“What are all these guys doing in Chiang Rai? We lost our first two away games 6-2 and 5-1, why are they still supporting us?” Josimar Rodrigues laughs and shakes his head as he starts to get to grips with the loyalty and devotion of the fans of his new club, Port FC. After a season playing – and scoring regularly – in front of small and dwindling crowds at Army Utd, the Brazilian striker is still coming to terms with the passion – and pressure – of leading the line for Thailand’s most fervently supported club, and you get the impression that he’s quickly getting a taste for it.
Signed right on the February transfer deadline, Josi (as his friends – including best mates ‘Genk’ and Maranhao – call him) has fought his way past a considerable amount of striking talent at Port, including Kaludjerovic, Maranhao, Asdrubal, Tana and the already forgotten Manucharyan, to become the club’s first-choice striker, and after a quietly impressive but goal-free start he finally got off the mark with the winning goal against Ubon UMT, following that up with another in the shock 3-1 win at Chiang Rai, tapping in a Pakorn shot on the line (“I had to!” he laughs. “I waited and waited, but then the defender came in so I touched it. Look…” and he takes out his phone to show us a photo of a Chiang Rai defender’s boot about to clear the ball, by way of justification). After scoring 16 goals in 2016 for a poor Army Utd side, Josimar might just be the high-scoring striker Port fans have been waiting for since the departure of Leandro in 2014.
After spending six years in Japan (where he played alongside Port’s Japanese dynamo Genki) and a year in Saudi Arabia, Josi is now happily settled in Thailand and enjoying life in Bangkok, and we sat down for a couple of hours with him to chat about his Port FC colleagues, how exactly Port managed to beat Chiang Rai, football in Brazil and Japan, and how he got his name – and it’s not quite as straightforward as you might think…
Early Days at Port
I knew about the players, I came, started training, but didn’t play in first 3 games, so I thought, will I play or not? They have Maranhao, Asdru, many players. But I believed in myself, then I play my first game, I was good I think. Now I’m so happy because I start to score and the team starts to improve. Everything is good for me – my family is happy here, my daughter is 5 and she is so happy.
The Army Years
Last season at Army, we had some good players but many players were young, from lower divisions. At Army, everyone is a soldier, not a football player! Port has many players who’ve played at Muangthong, Buriram, Bangkok Glass, but Army had soldiers, and other teams didn’t respect us so much. When you play with Tana and Tana has the ball, no one tries to take the ball from him, they respect him!
The Khlong Thoey Army
The Port fans are crazy, like Brazilian fans. They feel with the heart, not the head. I play with my back to the goal, I can’t dribble past 3-4 defenders, I take the ball and I pass to my teammates, but I think the fans want me to run and score. When I stop the ball and pass, I think I did a good job, but the fans are like, BOOOOO, hahaha! But I love playing in front of fans like this, it motivates me. At Army, season by season the crowds were going down, last season was bad and this year they’re struggling and the fans aren’t coming any more.
Farang Fans in the Tunnel at Chiang Rai
Hahaha! I thought, what’s this? It was so funny! Where did these guys come from? But it was good for us. We were surprised so many fans came to see us at Chiang Rai so we had to play well for them. 12 or 13 hours in the bus, this is really special, so we had to win for them.
Brazil, Japan…and Thailand
In Brazil football is very slow, you have time to control the ball and pass. Coming to Thailand, they’re very fast, it’s like ping-pong – it’s counterattack, counterattack, counterattack, sometimes we try to keep the ball and pass-pass-pass but at home especially there is too much pressure from the fans to attack attack attack!. In Japan you learn to play quicker, and they are very strong too.
It’s different style here, and my style has changed too. When I was young in Brazil I take the ball and try to run and score every time, but this is no good for the team. When I came to play in Japan, it is very tactical, too much, and I started to help my team more. Now at Port I have so many good players – Pakorn, Tana, Siwakhorn, Suarez – I just need to win the ball and pass. I don’t need to try to score every time.
I agree with Rochela, our most important player is Siwakhorn. He runs a lot, helps out in defence, never gets tired – I don’t know what he eats! The most talented is Pakorn. He never stops trying, even when he loses the ball. Good shot, good pass, strong, good pace, great crosser. For me he’s the most talented player at Port.
The strongest? Wanchalerm. He is stronger than me. When it’s man-on-man he’s too strong. Every day after training he stays in the gym. And the fittest? Maybe Adisorn. After training, I go to the gym, I shower, I go home, he’s still there. The lights are off, he’s still running! I say “My friend, go home!” And Nittipong, every morning he goes to the gym before training. These two they run so much, they work so hard and you can see how they play this season. Many players in this club stay back after training to improve more for the next game. I like this. They all think about helping the team.
When I start to talk to Port, the most important thing is that Rochela & Maranhao would stay. Rochela because, he is Rochela! And Maranhao because every time he takes the ball he tries to make things happen. Then I see the news about Suarez, Asdru & Kalu, and think, no Maranhao? He is my friend. He talked to Navy & Korat, many clubs, but he’s still here, and for me, he’s a good player, he’s my friend, and it would be great for us to play together. He can dribble, then pass to me, and I can score! But I wish the best for him, if he can play for Port, great. If he cannot play here, I wish the best for him. He’s young, he needs to play.
His Famous Name
Yes, I am named after Josimar! He played for Botafogo. My father is crazy about Botafogo. When Botafogo win, he cries. When Botafogo lose, he cries. When Botafogo draw….he cries! Josimar was very good in the 1986 World Cup, and I was born the next year. But after 4 or 5 years, 92-93, Josimar started to use drugs, so my father went to the office and said “I want to change my son’s name!” And the guy said “What are you doing? You can’t change the name like that!” So I am still Josimar!
The first was Romario. 1994 World Cup, Romario was at Barcelona, and before the World Cup he said “If we don’t win, it’s my fault, not the other players”. And he won the World Cup, not alone, but 70 or 80%! And then it was Ronaldo. He’s 18, he goes to PSV, 30 games he scores 40 goals. Then Barcelona, 39 games he scores 41 goals. I tried to play like this guy, but I cannot! But I like these two players, they’re my heroes.
Nowadays? Neymar. In Brazil many fans said he’s not a good player, but come on, he plays for Barcelona every week. If Neymar isn’t a good player, what am I?!
I want to make it same as 2016, or more. I already have two, but it’s not easy. Last year I scored 16, so this year when I get the ball I have 3 or 4 defenders around me, they all know me now. I talked with Maranhao yesterday about this, and he said I need to train harder than last year. Training in the afternoon, training in the gym, because if I don’t I can’t be better. I have some pace, I am strong, and I help the team, and if I can get fitter, I can help the team more in the second half when other players get tired, so I can do more for the team.
Breaking his Duck
Playing as striker for Port and not scoring, god, it’s so much pressure – from the fans, my family, my agent, everywhere! When I scored that goal, I cannot see anything! What do I do now, I don’t know…I think I lost 5-6 kilos after this goal I ran so much. At training the next day Niran Hansson said to me “What is this celebration? You need to improve your celebration!” I said “OK you play as striker for Port, play 3 games and not score, and then you come and tell me how to celebrate!” But we were so happy, many players come to celebrate with me, they know what I feel.
The Miracle of Chiang Rai
You know where this came from? The three friendlies we played. We drew with Bangkok Utd, but our first XI won 2-0; we went to Pattaya and won 3-1; then we play a smaller team (Samut Songkhram) and we think it is going to be easy, but we only draw. So I say to the players, look, when we play a smaller team we relax too much, but when we play a bigger team we work hard and we fight. So we need to go into every game thinking we are the smaller team. And that is how we beat Chiang Rai. It is all psychological. It’s like David & Goliath. When we are David, we do our best, we run, we fight. When we are Goliath, I don’t know why, we cannot do anything.
Ambitions for 2017
Coming from T2, the first thing is not to go back to T2. That is the most important, we cannot do that. We start good, we are improving, but we are still thinking about getting enough points to avoid the bottom three. If we can continue to win or draw games, we can go higher, maybe 5, 6, 7, then next year think about winning or getting to the Champions League. But we are still thinking about the bottom 3. But like Leicester last season, maybe we start by avoiding relegation, but then we win win win, so why not?
He’s good, he’s Brazilian so I can speak to him easily. He’s very serious when we’re training. Normally he smiles, he’s funny, but when we start training (pulls scary face)…Sometimes football players like to mess around, relax a bit, but he wants us to try our best and improve every day so we can play our best. This is good but sometimes…in the morning…we don’t always like it!
I’ve never seen this at any club. We have 3 good keepers. Last season I played against Weera and he was really good, and I thought yeah, this guy will be good for us. But the first game it was Rattanai, and I thought he was too young, but he was fantastic, he saved everything! So then he went away to the U23 and we had Worawut, and Maranhao said to me watch this guy, he is amazing, and he was great too! So goalkeepers, it’s not something I have to worry about.
(Tim & Dom sing him the Genki Nagasato song)
Hahaha! That is great. I don’t have a song yet. In Japan the fans had a song for me, Josi B Goode, like Johnny B Goode, you know – “Go! Go Josi go go go!” (plays recording of Japanese fans on his phone) so maybe you sing that!
Thanks to Josimar for giving up 2 hours on his morning off to talk to us, and we wish him luck for the rest of the season!
Interview by Tim Russell, Tom Earls & Dominick Cartwright. Additional questions from Nig Dammusig. Photos by Tim Russell. Thanks to The Sportsman for hosting us.