Cafu playing in the Laureus Kick for Good Charity Match in the Netherlands, 2015
He said “I was never subject to racist abuse, but I think this is absolutely ridiculous. I think it’s a lack of culture and a lack of education. I think this is cultural, and comes from the ‘cradle’. If this happens, we have to stop it. We are living in a world where everyone is fighting for social equality and when you see attitudes like this on the pitch, it really makes me very upset.”
Equality has been one of Laureus Sport for Good’s focus areas, and Laureus Academy Member Cafu says: “We fight for that. Because sport is collective, sport is one of the greatest tools for social inclusion that exists in the world, so I think that through Laureus and through sport we are able to emphasise this and make equality a really fundamental point.
“But we cannot leave it only to football, racism exists in daily life, it exists on the street, on the road, on the bus, at the coffee shop, so I think we have to fight racism in society in general.”
Cafu is a Member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a body dedicated to using the power of sport to help change attitudes and improve society. In the interview he was also informative on other current football issues.
Although the Ballon d’Or is not being awarded this year, he had no doubt about who should have won it – Robert Lewandowski whose goals were so crucial in Bayern Munich’s Champions League-winning year.
“Lewandowski would have been my choice,” said Cafu. “I think he’s had a sensational Champions League. His numbers were something impressive, so yes, he deserved to win the Ballon d’Or.”
Lewandowski scored 15 goals, including four in 15 minutes against Red Star Belgrade at the start of the event, overshadowing even Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Though Cafu regretted the fact that a defender, like him, has never won the prize.
“We had so many good defenders in our time, but no one ever voted for a defender, I think it’s difficult for a defender to win. If I could pick one this year, I think Thiago Silva is a player who deserves a Ballon d’Or for everything he’s done as a defender.”
Another defender who has impressed Cafu is Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies? He was born in a refugee camp and is now a Champions League winner. A classic example of how sport can change someone’s life.
Cafu said: “Of course, for leaving where he left (the refugee camp in Ghana), for playing where he’s played, because of what he went through, he is an example for everyone. And this is what he shows to everyone, regardless of where you come from or where you are, when you want something you can do it. He was the guy who fought, who crossed several barriers to get to where he is and ended up being a champion. Congratulations to him.”
Cafu says this year he will be actively watching the English Premier League. Arsenal have signed two Brazilians this summer, Gabriel and Willian. He said: “Two great players, I am a fan of both Gabriel and Willian. Willian already stood out in the Brazilian team, in the games he played, and stood out at Chelsea. Gabriel stood out and continues to impress. I think they are two players who really will perform very well at Arsenal. They are players who came, not only to add value, they came to win the Premier League.”
Trent Alexander Arnold won the Young Player of the Year for his efforts for Liverpool last season. What would Cafu’s advice be for the 21-year-old: “That he continues to develop the way he has been doing, he doesn't change the way he plays, because he stood out in world football playing this way, so I think he has to continue the way he is, taking it seriously, dedicating himself, focusing 100% on what it is he wants and staying committed. I congratulate him.”
And what does he think of James Rodriguez, the Colombian, just signed by Everton? “I saw James Rodriguez play for the Colombian national team, I saw him play for Real Madrid, I saw him play for Bayern, for me he’s a fantastic player, a sensational player, intelligent, a player, who, if you let him play the way he likes, for sure, he’ll do a lot for the English Premier League. He’ll be a guy, who if you let him play he’ll stand out. They will see the true value he has for the Championship.”
Laureus Sport for Good is a global charity that supports children and young people by using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination, and disadvantage. It operates under the fundamental belief that the achievement of this ambition is best delivered by ending the social issues that affect the younger generation and changing their lives for the better.