It was a Monday, 25 March, and the week was just beginning. Auro was relaxing at home, in the placid city of Cotia. The telephone rings and his mother calls him. Nothing untoward so far. Then the voice on the other side of the line gives him the bombastic news: on Tuesday he was to go to training, but not before swapping the black and white of Sao Paulo for the hallowed green and yellow of the national team, and joining Brazil’s training camp.
“I was told to report for duty with the A Seleção. I woke up, grabbed my kit, and I was off,” Auro told FIFA.com, who subsequently made the No2 shirt his own and is currently contesting the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013. “It was completely out of the blue.
"They already had two full-backs. I only trained a couple of days with the squad so I was surprised when I was picked to start. I’ve managed to hold onto my place so far. Let’s see what happens from here on.”
Geographically speaking, Auro was near A Seleção, who had set up their training camp at his club, ahead of the South American U-17 Championship. But he never imagined he was anywhere near a call-up. On that memorable Monday morning the coach, Alexandre Gallo, made the call because Auro’s Sao Paulo team-mate, Foguete, had fallen victim to a calf strain.
In the gaffer’s plans
The sudden call-up, just four days before travelling to Argentina for the South American U-17 Championship, resulted from a combined set of circumstances. Foguete got injured and Auro was close at hand, ready and willing to step into the breach.
Although he was not an automatic starter for his club side, Auro was one of a pool of 55 players that Gallo was tracking to build his squad. “If the need arose, he was the player I had my eye on. We selected him, he did very well in the South American Championship, and he's not let anybody down in this tournament either,” the coach told FIFA.com.
When your place is assured in the team it’s easy to take things for granted and to slack off. But when he arrived I had to raise my game.
Gallo had watched Auro and knew he could also play in midfield, as was the case against Honduras on Wednesday, with reserve full-back Jeferson given a run-out and defensive midfielder Gustavo, another Sao Paulo player, taken off as he was on a yellow card. Curiously, Auro was again covering for a club-mate.
“Auro’s used to playing in midfield. I’d watched several of his team’s games when he played as a midfielder, often interchanging positions with Foguete. In the Sul-Americano he also played in midfield for us and he did so very well,” added the coach.
Playing Auro in midfield enables his club to make use of his and Foguete’s talent simultaneously. However, most of the time they are fighting for the same position. For a young player with less mental fortitude, this tussle could hold back his development.
Both players obviously want to get picked and compete every day to make it as pros in a country where the competition for places is fierce, at all levels. As Gallo points out, there are currently over 16,000 players registered in the U-17 category alone in Brazil.
But having to fight for his place in A Seleção has only improved the full-back’s game. It is no exaggeration to say that without Foguete he would not have made the final cut for UAE 2013 – and not because of his colleague's injury. “It’s a healthy contest," said the versatile defender. "When your place is assured in the team it’s easy to take things for granted and to slack off. But when he arrived I had to raise my game.
“Everybody knows Foguete is an excellent player, and we are good friends," continued Auro, as our chat came to an end. "When we’re at our club this rivalry isn’t an issue. We just get on with it and do our best. He does his job, I do mine. Sometimes he plays, sometimes I do.” And though here in the UAE it is Auro who got the nod, you can guarantee he will not be slacking off any time soon.