to a variety of subjects. “We spend a lot of time playing football and it’s totally a time of leisure,” Andre said. “I learned to use it in a productive way. There’s more to life than football. I’d like athletes to be trained in other activities too. When you start to think about other things, I believe it only improves your overall performance.”
In France, inspired by memories of his visits to the Louvre, Andre took to painting as a way of keeping himself occupied during a lengthy spell on the sidelines following knee surgery. He kept up the pastime upon returning to Brazil and in 2011 Corinthians featured in one of his works for the first time when he painted a huge canvas commemorating the side’s domestic championship triumph.
The following year Andre was determined to do it again, but with an added twist. “I had some paintings and people asked me if I wanted to sell them. So I thought about auctioning them off,” Andre said. His plan changed when he saw a piece of work by his friend Tambelli, which used a football boot in an advertisement. “I just stared at it, and that was it,” Andre recalled. Together they replicated the process using items retrieved from the changing room. Tambelli took care of the collages and the duo painted virtually all of the pieces in one afternoon, using Jackson Pollock’s ‘action painting’ technique. “We spent five hours painting and having a great time. All things considered it’s a big party using Pollock’s technique, with each person doing what they want at any given moment.”
Eyes on Yokohama
However, before any of that became possible, two prior objectives had to be achieved: convincing the rest of the squad to participate and winning the FIFA Club World Cup.
The former turned out to be remarkably easy. “There was a bit of surprise. First I asked Chicao, Alessandro and Fabio Santos for their boots in November, in order to do a trial run. Two days before we left [for Japan] I took the finished pieces into the changing room. Everyone who saw them liked them. One after another they all asked to have one.”
Starting to prepare for the project before the tournament had even begun may come across as somewhat arrogant, but it reflects the squad’s confidence in their ability to bring the trophy home. “In the end it actually helped on an unconscious level. I’m a big believer in energy, in letting it flow and I think that’s how things turn out well. Of course while we were gearing up for the tournament it was pushed to one side because of the huge pressure and responsibility we had.”
However, for all Andre’s planning, sharing the idea with his coach was not easy. “After speaking to the players I went into Tite’s office holding a painting,” he recalled. “He gave it a funny look and I asked him: ‘Could you give me a little souvenir to do a painting with in case we win?’ He looked at me and said he would if we won, but first we’d need to get to work.”
And that, for the effervescent Andre, has never been a problem.