FIFA World Cup: The curious case of Pedro from Portugal to Qatar’s national team

Felix Sanchez, Qatar’s manager, on Saturday announced a 26-man squad that has 18 players who graduated from the state-of-the-art Aspire Academy. Among the non-Aspire academy players who stand out is 32-year-old Portuguese-speaking defender Pedro Miguel Carvalho Deus Correia, Ro-Ro to his friends.

Till 2010 Pedro was one of the numerous children from an impoverished area of Portugal trying to make it big on the football field in his native Portugal. Born in Algueirao-Mem Martins, Sintra, Portugal of Cape Verdean descent, Ró-Ró played for several clubs as a youth, including S.L. Benfica where he spent nearly six seasons.

Pedro had spells at a couple of fourth-division clubs — S.C. Mineiro Aljustrelense and Farense in Portugal. For Farense he turned out in 18 matches and scored four goals in the 2009-10 season.

Born in Algueirão-Mem Martins, Sintra, Portugal of Cape Verdean descent, Ró-Ró played for several clubs as a youth, including S.L. Benfica where he spent nearly six seasons

The next season he moved to Aljustrelense club and played eight matches and once entered his name on the goal scorers’ list.

With Qatar looking to strengthen and build a side with the 2022 World Cup in mind, Pedro along with 30 other foreign players landed in Qatar in 2010 and he was fortunate to earn the nod of the people at the helm of affairs.

He started his club career in Qatar with Al Ahli Sports Club in 2010, one of the QNB Stars League sides and earn the appreciation of many including the current Barcelona coach Xavi, who also played for Al Sadd. He excelled in his role and also pitched in with his ideas and recommendations to compatriot Sanchez as Qatar set a road map for 2022.

After playing five seasons and scoring two goals, it was time for him to say goodbye to Al Alhi in 2016 and turn out for Al Sadd, which was then coached by another Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira.

It was the same year he earned his first international cap with the Maroons and has since played 80 matches and scored one goal and also played alongside Xavi.

Working under coach Ferreira was a “fantastic experience” and Pedro confesses to having “learned a lot”, like all the players in the squad, and he just has to “thank” for what the Portuguese coach taught him, leaving full praise for the Spaniard Xavi.

But the football journey has not been smooth sailing, especially for the off-the-field worries back home in Portugal. At one point in time, he almost gave up on football when his mother died, but ended up in Doha.

His is a classic case of overcoming obstacles and keeping the love for football going. He grew up in the troubled Casal de São José neighbourhood in Mem Martins, Sintra area, where he started playing football.

Pedro has not forgotten his Cape Verdean, and Portuguese roots and makes a point of visiting and the Mem Martins neighborhood where he grew up and is supporting the younger community.

“I try to get them to open their eyes a little. I go there, I still have family that lives in the neighbourhood, and I’m with the kids. I play football with them, I share my experience around a barbecue. The best thing is to talk to them to try to get them out of bad lives and onto a better path, and don’t give up on dreams,” he had said earlier.

“I came from a poor neighbourhood, without the opportunities that others have, I lost my mother early, and I got away with it. I closed my eyes and took a chance on the dream, and I made it,” he added.

Today, he lives a comfortable life in Doha and was part of the Qatar national team which made history when it won the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, beating Japan 3-1 in the final, and also part of the teams which featured in the 2019 Copa América and 2021 Gold Cup.

Now his longtime dream to play in the World Cup will materialise in a few weeks with the 2022 World Cup kicking off on November 20, when the host country takes on Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium.

Another wish of playing against his birth country got fulfilled when Qatar played in European qualifiers the two teams clashed twice and it was a time when he had a chance to have a word with Cristiano Ronaldo. Both match results went in favour of Portugal.

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