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Go Josi Go! The Sandpit Meets Josimar Rodrigues

 

“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.

Port’s Finest

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.

Maranhao

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!

 

 

Brazilian Idols

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?!

Goals

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?

Rod Pellegrino

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!

Goalkeepers

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.

Songs

(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.

 

Eagles Caged in Fortress PAT: Port FC 1-0 Ubon UMT

 

There was a very subdued start, with the less-than-hostile atmosphere probably aided by a strange kick off time of 17:45 as the fans continued to stream in throughout the first half. What turned out to be an interesting 45 minute stalemate sprung into life in the 10th minute with the Brazilian Tiago (7) bringing the best out of surprise starter Worawut (36) in the Port goal and Siroch (35) looking very dangerous slipping one wide of the upright. Tiago again found himself in space but this time the ball flew over the bar. Sounds familiar!

In what was a surprisingly consistent team Dolah (4) came in to replace Todsapol (6), and again the combination of Adisorn (13) and Siwakorn (16) in the middle ensuring that we were always going to have a high energy, high tempo and committed type of game.

In what turned out to be a game of two contradicting halves for Port in the first our wide men were sucked in and offered very little in terms of width and quality although Pakorn (9) always looks dangerous with the ball, and had a decent chance on the 23rd minute. Again three minutes later Josimar (9), who offered little in the first half, took a long ball down and teed up Genki Nagasato (18) who fizzed the ball just wide.

Ubon’s best chance of the game came on the 40 minute mark when Siroch (35) dribbled past three Port defenders but Worawut (36) was equal to it and had a great game throughout.

Port – cheered on by a now boisterous and passionate support – were a completely different team in the second half. Whatever the man Meelarp said at half time, or maybe they even got a visit from the Madame, certainly worked but the effort and application was different. The full backs Panpanpong (19) and Nitipong (34) started to establish themselves and cover every inch of the pitch culminating in Nitipong making a marauding run in the 57th minute and delivering a defense splitting cross to the back post where Josimar (30) was lurking to tap into an empty net. Josimar was a different proposition in the second half. He harassed the Ubon defense but he was also marked by one of the league’s best defenders Victor (6), The Ubon captain and all-around big unit.

Three minutes prior Port had justifiable appeals for a penalty and Genki (18) had again gone close. Pakorn, my favourite player, looked disinterested, with a level of consistency and work rate he would be unplayable but he drifts in and out of games, despite his undoubted ability. He should take a look at the application of his two colleagues in central midfield, who had another industrious night. Sergio Suarez (5) is starting to look the real deal, he had another very impressive night and this is assisted by the shift of the two lads behind him. Tana (99) came on for Genki (18) and whilst he was very unlucky with an offside decision, he didn’t offer as much as much defensively as his teammate had done.

Port were now under the cosh, and had to defend for their lives to close the game out. Nebihi (8), who replaced Tiago (7) saw a low shot slide just wide of Worawut’s right hand post, then Nitipong (34) defended bravely against the rather larger Victor Cardozo (6), putting his body between the big man and the ball and being sent crashing on to the turf. With tensions being raised, tempers soon flared. Adisorn (13) hacked down Ubon defender Nikom (11), who reacted furiously, kicking out at Adisorn and putting his hands around the Port midfielder’s neck. The referee gave nothing – as per usual – and a scrum was formed near the sideline, with almost every player on the pitch involved.

When play finally resumed, Ubon continued the offensive. A stunning sliding tackle denied Berriex (20) as he burst through the defence, and the Argentine then created probably Ubon’s best chance with a whipped cross from the right which veteran Thai midfielder Surat Sukha (15) could only flick over the bar from 5 yards out. After 5 agonizing minutes of injury time, the referee eventually blew the final whistle and Port could celebrate another barnstorming home win.

So this result leaves us sitting in 8th place only three points behind Bangkok Glass who are in 4th. If someone would have offered me that in January I would have snapped their hand off. In our first campaign back in the top flight we have won three and drawn two of our five home games conceding only three goals. Incredible! The million dollar question is… Which Thai Port will show up in Chiang Rai on Sunday?

Port FC Man of the Match

Photo by Supersub

 

Josimar is finally off the mark! He really came alive in the second half, scrapping for every ball and giving Port an important outlet by winning balls in the air – both in attack and defence – and holding the ball up well. If the Brazilian can keep the goals coming, he could make a huge impact at Port.

 

IN THE NAVY! You Can Come to PAT; IN THE NAVY! You Can Lose to Port FC: Port 1-0 Navy FC

 

Shiver me timbers! The salty Sattahip seadogs of Navy FC sailed into Khlong Thoey on Saturday night in search of booty, but were sent to a watery grave by a disciplined, well-organised Port side who delivered their most solid performance of the season so far to win 1-0. The victory takes Port to the heady heights of 6th in T1. Yo ho ho and a bottle of Leo!

 

The Team

After the Terror of Thammasat, Jadet rang the changes and finally introduced Tachanon (39) in midfield, something he should really have done from day 1. The increasingly impressive Pinkong (19) was restored at left-back. Up front, Brazilian striker Josimar (30) was handed his first start, whilst Tana (99) started, somewhat bizarrely, on the left.

 

The Match

Having flown in from London on the morning of the match, nursing jetlag, a hangover and a heavy cold, your reporter was rather more dazed & confused than usual during last night’s game, and a cocktail of Lemsip Max and Leo didn’t exactly help matters. I didn’t even make it out of the stadium for a half-time bevvy. Unprecedented.

Port flew out of the blocks, clearly intent on consigning last week’s debacle to history, and tore into Navy from the start. And on 4 minutes, Nitipong skipped down the right, tried to cross the ball, and instead somehow managed to slice it into the far corner of the net for 1-0. A fortunate goal perhaps but it was certainly just reward for Port’s early attacking enthusiasm.

Port continued to dominate the first half, Suarez (5) and Josimar both being denied by the Navy netminder, with the scurvy seadogs over-reliant on an ageing and misfiring Bjorn Lindemann on the few occasions they got forward. Navy were frequently sitting so deep that Rochela (22), who once again put in so good a performance one gets tired talking about it, often found himself starting attacking moves from the halfway line.

 

 

Port emerged early for the second half, keen to put the game to bed, but whilst the midfield axis of Sivakhorn (16) & Tachanon were bossing the centre of the park, Port’s wingers were struggling – Pakorn (9) was having an off day, and Tana’s lack of energy and stamina were predictably exposed, which meant the excellent Josimar was getting very little service. It was no surprise when Tana was replaced by the more vibrant Genki later in the half.

The balance of the game shifted around the 70-minute mark when Port seemed to tire and their nautical nemeses started to get back into it, and for the remaining 24 minutes it was squeaky bum time as Navy bombarded Port, helped by Sivakhorn and Pinkong giving away sphincter-tightening free kicks around the box with alarming regularity. Dolah (4) and Rochela will have headaches this morning from clearing so many crosses, and on those rare occasions when they were bypassed, young Rattanai (17) was resolute in goal.

Port had a couple of chances to kill the game late on. Nitipong (34) shaved the crossbar when a pass to Josimar would’ve been a better option, and then in the last action of the game, the same two players found themselves 2 v 1 on Navy’s keeper, but Nitipong’s pass was just behind the burly Brazilian and, having to halt his run, he slipped and fell on the ball. At which point, to the relief of another big PAT crowd, the ref, who must’ve had an excellent game as I don’t remember shouting abuse at him even once, blew the whistle.

All in all, probably Port’s best overall performance of the season, helped by Jadet finally having the courage to pick his best players. Port were largely solid at the back and in midfield, and only the wings let the side down this time round. Had Jadet started with Genki or Ekkapoom on the left rather than the creaking Tana, those last 20 minutes might not have been so agonising. But 3 points are 3 points, and with tough games coming up away at Honda and home to Buriram, it was a game that Port simply had to win, and they did.

 

Man of the Match – Josimar Rodrigues

Refreshingly there were several candidates for the coveted Sandpit MOTM award. Dolah had his best game in a Port shirt so far, and his defensive partner Rochela was classy as ever. Tachanon showed why we’ve been calling for his inclusion since the opening game with a superb performance in midfield, Pinkong pretty much made the LB slot his own, and Nitipong was excellent coming forward, particularly when freed up by the late arrival of Meechok (20).

But for me, it came down to the typically industrious, constructive and destructive Sivakhorn, and debut boy Josimar, with the Brazilian just shading it. Josimar looks like he could well be the striker Port have been missing for the last 2 seasons – fast, strong, a lovely first touch, accurate passing and an obvious eye for goal, he didn’t give Navy’s defenders one second of peace. But his real value, particularly during those nervy last 20 minutes, was as an outlet when Port were under the cosh, controlling long balls, holding up the play and bringing teammates into the game. He reminded me of my favourite Coventry player of all time, the mighty Cyrille Regis, and from me there is no higher praise than that. Chapéu senhor!

 

MaranhaOUT – Transfer Window Closes; Squad List Announced

 

Official squad lists have appeared on the official Thai League website, and the transfer window will tonight be slammed shut, meaning that months of speculation and rumours can finally be put to bed.

Port’s top scorer in 2016 – Rodrigo Maranhao – has not made the cut, but will be staying with Port in 2017 after a deadline day move to Navy fell through. We can also now say with certainty that a couple of rumoured moves have not panned out. Armenian forward Edgar Manucharyan has not joined Port, despite reports in the Armenian media claiming that he had, and former Ratchaburi star Heberty Fernandes has also failed to agree terms. His reported wage demand of $800,000 per year was never likely to be met by Port, and it is now definite that Port have missed out on one of the top players in the TPL in 2016.

The man Port have chosen to fill the fifth foreign player spot is Brazilian forward Josimar Rodrigues, who signed last month having banged in 16 goals in 30 games for Army last year. It is thought that Josimar was not included in Port’s first two match-day squads because the club was still holding out hope of making a late deal with Heberty, but now that the deal is dead, Josimar should at least be on the bench for the trip to Bangkok Utd.

In other late transfer news, Port’s loan move for Chainat player Surachet Ngamtip has fallen through, reportedly because of injury concerns, and Surachet has instead joined T1 rivals Pattaya Utd. Other players to have missed out on a place in the squad are youngsters Patrick Bentley, Techin Muktarakosa and Danudech Trimongkolchok. The trio were in and around the squad in pre-season, but featured either very little or not at all, making it pretty unsurprising that they have not been included. They may continue training with the first team squad, or perhaps be loaned out to gain experience in a lower division.

Port’s complete 2017 Squad can be viewed here. We have included players who have not made the T1 squad but are still at the club, and marked them with an asterisk*.

 

Tom’s Transfer Talk – The Manucharyan Mystery

 

Armenian forward Edgar Manucharyan was a Ratchaburi player until just couple of days before the season opening clash with Port FC, when he was spotted at PAT Stadium training with the Khlong Toei Army. Rumours about what on earth happened – and what could still happen – have been numerous and confusing. Bear with us, here.

ESPN asked Ratchaburi’s head coach, Pacheta, what was going on.

“You have to speak with Fluke [team manager Tanawat Nitikarnchana]. It’s a decision of the club. I don’t buy and sell the players.”

Ratchaburi’s Director of Football Robert Procureur shed a bit more light on the situation.

“Edgar is a good player, but there is a problem with his behaviour. He has been fighting with the club president, and he has created some other problems already, so it is more of a discipline problem than a quality problem. He has had problems with many people already, so it was difficult to keep him.”

So, we can be pretty sure that Manucharyan has left Ratchaburi.

Then comes the Port situation. The same day that Manucharyan was spotted training with Port, Brazilian forward Josimar completed his medical and confirmed to The Sandpit that he had signed. With Josimar’s arrival confirmed that meant that Port had 6 foreign players on the books, despite the fact that only 5 can be in the T1 squad at any given time. Last season, Port kept Wagner Carioca at the club in similar circumstances and only used him in Cup competitions, so there is precedent for Port choosing to go in to the season with an extra foreign player. Given this, we can just about understand Josimar’s transfer.

 

Josimar at training

 

Then the following day came apparent confirmation from Armenpress that Manucharyan too had signed.

“Forward of the national team Edgar Manucharyan has signed with a new club. Just a day after leaving Thailand’s Ratchaburi, Manucharyan was signed by the Port F.C. of Thailand.”

Manucharyan at training

What?! It’s worth pointing out at this stage that the Armenpress piece doesn’t include any quotes or details from the player or the teams involved, and we have no idea where they got their information from.

If they are right and Port are planning to go in to the season with 7 foreign players, then we will be truly flabbergasted. That would mean at least one of the new signings would have been signed just to be played in the cups or loaned out, as well as the underappreciated Maranhao. What sense would that make? Could there still be doubts about Kaludjerovic’s ability to adapt to T1 football? If that is the case, can Port replace a player who has already played in the league before the end of the transfer window, and if they can would that player be eligible to play in the first leg of the season?

Unfortunately we have more questions than answers, and are so utterly dazed and confused by all of this tomfoolery that all we can be sure about is the Cartesian fact that we know we exist. All else is an illusion.

 

Josimarvellous! Port Get a Brazilian

 

Last minute transfer drama is unfolding just as Port prepare to get the T1 season underway on Saturday. After injury unfortunately ended Asdrubal Padron’s Port career before it had begun, many assumed that Rodrigo Maranhao – who has been waiting patiently for his chance – would be stepping in to take his place in the squad, but the litany of rumours since suggest otherwise.

Port have been linked with 3 Brazilian forwards in the last week, likely indicating that they are intent on going in to the season with 6 foreign players, even though only 5 can be named in the T1 squad. Maranhao must be wondering what he has done wrong!

Firstly, Port were linked with Brazilian former Chonburi striker (where have we heard that before?) Leandro Assumpcao, who scored 21 goals in 61 games for the Sharks between 2015 and 2016. Whilst many players have made the switch from Chonburi to Khlong Toei in recent seasons, the latest news suggests that Assumpcao will be joining Sisaket for the 2017 season.

 

Leandro Assumpcao scores for Chonburi

 

Next came the rumour that really made Port fans giddy with excitement. Heberty Fernandes, the former Ratchaburi star who fired in an outrageous 65 goals in 90 games for Port’s 2017 opening day opponents, was linked with a move to PAT Stadium. With Port fans briefly dreaming of a Top 6 finish, or maybe even a push for a spot in the AFC Champions League, reality soon hit home when it was reported that Port were not going to be able to afford his $800,000 per year wage demands. It was nice while it lasted!

 

Heberty Fernandes at Ratchaburi

 

Finally came talk that former Army striker Josimar Rodrigues was not only being linked with a move, but had been spotted at PAT Stadium. Pictures taken on Thursday afternoon confirm that Josimar was indeed in training on Thursday, so The Sandpit got in touch with the Brazilian who confirmed to us that he will be signing with Port pending a medical at 09:00 on Friday. Josimar scored 16 goals in 30 games in a poor Army Utd side last season, and will be expected to provide competition for Andrija Kaludjerovic to be Port’s first choice striker. Whilst his goal record at Army was undoubtedly impressive, he has struggled to find the net at a few of his former clubs. A solitary goal in 16 games at Tokyo Verdi, then another 1 in 12 games for Al-Fateh SC don’t exactly scream consistency. However good Josimar is, we have to question the wisdom of signing another Brazilian forward to replace Maranhao – who most fans think has earned his chance in T1. Would a left winger or a left back not make more sense?

 

Josimar Rodrigues at PAT Stadium

 

Still, with the signing as yet unconfirmed and more twists and turns still eminently possible, we aren’t counting our chickens just yet. Anyway, isn’t there a game coming up sometime soon to take our minds off all this transfer malarkey?

 

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