Last month Nike introduced Nike F.C, a collection that honors the culture of the world’s greatest game. The spirit of Nike F.C. is personified in the renegades who ignited the sport. Joining a long list of icons such as Luís Figo, Fabio Cannavaro and Ronaldo, is living legend Brasil’s Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, AKA Neymar. As a player for La Liga club FC Barcelona, as well as the Brazilian national team, Neymar is known for his finesse both on the field and in the streets. Neymar is the embodiement of all that Nike F.C. represents – passion, talent and a willingness to put it all on the line. Ahead of the World Cup in Brasil, we present an Australian exclusive interview with Neymar on both his personal style and personal drive.
We’re 30 or so days away from the World Cup. What is going through your mind?
What is going through my mind is that it will be an honour to wear my country’s team shirt, to realise my biggest childhood dream. Anxiety starts to appear, a cold feeling in my stomach, although there are still days to go before the Cup!
How do you prepare yourself for the World Cup?
As well as possible. I am going to prepare in the same way that I do for every match that I play and I’m sure that all my teammates and I are going to give everything on the field to lift that title for Brasil.
What is the Brasil National Team’s atmosphere today? Is Brazil ready to compete?
It’s very good; it couldn’t be better. It’s a great atmosphere for training and playing in. Everyone here dreamed of wearing that shirt one day… we really have to appreciate being able to represent Brazil.
Which team do you dream to play against in the Finals?
Getting to be in the final would be a dream in itself. I don’t have a preference in terms of the opponent, as whoever reaches the final won’t be an easy opponent. Of course I dream of playing in a World Cup classic, the Finals of my dreams is Brazil for sure!
You’re known for your personal style. Who do you look up to while dressing off the pitch?There’s no specific person that inspires me. If I like an item of clothing, I wear it. And if I see someone, whether they are famous or not, that dresses in a way that I like, that inspires me too.
What can Brazil contribute to world fashion?
Brazil has a lot to offer. We have many models that represent the country abroad and many designers as well. My business is really playing with a ball (laughs), but I’m sure that just as there is a lot of talent in football, there is in fashion as well.
You have changed your way of dressing in Barcelona? Why?
I always try to have my own style, because it is the way I like to dress and feel good. Here the climate is different, it is colder, and so I ended up investing more in winter clothes. I am practically turning into a European when it comes to dressing (laughs).
What are your wardrobe essentials?
Shirt, Bermuda shorts, trainers and hat.
Neymar you seem so flamboyant, so full of life. Have you always been this way?
Since I was little, I have always been very cheerful, playful with everyone. I like to enjoy myself!
Your father was a footballer. Was it a case of having a football in your cot as a baby?
I think so. And I’m sure it had a big influence on me becoming a player. Whenever I could, I went with my father to training and matches, so I grew up in that environment. He was the one that taught me to play and gave me advice about football from when I was little.
What sort of player was your dad? In terms of style what has he passed onto you?
He always says that he was a player that tried hard! I remember my father better playing at the end of his career, because before that I was very little. But I remember the era in which he played and stood out. A little while ago we watched a video of a match in which he scored a goal with his head and in the celebration he looks like a madman, doing a handspring and ending up dancing. I think my inspiration when I celebrate comes from him, but I am a better dancer (laughs).
Tell us about the sort of football you would play growing up. I believe you played a lot of Futsal. What did that smaller-sided game teach you?
I played with a ball a lot in the street, on the beach, and Futsal has always been part of my life since I was small. It was the pitch I began to compete and train on. I think Futsal is essential for any player, because it makes you think very quickly, with short swerves and quick passing and shooting. Futsal almost certainly helped me a lot, above all because I was a forward.
Do you remember the moment you thought… “This is not just fun, this is not just what I love to do, this is serious. I am good!”
From the start!
Was it football that gave you confidence or did you have that naturally?
I think confidence comes from inside you, but you develop it over time. Not just in football but in all sports and other professions you need to be confident in what you do. If you do not have confidence in yourself, who will
Now as a professional, are you still determined to work hard on any weakness -however small? What about the things you are fantastic at? How hard do you work on those?
You always have to improve. From when I was little, my father told me to finish a training session exhausted and that is what I do to this day. You can always improve on shooting with your left foot, marking, finishing, heading, whatever. I always work to develop and I cannot stop.
For instance you are very good with your head. Is that something you have worked hard on?
I am not a tall player, but because I do not have that characteristic I spend a lot of time training with the ball and on the right moment to go up and make a move. It also has a lot to do with how the wingers pass the ball to me, whether it is effective or not, to see whether to head to the side or the front. It is a matter of training and commitment.
Having said that, you are also an entertainer, a young good-looking player who has fans off their seats. Do you feel a responsibility to do just that?
It took me a while to assimilate all that, but now I know what I represent for the fans and for people. At the start it was a bit strange, but when I go places and see people’s reaction and affection it is very gratifying.
So you work hard and want to entertain. Does that reflect your personality away from football?
I am the same person all the time. Happiness is the most important thing for me, on and off the pitch.
Describe the feeling of the ball at your feet, the crowd going wild and you beating one, two or even three defenders?
It is the best feeling ever. It is wonderful to hear the crowd cheering and calling your name at the stadium. Doing a beautiful dribble, giving a perfect pass or assistance and scoring a goal are just indescribable.
What about scoring goals? How much pleasure does that bring you?
A goal is a moment of pure happiness, of satisfaction. But helping your team to win is the best of all.