- Brazil’s captain expresses his joy at playing in the Dwarf Copa America
- Vini Show revealed it has transformed his life
- Lionel Messi voiced his support for the tournament
“Some people think that dwarfs were born for other people to make fun of,” Vinicius Rocha, who stands at 1.30 metres, regretfully explained to FIFA.com. “Some people think we belong in the circus. It’s really sad.”
But if Vinicius had heard cruel jibes on the streets of Rio de Janeiro previously, the 27-year-old is a hero on them now. The reason for his upswing in emotions? The maiden Dwarf Copa America, which Argentina hosted in October. It was a seven-a-side futsal competition featuring Argentina – known as ‘Pulga and Pelusa’ after two iconically diminutive footballers, Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona – Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, North America, Paraguay, Peru and invitees Morocco.
He went there as Marcos Vinicius de Assis Rocha. He returned home rebranded as Vini Show, having illuminated the competition with breathtaking skills and wonder goals, drawing juxtaposition with Ronaldinho, to inspire Brazil to bronze behind runners-up Argentina and champions Paraguay.
“I cry every time I see the photos, watch videos of the experience,” said the Seleção captain and No10. “I struggle for words to describe it. I can’t explain how important it was in my life.
“It was wonderful, the realisation of a huge dream. I was emotional at every moment during the trip. It was so gratifying.
“I had a lot of ability, but my parents kept my feet on the ground and made it clear that it wouldn’t be possible because of my height. So playing in the Copa America, I feel fulfilled. And for Brazil to finish third, when the whole squad hadn’t trained together like other national teams, was incredible.
"Kids kept coming up to me asking for my autograph afterwards. People on the street hug me, want to talk to me about representing the Seleção.
"BRASA (the Brazilian national dwarf team) made it on to ESPN Brasil and we were all over the newspapers. I think my parents must have bought every newspaper in our neighbourhood to give to family and friends!
"They were so proud of me, and I can’t describe how amazing that feeling was to know I’d made them so proud. They’ve supported me so much over the years."
Vini Show was indebted to his family for getting him to the Copa America.
"BRASA doesn’t receive any funding, so the players had to pay for our own fares. I didn’t think I’d be able to go, but we organised some raffles and my relatives and friends clubbed together to get me there. I will be forever grateful."
Before embarking for Buenos Aires, Brazil’s little men received video messages of support from Bruno Silva, Everton, Maicon, Marcelo Oliveira and Vitinho.
"It meant a lot to hear professional players sending us their support," said Vini Show. "And to hear Lionel Messi, one of the best players in the world, was supporting the Dwarf Copa America was wonderful.
"It wasn’t just great for us, but for everyone with dwarfism. It’s hard to be taken seriously as a dwarf. People can say offensive things, cause depression. The Copa America helped to publicise the issues we face and tackle prejudice.
"The experience has transformed my life. It’s made me so, so happy."