An unmistakable presence on the stadium’s screens and posters, local boy Osvaldo has already made his mark, albeit it a virtual one, at Fortaleza’s newly rebuilt Castelao, one of the venues for the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Yet after being drafted into the Brazil squad for the March friendlies against Italy and Russia, the forward is now entertaining genuine hopes of fulfilling his dream of running out for A Seleçao at his hometown stadium, which will host Brazil’s second group match at the Festival of Champions, against Mexico on 19 June.
A standout performer for Sao Paulo this season, the former Fortaleza and Ceara player has plenty of advice for anyone planning to visit the city of his birth in the months ahead, as he explained in an interview with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Footballers lead busy lives and do a lot of travelling. Do you ever have time to visit Fortaleza and how is your relationship with the city today?
Osvaldo: My family live there. Everyone on my mother’s side is there, while there are few relatives on my father’s side who live here in Sao Paulo. Most of them are still in Fortaleza though. I go there whenever I’ve got a break or a few days off. It’s a really lovely city and the people of Ceara are very warm and welcoming. People will see that in the matches coming up.
You often take team-mates there for holidays, don’t you?
I took a friend who played in Portugal with me, and Jadson and Ganso were up there too not so long ago. It’s great for them to go and sample a bit of north-eastern culture and food, which is really good I must say. Whenever I can I’ll take a friend with me and show them a bit of the city and the beaches too, of course. They’re stunning.
Talking of the north-east wonderful cuisine, which dishes would you recommend to visitors?
There’s baiao de dois (made with rice and beans), which is one of the region’s traditional dishes and very nice too. Then there’s cuscuz nordestino (a maize flour dish), which is one of my favourites, and tapioca. If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying them, those are three things I’d try in the restaurants. They’re very special.
Fortaleza has a big tourist industry these days and there’s a lot of development going on. It couldn’t be a better time for the city to be hosting the Confederations Cup.
And what about the beaches? Do you have a favourite one?
There are a lot of beautiful beaches around Fortaleza. Jericoacoara is especially nice. That’s where I spent my honeymoon. I’d definitely recommend people go there, and I’m sure they’d love it. Canoa Quebrada is another good beach and it’s very popular with a lot of artists here in Brazil.
Fortaleza is one of Brazil’s main tourist centres. What is there to see and do there?
Fortaleza has a big tourist industry these days and there’s a lot of development going on. It couldn’t be a better time for the city to be hosting the Confederations Cup. There are quite a few places that put on comedy shows. In fact you’ll find one pretty much wherever you go, especially on Iracema Beach. And you shouldn’t miss out on the dunes either. You can take a buggy ride and then just chill out and breathe in the fresh air. You can’t beat that.
How much of an influence did the beach have when you were growing up? Is it still an important part of city life today?
Here in Sao Paulo, which is a very big city, people tend to live for work. But in Fortaleza and other cities in the north east you can live a bit more. There’s more quality of life. For me it was important to grow up in that kind of environment. In Sao Paulo there are a lot of families where the parents leave early for work and only get home when it’s time to go to bed. I’ve got relatives who live like that. But up in Fortaleza you can breathe a bit more easily and the air is cleaner. It’s a really beautiful city, like so many in the north east.
Did you start playing the game on the beach, in the street or for a club?
I started in the street, though my mother didn’t like it much because of the cars. The next step from there was the beach because quite a few of them have got sports courts. Later on I started playing futsal for club on Iracema Beach, right by the sea. Whenever you got out of training early you always went for a dip.
Do you have any special memories of your childhood as a football fan in Fortaleza?
When I was very young I lived not far from the Estadio Presidente Vargas, in the same neighbourhood. There was a man who lived above us and he always asked my mother if he could take me to the stadium. She always let him. I can’t remember his name because I was very young then, but everyone called him Tricolor because he only ever wore a Fortaleza shirt. He took me to matches and I didn’t have to pay because I was just a kid. Back then Fortaleza had a really good centre-forward in Clodoaldo. He was a great player and I have a lot of memories of him. After that everything seemed to happen very quickly and I started training with them at the club.
You’ve played for both the city’s two big clubs: Ceara and Fortaleza. How did people respond to that?
A lot of Ceara fans had doubts about me to begin with. After all, I made my professional debut with Fortaleza and did very well there. There have been a lot of players who haven’t managed to do well for both clubs, but the move to Ceara came at a time when I had to take a big risk. I’d been out of the market for the best part of two years, and though I’d been offered to a few clubs, it was Ceara who opened their doors to me. I’ve got a lot of friends on both sides now and that makes me very happy. In fact it’s even more difficult to walk around the city now because of the success I had with both clubs.
Despite its large population and proud football culture, Ceara has not produced that many players for the national team. Do you think your recent selection could be the start of something for the state?
We’ve had eight or nine people from Ceara who’ve played for A Seleçao, the last of them Dudu Cearense, who played for Brazil at every age level and also won the Copa America. There was Jardel too, and now it’s my turn to represent the state of Ceara, which was delighted with my call-up. I hope there are even more call-ups ahead because it’s very important for me. I’d love to represent Ceara and Brazil at the Confederations Cup and, who knows, in 2014.
The chances are you’ll be playing at the new Castelao one day, either with Brazil or Sao Paulo. How much are you looking forward to that?
It would be a dream to have my family in the stadium watching me play for Brazil. Everyone’s said that the stadium is really lovely. Ferruccio (Ferruccio Feitosa, the Special FIFA World Cup Secretary for Ceara state) is a friend of mine, and at the first Clássico Rei match between Ceara and Fortaleza to be held at the new Castelao they showed pictures of me on the big screen wearing the jerseys of both clubs. There was no booing at all. There’s also a big poster of me with the two shirts in the stadium tunnel, which is very nice to know. That just shows how positive my stays with both clubs were.