It would be fair to say that Brazilian keeper Charles is a very vocal presence out on the pitch, with every save greeted by a celebratory whoop and his defensive colleagues on the receiving end of a constant barrage of instructions from the youngster between the sticks.
“He’s a lad who doesn't hestitate to stand up in front of the other players or do his bit for the squad,” said Brazil’s coach here at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011, Emerson Avila, who has also worked with Charles at club level with Cruzeiro. “He’s very good at speaking to the other lads and he understands the game well, which is why his presence is so important to our team.”
Yet despite his lack of inhibitions on the pitch, when meeting the keeper in Guadalajara, FIFA.com discovered a humble, quietly spoken character. “I’m very grateful to Emerson Avila for saying those things about me, I’m also thankful for the belief he’s shown in me by giving me games,” added the Mineiro-state born shotstopper, whose athletic saves, steadying influence and communication skills have been a key feature for A Seleção thus far.
“By putting that faith in me, it lets me relax and get on with my job,” continued the keeper, following 29 June’s 2-0 Round of 16 win over Ecuador. "I’ve overcome a lot of challenges and I’m going through a good spell now, which I intend to keep going for a long time. I give thanks to God for this good form and hope it continues, so I can do my bit for the team in the quarter-finals.”
Force of habit
When quizzed on how he developed his habit of continuously cajoling his team-mates, Charles stated that he had been doing so “since I was little, when playing academy football”. Time enough, therefore, to hone his public speaking skills and to know how and when to best get his message across? “Yes, the other players do listen to me. When I speak, they all pay attention.”
Intriguingly for such a big character out on the field of play, Charles does not wear the captain’s armband for Brazil – an honour held by Internacional midfielder Marlon Bica – or at club level. The gifted No1 instead prefers to hand out advice when necessary, without taking on the added strain of the captaincy. Perhaps understandable given the pressure goalkeepers are always under and the inevitably high cost of the smallest errors.
Such slip-ups have been notable by their absence from Charles' play, with the imposing 1.86m shotstopper keeping clean sheets in three of his side’s four games at Mexico 2011, all of which have been played in Guadalajara. What's more, so commanding was his display in the opening win over Denmark that he was the only player singled out by coach Avila in the post-match press conference.
“Our keeper had a great game,” said Avila after a series of Charles’ saves, particularly early on, had paved the way to a 3-0 success. “He’s a keeper who, while he’s not yet as tall as you’d want for this position, is solid and has quick reflexes.”
Sharp reflexes do not come about by chance, however, and the custodian underlined his commitment to self-improvement by staying out on the field at half-time in the match against Ecuador. “We keepers need to have that mentality. You get into the zone and it’s really important not to switch off,” said Charles, who was put through his paces by fellow glovesmen Uilson and Jacsson during the break. “You have to stay totally switched on, because you might get distracted by something that happens during the interval. So, in that case it’s better to keep working.
Coulibaly the exception to the rule
The only man to get the better of Charles thus far has been the tournament’s nine-goal leading marksman Souleymane Coulibaly of Côte d’Ivoire, who struck a stunning hat-trick in the teams’ 3-3 Group F draw.
“I wasn’t surprised that the competition’s top scorer netted against me. Credit must go to him, as he knew exactly what to do and when,” said Charles on the prolific Ivorian, whose side bowed out after a 3-2 Round of 16 defeat by France. “But we also deserve credit for getting this far, and for to the quality our lads have.”
Next up for Charles and Co at Mexico 2011 are Japan, who await A Seleção in Sunday’s last-eight encounter in Queretaro. And having spent four matches exhorting his colleagues on to ever greater heights, Brazil’s No1 is not finished yet: “I intend to have plenty more to say between now and the end of the tournament.”