Pequeninos' prestigious alumni

No visit to the administrative headquarters of the Pequeninos do Jockey club would be complete without a tour of the trophy room. The walls are lined with countless photos and trophies documenting the club's sporting success, with pride of place going to the cups won in Europe in prestigious international youth competitions like the Gothia Cup, Norway Cup, Dana Cup and Helsinki Cup. Jose Guimaraes Junior was present as group coordinator during every one of these conquests, and as he recounts to FIFA.com, the memories and anecdotes the photos and trophies evoke, it is like he is reliving them all again.

Using his finger as a pointer, he enthusiastically goes from picture to picture. "These are from 1982, when [Hilderaldo] Bellini presented us with the Gothia Cup in Stockholm, the very same city where he hoisted aloft Brazil's first World Cup trophy in 1958. I remember being greatly moved on that occasion. These ones here are from 1988 - that's Joao Havelange, who was FIFA President at the time, presenting us with the trophy in Norway. That team was something special," he reminisced.

After almost four decades of monitoring and nurturing aspiring footballers, would Guimaraes say he has mastered the art of spotting a star in the making? On the contrary, he assures us: "Often you expect great things from a precociously talented youngster, but when the time comes to make the step up to the professional game, he doesn't quite develop enough. Then there are others who you might think are nothing out of the ordinary, but they just keep on maturing. It really is a lottery," said the 73-year-old.

After pausing for a few seconds, Guima continues apace. "Ze Roberto, for example, was always a top player. When Sao Paulo showed an interest in him, I took him along for trials. After watching him, they said to me: 'He's very good, but we have a load of other kids in our academy just like him'. I said to myself: 'No, you haven't, because none of your guys only get to train twice a week.' In the end Ze Roberto went to Portuguesa, and from there to Europe, where he did so well he played in two World Cups. I think that proves he was more than just another kid."

Formative years
Julio Baptista, of Roma and the Brazilian national team, also took his first steps in football under the watchful eye of Guimaraes. "They quite literally were my first steps," the player himself told FIFA.com, "as I first went there to train when I'd just turned five."

The former Real Madrid star explained how critical his time there was to his future development. "The experience of travelling to Europe to compete in important tournaments at just 11 was a landmark in my career and something I'll never forget," he said. 

Among the other famous faces Guimaraes points out are midfielder Edu Manga, who played for A Seleção and Palmeiras, Andre Luiz, a dashing left-back who, after starting out at Sao Paulo, went on to play for Paris Saint-Germain and his national team, and striker Diogo, who today is earning rave reviews with Greek side Olympiacos.

"For all of those great achievements, the one that gives me most pride is that one," said Guimaraes, pointing to a photo of a young man in jeans and T-shirt with his arms around the shoulders of Andre Luiz and Ze Roberto, who are in full Canarinho strip.

"That's Vinicius. We encouraged him to keep up his studies and in the end he graduated from university here. The photo was taken before a Brazil-Netherlands game in Amsterdam. Vinicius was there studying for a post-grad and, being able to speak Dutch, English and Portuguese, he was asked to be the Seleção's guide for their trip. In cases like that, I know for sure I'm doing what matters most to me, which is helping to create good citizens."