What was the one thing that inspired you to come to India and to Mohun Bagan in 1999?
JRB: I always say that coming to Mohun Bagan was a miracle. I had started my career at Gremio. When I completed 21 years, the club loaned me to Kawaski Frontale club in Japan where I played for a year. Later I came back to Brazil and Gremio started loaning me to few Brazilian clubs. The year 1999 was hard for me. In first semester, I almost broke my ankle while playing for a local club and was out of the ground for a long time. I just got well in the month of October. Since second semester started in June-July, it meant I was out for the whole season. I would have to wait until January to come back. Meanwhile a proposal came from Mohun Bagan, India. I decided to accept and see how things are in India. That is how I just landed in Bagan. I always feel I was very lucky to just land in Kolkata and to land in one of the biggest clubs of India. Sometimes there can be many circumstances that can make you leave, but fortunately, I just stayed in Bagan.
When you arrived, preparations of National League were going on. Can you tell us something about that time?
JRB: When I came to Bagan, there were no games going on. So my trial in Bagan was a very long one. I was not able to see the magnitude of the club at that moment. When Igor (Shkvyrin) and I were signed, our first tour was to Bangalore. In the first match both of us were on the bench. The first game was a draw. Later in Goa we played four matches, had just one draw and got 10 points.
You won National League in 1999, runners up in 2000 and again National League in 2001. How was your experience?
JRB: If you ask me, which one was the best out of the three – I will choose the first one. If we would not have the first one, there would have been no story of Barreto. It was really a challenge to prove myself to the Club in the first year. The second win was another miracle. We had two matches – one against Salgaocar and one against Churchill Brothers. If we would have won the match against Salgaocar , we would have played the last match for draw. In the first half, we were leading 3-0 but in the second half, we lost it by 4-3 and our best defender got a red card also. We had very little time to build us up physically and mentally. Churchill was just playing for a draw. Yakubu was terrific. Our only way out was to win the game. Saliu was summoned to Goa from Kolkata to be just to keep Yakubu under check in the match. We won finally. However, without the first one, this entire saga would not have happened. The first win was very important for me to make me come and settle here in India.
You came to Mohun Bagan as a professional player. With time, you got attached emotionally with the supporters. Do you ever think that you should not have been so much passionate for the sake of a better career?
JRB: I think it is very important for me. I think we Brazilians are very emotional. I am very touched by emotions as I am very emotional myself. The supporters and I were connected. When you see Cristiano Ronaldo for so long in Manchester United, in Real Madrid and now in Juventus, you see his connection with his supporters has acted as a positive energy and has pushed him to such a level. When he plays, it is as the supporters are playing with him. He knows he has to always be at his best because there are many expectations.
During your long, decorated career, you have played under several coaches. Who has inspired you the most?
JRB: In Brazil, in Gremio I was under Luiz Felipe Scolari. I came from the Youth academy and he had spotted my talent. He promoted me for the pro team of Gremio. He has so far been the best. However, I have learnt a lot from all my coaches. The coach-player relation is very special. We always try to help and understand each other. Every coach has some qualities. From all my coaches I have learnt something or the other that I have kept to myself and used later.
You have scored many spectacular goals in your career. Which goal is special for you?
JRB: Goals get attached with the moments. There are many goals, which may not have been very beautiful, but I feel for me they were very important. I feel the winning goal against Dempo SC in Federation Cup in 2008 was very special. That Federation cup was very memorable because we defeated East Bengal in the semi-final. The goal I scored by the bicycle kick was also very special. Once I scored a goal against Churchill Brothers over the head of their goalkeeper from the middle of the ground. I think of it as one of the best goals I have ever scored. I think in Mahindra also, I scored the Federation Cup winning goal in the last minute against Sporting Clube de Goa. There were many speculations that Barreto was over. That goal was my comeback.
You have played with many strikers. Who was your favourite partner to play with?
JRB: Of course, Yakubu was my favourite foreigner. I think Odafa was brilliant. Unfortunately, I was not able to play with him for long. I think we could have done more, had we met each other when I was younger; but I was getting old. I think Bhaichung was great too. He was a scorer and I used to assist him. Lalampuia also was great to play with. He could have gone to a different level altogether.
Who is the most difficult defender you have played against?
JRB: I always preferred to play against the big bodied players; because I was fast. It was easier for me to pass through their defence. I think Deepak Mondal was very difficult, because he was a very smart defender. You would never realize that he was behind you. He always tried to keep you away from the box or make you face your own goal. It was very difficult to face him, especially in the derby matches.
You have scored 17 goals in derbies for us. You are the ‘Sobuj Tota’ who is our derby hero. How did you motivate yourself for the derby matches?
JRB: It is a derby. That itself motivates you. You do not need to be motivated to play a derby match. You need motivation to play with other teams. The only important thing for derby is to stay in control and not lose your concentration.
You have played many matches wearing Mohun Bagan jersey in India and even international matches in AFC Cup. Which is your most memorable match in our jersey?
JRB: I have played for many years in Mohun Bagan. I have many good experiences. It is very difficult for me to choose one. Derbies are definitely the most memorable matches. When I came in 2000, there used to be more than 100,000 people watching my game. I think all my derby matches are very special for me. All the goals I scored in derby matches are very memorable.
Regarding the 5-3 match against East Bengal. Can you tell us about that famous game?
JRB: That match was something that made us all very happy. Things that we tried that day, worked for us. It was destined, I think. We had worked hard for that day. I had learnt that the club had once been beaten by East Bengal by 5 goals. So this match was kind of revenge. I had a calf muscle injury persisted for long. Frankly speaking, in Bagan I never got enough time to heal. I felt better and then there were matches knocking on the door. I had to make a choice –to be out or to be there the next day to play. I wish I would have prepared and taken a little care of my injuries. However, I think I sacrificed a bit. I thought the club needed me, it was important for me to be in the team. The three points were important. I do not regret for that because it made me challenge my limits.
We saw you in tears on that day when you had to be substituted.
JRB: Of course, I think at that moment the score was 4-3. It could have been 4-4. It was very frustrating to be moving out at that moment. The team really needed me to be in the ground. I thought the team might have conceded a goal and that will change the game.
Right now, you are in Reliance Football Academy. So, what is your current assignment there?
JRB: I have been a coach for the past few years. My first assignment was in Bhawanipore. Then I joined ATK as assistant Coach where I was not developing myself as much. Luckily, in 2015, I joined Reliance. I am very happy to be a part of this program where 60 boys are studying and learning about football. I am thankful to the company or this platform. I am getting to know the whole process from grass root level to the youth level. I am happy to work and train some of the best kids in India.
Now Indian National Team is improving in performance as well as in ranking. Do you think it will continue to improve in near future?
JRB: I think India is playing really well in the past few years. The team has really been working together. The team has improved. They are clear in their mind about their strategies. I think people are seeing the difference. Things are going really well. Two leagues are bringing many youngsters to notice. We are in the right path. Many people are getting at the grass root level as well as in the youth level. Many people are dreaming with the National team.
Your retirement from football was a great emotional loss for Bagan supporters. What do you think about your retirement?
JRB: Retirement from Bagan was not something that I planned. However, the circumstances were as such. I had said that I would play for Bagan as long as the Club will be happy with me. Of course, I feel I could have gone a little bit more. However, the decision had to be taken. Then life goes on. I went to Bhawanipore and played for two years. It was a tough decision. But yes, the last game at Salt Lake was very special. I wanted to give a good show and not treat this as my last game. I think I was lucky again that I had been blessed with a beautiful goal to end my story with Mohun Bagan as a player in a beautiful way.
As a coach you have already completed AFC-B license. So in future, if given a chance, would you like to join Mohun Bagan as a coach or as a technical director?
JRB: Mohun Bagan has been like a family and I am like a son who has gone to study and to get his qualifications. The son has to, one day, come back home again. I do believe that once again I will be back because I am part of the family. I think the people will be happy to have me back and will allow me to continue my story with Bagan. I am preparing myself for that. May be tomorrow, may be later, I will be back and then I have to be at my best.
Any message to our supporters ?
JRB: It is always a pleasure to have you all around me. I always used to say that the fans played the main role in the success of my career. I think the madness still continues. You all are always connected to me via social media. Always support the club and be the strength of the club. I think this year was not good for the club. But there have been some good moments. We should remember those moments and move forward. The club should build a good team. The supporters should keep dreaming and supporting the club.