By Angela Barbosa
Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais and Brazil’s third largest city, is the home of the soccer rivals Cruzeiro and Atletico-MG. Last September, Danbury was the backdrop of an international soccer reunion of two of the best players of both teams, when they gathered to play a friendly match with other players and friends at the Portuguese Cultural Center in Danbury.
Danbury has been long known for being home to a large Brazilian community. If there is one thing that all Brazilian people share, it is a love and passion for soccer. And Elias Pereira, captain of the local Danbury United Over-40, a team that boasts players of Brazilian and European heritage, was proud to host the two soccer players, José Reinaldo de Lima and João Soares de Almeida Filho.
José Reinaldo de Lima, born on January 11, 1957, is a former Brazilian soccer player and striker, popularly known as Reinaldo or Rei (The King). Widely regarded as one of the greatest strikers in the history of Brazilian football, Reinaldo played most of his career for Atlético Mineiro, and still holds the record of highest goal average per game in the Brazilian league, with 1.55 goals per match in the 1977 Brazilian Championship, at a time when Atlético Mineiro was regarded as one of the best teams in the world.
“It is my first time in Danbury. I have many friends here and I am looking forward to play a fun, entertaining, and amicable match. I haven’t played in a long time,” said the Rei.
João Soares de Almeida Filho, born on February 15, 1954, known as Joãozinho (little João), is a former Brazilian player and left-winger who played for Cruzeiro from 1973 to 1986. An extremely skilled player, Joãozinho had his career shortened because of the violence of his adversaries. After suffering a series of contusions, in the early 80’s, he played for Palmeiras, then the International (RS). He ended his career in 1988.
“We are just going to play around. But, for the youth that enjoys playing soccer, even if they are not professionals, don’t stop practicing the sport. It will keep you way from drinking, smoking or doing anything harmful to your health,” advised Joãozinho.
A little history on the two teams: the Clube Atlético Mineiro commonly known as Atlético Mineiro or Atlético, and colloquially as Galo (“Rooster”), is a professional football club based in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The club plays in the Brasileirão, the top tier of the Brazilian football league system, as well as in the Campeonato Mineiro, the premier state league of Minas Gerais. The club is the ninth most valuable in Brazil, worth $ 99.2 million, and ranks eighth in the country in terms of turnover, generating $ 44.9 million in 2014.
Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, commonly known as Cruzeiro and nicknamed Raposa, is a Brazilian multisport club based in Barro Preto, Belo Horizonte. Although they compete in a number of different sports, Cruzeiro is mostly known for its association football team. The club is the seventh most valuable club in Brazil, worth over $132 million. In terms of revenue, Cruzeiro is also one of Brazil’s richest sports clubs and the sixth biggest football club in Brazil, generating an annual turnover of over $100 million in 2013/14.