Pepe recalls landing in Portugal from Brazil: "Have you anything to eat? I don't have any money..."
The defender remembered his arrival as an 18-year-old and the difficulties he experienced. "From that moment, I decided to help others".
Pepe has recalled one of the most testing chapters in his career in an interview with Expresso. The defender spoke about joining Real Madrid and settling in to a team alongside players like Fabio Cannavaro and other galácticos. And now, he has given an insight into the economic hardship he experienced when he signed for Portuguese club Marítimo in 2001, when he was just 18 years old. There was one day which he will never forget and which left a mark on him...
Pepe, stranded at the airport with no money and nothing to eat
"When I arrived, I had the equivalent of five euros. I had to go to the Foreign Office as I had come from Brazil on my own and I was only 18. I should have received a fax from Marítimo to give me permission to enter Portugal. With the only money I had, I had to buy a phonecard to call my Mum to tell her that I was ok. The other option would have been to buy something to eat. I thought: "No, I'll call home so my Mum won't worry,"" Pepe explained.
The young player still had several hours to wait until he could board a connecting flight to Madeira. "I arrived at 6 o'clock in the morning and when I looked at my boarding pass, the connecting flight was at 11 p.m. I had to eat something. I went to Pans & Company in the airport and asked one of the employees, 'Have you got anything to eat?' He replied yes, they had plenty to eat. 'But I don't have any money'. He looked at me, went away then came back with a sandwich on a tray which he gave me. From that moment on, I have always tried to help others. That experience really affected me a lot. That person had no idea who I was. And I have no idea who he was, which is a shame. But that was a gesture which helped me at the time and for the rest of my life. From that day, I made Portugal my first option,” he concluded.
Pepe did well at Marítimo and was signed by Porto in 2004. A few years later he got his big break with Real Madrid when things really took off for him...