Gilberto Silva: The heartbeat
Gilberto Silva, rugged, determined and with a knack for snuffing out opposition attacks, has become one of Brazil's most prized performers. Not the most skillful or creative man in the A Seleção here at the 2009 Confederations Cup, the former Arsenal hero spoke to FIFA.com about his role, and his love for what he does, on the eve of a final rematch with USA.
"I am always comfortable doing the hard work in the middle, for me it is an honour," the 32-year-old destroyer told FIFA.com. "It's what I was made to do. For me it's simple: I do my job in the best way I can and support from deep. If I do my job, then the other guys can do theirs and be creative, score goals. Look at the players we have - Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano - they don't need Gilberto Silva up there to help with the creating!"
Born of poverty, Gilberto Silva was introduced early to the rigours of hard work. Toiling as a common labourer in a factory in his younger days, the Lagoa de Prato native always made time to work at his football. His father, a blacksmith, made sure to teach him a craft in case fantasies of football success proved elusive. After an unhappy stint in the lower leagues with America Mineiro it seemed young Gilberto Silva was headed for calloused hands, countless splinters and a future as a carpenter. Had he not joined the academy at local side Atletico Mineiro for one last try at football glory in 2000, he might well be making furniture right now.
The player's raw power and ball-winning in midfield eventually caught the eye of Arsenal boss and expert talent spotter Arsene Wenger. In 2002, after two terms with Atletico, he set sail for London where he fast became a Highbury hero with his work rate and dedication to the cause. Through six seasons at the club he even managed to score 17 goals and win the Premier League title once and the FA Cup twice. "Arsenal means a lot to me," remarked Silva, who speaks fluent English and now plays in Greece with Panathinaikos. "The fans were always good to me and it was a special time in my life."
When one thinks of the great Brazilians past and present - from Tostao and Pele to Romario and Ronaldo - it's usually the attackers, the creators, who take pride of place. But for Gilberto Silva, in many ways a latest version of his current coach Dunga; the ball-winning midfield general feels he is a craftsman himself. In the end, it his graft and grit that allows the elegant aspects of Brazilian football to flower. "Brazilian teams always smile and laugh; it's important for our football," he adds, explaining what makes Brazil special. "We're all mates. We enjoy each other's company. We try to take that atmosphere and camaraderie and transform it into good football, good attacking football."
With 71 caps through seven years in the Brazilian national team, Gilberto Silva, nicknamed 'The Invisible Wall,' was a FIFA World Cup™ winner in 2002, won the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2007 Copa America. His opinion on Brazil's performances so far are straight-forward and direct, just like his play.
"We didn't have a brilliant start, but things go better for us once we settled," said the soft-spoken player, who plays the Mandolin and guitar in his spare time. "Our win overUSA settled us into our rhythm and we began to express ourselves since then. But when we meet them again in the final it will be a totally different game. They played a great game against Spain, who are a really top side. They worked very hard, made it difficult for them to play, and scored two goals. We'll need to be very well prepared, but I'm sure we will be. We believe in our football. We believe we can win. We have a very strong squad.
"This is a very difficult tournament, some of the best teams in the world are here and the games come very fast. It's easy to get tired with so many games coming so fast," he concluded with a gentle smile. The FIFA Confederations Cup is hard work, as many of the participating players have taken pains to point out. But if one man is ready to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty for the cause, it's Brazil's midfield anchor, Gilberto Silva, the beating heart of side.