SAO PAULO: Ridiculed the world over for faking and diving during a disappointing World Cup campaign in Russia, Brazilian forward Neymar has admitted to “exaggerated” reactions saying he is still learning to deal with frustration and blaming his “brat” like behaviour on his inner child.
In a 90-second video made for his sponsor Gillette. published Sunday on social media accounts and broadcast on several Brazilian television networks, features the Brazilian superstar accepting criticism for the first time and promising to win back fans who criticised his behaviour.
The striker scored two goals in the tournament and was not too disappointing until his team got knocked out by Belgium in the quarter-finals, but fans and players have spoken much more about his theatrical reactions to challenges which often left the world’s most expensive footballer wincing and rolling on the ground and arguing with referees.
“Boot studs on the shins, kick in the spine, stomp on the foot, you may think I overreact, and sometimes I do, but for real? I suffer on the pitch, but you have no idea what I go through outside of it,” he said in comments the television commercial for a razor blade.
The Paris St Germain forward, speaking in Portuguese with English subtitles, continued: “You may all think I’ve fallen too much, but the reality is I did not fall, I crumbled.
“And that hurts more than anyone stepping on your post op ankle,” he added, alluding to the surgery on the injury he suffered back in February.
Neymar had hoped the Russia World Cup would elevate him to a similar status enjoyed by thirty-somethings Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - the two players who have shared the FIFA World Player of the Year award over the last decade.
Instead, he bowed out at the quarter-final stage when Brazil lost to Belgium as fans focused less on his football and more on the dives, rolls and tears he produced.
The 26-year old former Santos and Barcelona player suffered a serious foot injury in February and returned to action just days before the start of the World Cup.
Since Brazil’s elimination, Neymar only spoke about the defeat in Russia via Instagram. In the ad he tried to explain why he did not speak right after the Belgium game, which fostered even more criticism of his behavior at home.
“When I leave without giving interviews it is not because I only want the victory laurels. It is because I still haven’t learned to disappoint you. When I act like a brat, it isn’t because I’m a spoiled child, but because I still haven’t learned to deal with my frustrations,” the player said in a voiceover to the black-and-white video.
“There’s still a child inside me. Sometimes he enchants the world and sometimes he irritates the world. I fight to keep that boy alive inside of me, but not on the pitch.”
The piece ends with Neymar’s pledge to be a new man less than a month after Brazil was knocked out of the World Cup.
“It’s taken me time to accept your criticism, it’s taken me time to look into the mirror and transform myself into a new man. But I am here, with a new face and an open heart. I fell down but only those that fell down can get up,” Neymar said.
Neymar ends his ad asking fans to make a choice.
“You can keep throwing rocks at me, or you can throw your rocks away and help me get up. Because when I do get up the whole of Brazil gets up with me,” he said.
This is not the first time Neymar has addressed his taxing World Cup.
On his return from Russia he took a tongue in cheek swipe at his detractors with an online video teaching children how to dive.
And last week, in an interview with AFP, Neymar disclosed he “didn’t want to see a ball, or to see any more football played” after Brazil’s premature exit.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2018