Every generation of football fans has a Brazilian team they hold dear. Pele himself idolised Zizinho of the 1950 side, while many still consider O Rei’s 1970 FIFA World Cup™-winning team the epitome of footballing excellence. The Socrates and Zico-inspired squads of the 1980s did not lift the fabled Trophy, but they certainly won over many hearts and minds. Despite growing up in Cape Town, almost 4,000 miles from the shores of Brazil, former South Africa and Manchester United player Quinton Fortune had a close affinity with *A Seleção *from an early age.
“When I came over to the UK in 1991 [aged 14], the first book I ever read was about my favourite player of all time: Pele,” Fortune said in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “The 1970 team for me was the best ever: Pele, Jairzinho, Rivellino, Carlos Alberto. You watch Brazil over the years, with Zico, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho – I was very fortunate to have met Socrates at the 2010 World Cup. These are real legends of the game.”
Fate determined that he would face the nation of his idols at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament at Sydney 2000, his country’s first appearance at an Olympic Football Tournament, and score against them with a free-kick any native Brazilian would have been proud of.
“At United I didn’t get to take free kicks, because you had to stand in line behind [David] Beckham, [Ryan] Giggs, [Paul] Scholes and the rest!” Fortune recalls. “You watch some great Brazilian players over the years scoring unbelievable free kicks and to score one against Brazil was amazing, beyond PlayStation stuff. I dreamed of things like this growing up. I never imagined playing against Brazil, I just wanted to be Brazilian!”
The pressure is on Brazil. I would just tell [the South African team] to enjoy every moment.
Thanks in part to Fortune’s sumptuous set piece, *Bafana Bafana *shocked the footballing world by pulling off an unlikely 3-1 victory against a side that included Lucio and a 20-year-old Ronaldinho, who would both go on to lift the World Cup two years later.
“[Ronaldinho] could do whatever he wanted,” Fortune said. “It was just a matter of time before he started doing great things. They had a very good team, I think a lot of people were surprised that we ended up beating them. To be honest, we were surprised as well, because it was Brazil! It was good to test ourselves against some of the best in the world.”
Ready for Rio
A new generation of South African talent now have a chance to emulate Fortune and those heroes of 16 years ago. They face Brazil in their opening game at Rio 2016, the first time South Africa have reached the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since the Sydney Games. As well as his experience of facing *A Seleção *in Brisbane, Fortune also played in the 1998 World Cup opener against hosts France. With a similar experience facing the class of 2016, what advice does Fortune have?
“The pressure is on Brazil,” Fortune said. “You saw the last World Cup, the amount of pressure that was on the national team. I would just tell [the South African team] to enjoy every moment. Of course they want to get a good result. Win, first of all, but if not, at least get a draw. You need to be well-organised.”
As part of a ‘golden generation’ that reached the 1998 World Cup, Sydney 2000 and the 2002 global finals in Korea/Japan, the former Manchester United man knows top South African talent when he sees it. He is looking forward to watching how *Bafana Bafana *get on at Rio 2016.
“Rivaldo Coetzee from Ajax Cape Town is a strong central defender, Keagan Dolly, who’s at Mamelodi Sundowns, is a good midfielder and Phumlani Ntshangase is also a talented player - these are players who should be making a difference.”
As a youngster, Fortune may have looked up to those Brazilian legends of days gone by, but Owen Da Gama and his Rio 2016 squad will be hoping to inspire a generation of South Africans with a positive Olympic campaign in the home of Zico, Socrates and Pele.