“My life has been a rollercoaster,” reads the headline of an interview with Paulinho in El Periódico. Two journalists, Marcos López and Joan Domenech, spoke in depth with the Brazilian, who joined Barcelona in August from Guangzhou Evergrande for €40 million. He discussed his nomadic career, which saw him leave Sao Paolo for Lithuania as a 16-year-old, before becoming disillusioned with football to the extent that he almost quit the game after a year in Poland.
Paulinho encountered racism in Lithuania
Paulinho left with a taste for adventure, which turned sour after he faced racist abuse during his time in Lithuania.
“I wanted to leave my country, I wanted to play, I wanted to try new things. […] Everything went well until the racist episodes arrived. What did they say to me? The usual stuff in those cases, you already know. That marked me forever. It didn’t just happen to me, but also to my team-mates. I suffered a lot from the racism.”
After a two-season spell at FC Vilnius in Lithuania, Paulinho, still a teenager, moved on to ŁKS Łódź in Poland.
“I made myself a promise when I went to Poland: ‘If something similar happens to me, I’ll return to Brazil immediately.’ It’s unacceptable that these things happen these days.”
Barcelona the latest in a series of challenges
He did encounter problems in Poland, but they were not of the same nature: “The club did not comply with what they had promised, so I decided to return [to Brazil]. I waited until the end of my contract. Others, upon seeing that they [the club] weren’t playing them, went in the middle of the season. I didn’t. I struggled on until the final day. I returned, but with a very clear idea: ‘I’m not going to play football again! Never!’ Why? I lived through situations in Poland that left me disillusioned with everything.”
The responsibility of providing for a young family caused that conviction to change, as Paulinho rebuilt his career at Pao de Açúcar, where he had played before leaving for Europe. Now 29, he finds himself at Barcelona, at the end of a path that took him from Brazil, to England, to China, and on to Catalonia. It is the latest in a series of challenges for Paulinho. What is certain, is that he will embrace it:
“Through the difficulties I faced, I never lost focus. That is mental strength, which I have learnt from the experiences in my life. My life has always been a challenge, and football without challenges is not football.”