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Bruno Meyer Simoes: The Real Working Life of a Pro Footballer

Updated: Oct 9, 2019


Bruno Meyer Simoes will tell you that most serious Brazilian footballers really believe they can make it pro. To be fair, that’s probably true of most competitive players. Because for millions around the world, football is life. Or more precisely: Football. Is. LIFE. Yet only a small fraction of contenders make it to the pro level, and an even smaller percentage to the very top divisions. That’s the reality. Thousands of lifetimes prepared, only a few sent through. But despite the terrible odds, many persist.

I sat down with Bruno, a Brazilian national who has had a lengthy career in professional futsal and football, to talk about the reality of being a working athlete, and his path to a life spent playing the game.

Bruno Meyer Simoes at local futsal facility UrbanFutsal LA.

Pivotal Moments

“You need to see what you want, if you want to play professional or you want to go to school. You cannot do both because it’s not working. You’re just wasting our money.” This is what Bruno’s father told him halfway through college, when Bruno was dropping classes and unable to keep up with both training and schoolwork.

Bruno comes from a family of athletes—his father played for São Paulo FC, his two uncles were pro footballers, and his mother a pro volleyball player (and goalkeeper). Bruno’s younger brother, who he matter-of-factly says was ‘much better’ than him, was offered a cush contract at the age of 15, which he turned down.

“We had a whole field in our house, our backyard was a field,” Bruno tells me.

Bruno started his professional track at the age of 12 with GR Barueri, a futsal club where he stayed and turned pro at 17. He was on the U13 Brazilian National Futsal team, and at 15 spent a year training with Corinthians alongside Willian. During high school, he would practice in the daytime and go to night classes with adults. In college, though, the coursework and training became unsustainable, and he was faced with one of those pivotal moments for developing athletes.

State Cup Champions U17 with GR Barueri.

“You have a chance to play professional for a long time, yes. But at the same time, they can come and say, ‘You’re not playing anymore.’ So what is better?” His father asked him.

So Bruno put his football career on hold and finished school. After graduation, he worked for his dad’s family business, a lighting company, but soon after began to train with Brasilis FC, a professional club based in Águas de Lindoia. Two years in, he got a call from a friend in the U.S. who asked if he wanted to play indoor soccer. That’s when Bruno found himself in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the Tulsa Revolution, and later the Ontario Fury in California. In 2017 he went to Germany on recommendation of another player to join FCA Darmstadt, a fifth-division team. He has since retired and is now hoping to become a coach.

Interestingly, Bruno has never had an agent, but has managed to get on teams through word of mouth, recommendations, or tryouts. He’s rubbed shoulders with some of the all-time greats in both futsal and football, and his career has taken him around the world, to Barcelona, Iceland, and throughout Brazil and the U.S.

Brazil vs USA indoor international friendly game in California.

The Field Talk: What’s something you learned early on in the Academy that really changed your game?

Bruno Meyer: How to move off the ball. Because when you’re young, and you don’t have any idea how to play soccer, you think you’re just playing when you have the ball at your feet. When you go on an organized team, they teach you how to play when you don’t have the ball. This makes a lot of difference.

Who did you want to play like?

I was a big fan of Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho’s my hero. So I liked to play like him, like magically haha. I had a really good, tight touch. I was really quick with the ball.

Why Ronaldinho?

Nobody played like him. He did some impossible things for that time. It’s like when you go talk to the old guys and they talk about Pele and Maradona. You have players better than those players [today] but at the time, what they did was from another world. Like Messi today, what Messi does today nobody has done before. He’s special. Ronaldinho’s the same. When you had this game that was really tactical—passing passing—he came in and started dribbling, doing like magic. And Brazilians, we love players that go 1v1 and do nice, fancy stuff. So him and Ronaldo were like … It was unusual to see at the time.

In a game, how do you know when to pull out the Ronaldinho tricks and when not to?

They teach you every time you want to go 1v1 with a player, you need to make sure you have a defender cover you. So at the right time, in the right position, you can be creative, and it’s always on the attacking side, not on the defensive side.

Is it about embarrassing your opponents?

It’s not about embarrassing your opponents when you have a goal in your mind.

What’s it like for you when you’re playing your best? Like when you’re in the zone.

When I play, probably I don’t think enough. I just follow my instincts. For me, I love soccer because I can have a bad week, but when I’m playing I can forget everything and just play. Everything that I’m doing is just natural.

01 FCA Darmstadt vs FSV Schneppenhausen in Hessen, Germany.

Are you sure you’re not trying to embarrass your opponent?

I’m not going to the field thinking, oh, I’m going to meg that guy or do that trick. No, it just comes in the moment. I have the ball, and I see, oh, he’s coming with his legs open, so I meg him. Or he gives me space, so I’m going to do this trick.

But sometimes they do get mad, and start to kick me. So now you start playing their game, so you start to do some things that can embarrass them and make them mad. So you say, ‘Okay, you can kick me, but I no kick you back. I will make you look bad. Dribbling you, megging you, doing tricks on you.’

Why are Brazilians so good at soccer?

I think because we play soccer the whole day. We go to school, you’ll be playing with friends at lunchtime. You get out of school, you go to your house, you’ll be playing with your friends in the street.

But a lot of countries play soccer all the time, but they’re not like Brazilians. How do you explain that connection? Is it a mystery?

I think we’re really good because we play soccer all the time. And the coaches, they let us play free. Like other countries, they play all the time too, but they’re really tactical, like England … In Brazil, you play free. And every time you play it’s really competitive. Like you bet a coke, so we play where the winners get a 2 liter coke.

But how do you explain the connection?

I think the connection for soccer is because everybody in Brazil, for the most part, are poor. They don’t have any money. So soccer, it’s not an easy way, but it’s an easy way to take your whole family out of a bad situation. Because of this, everyone, they play like it’s for everything. Other countries, they don’t have the same life that Brazilians have.

So I think it’s this. Soccer is a way to give your family a good life. Because here [in America] you have a lot of opportunities here, and Europe too. So for people, if soccer is getting boring or the coach is yelling, they can always stop and get out. But in Brazil, we don’t have these opportunities. So it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the coach or anything, you keep going. Going, going, going ... Everyone wants to be the player who can take their family out. They play like they don’t have a tomorrow. So they put in their head, I might die tomorrow, so I play for my life.

What do you do when you get frustrated on the field?

You cannot get frustrated. How many people in the world want to play professional? And I’m there, playing. So how can I be frustrated? If I lose, or if I have a bad game, that happens, so I don’t think I get frustrated. I could get frustrated with my teammates, that they’re not doing good. But not me playing, like losing the game or playing bad.

A lot of pros do get frustrated though.

I think you get sad, not frustrated. I get really said if I play really bad, I get in a bad mood. But not frustrated.

What’s the coaching style in Brazil?

They let you be creative. You have the mentality to win games, to play hard, but the first thing is they let us play free. You do your job, but at the same time you be creative. I played in Germany, too, and in Germany they are really tactical. They don’t let us do a lot of stuff. So if you’re a right back, they don’t want you to go and dribble the players and score a goal. Your job is to defend in this position. If you get the ball, you pass it to the winger, and the winger goes and be creative. But it’s not your job to do this. In Brazil, it’s more free. So you have Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves—they are defenders but they play free on the field. They pass the ball, they move, they attack, they dribble.

How do the Brazilian coaches do this? Less coaching?

They coach us a lot, but I think they don’t pressure us if you make a mistake. So if you make a mistake, they get mad, but at the same time they support you and guide you to do it the right way. But they don’t get mad and say, ‘You cannot do this anymore.’ They teach you to do this, but the right way, at the right time.

They want you to take the risk, because you learn soccer. When you’re professional, you cannot take these risks, you know what I mean? Because you’re talking about millions and millions and millions of dollars. And when you’re young, they’re developing you. So you cannot put in a kid’s head, ‘You cannot do this,’ because when he grows up with this, he’ll be scared.

When does this shift happen? At what age?

In Brazil, like 8 to 15, it’s technical technical technical technical. After 15 years old, they start the more tactical. It’s when you start learning, because you cannot teach like a 10-year-old you need to do this job because they won’t get it. You need to first teach them how to play with the ball. To be fearless. And after 15 is when you start teaching them how to play the game. How to read the game. The boring stuff. Movements off the ball. Zone. Everything.

What’s it like being able to play professional for so long?

It was amazing. It’s like the dream of everybody—everybody want to play professional. I was playing professional futsal, but for me it was the same [as 11v11]. It was really good. You go and you practice every day. And you’re traveling every day with your friends, your teammates. And playing games against people you would see on the TV when you were young. So it was really nice.

What does politics mean in football?

I got in Corinthians because one of the staff was my cousin’s uncle. So I was his player. And after one year they took out [the staff] and brought another staff. So the other staff brought their players. So when you’re not the best players like Neymar, Willian, like the big names in Brazil, you go with politics. If you know the coach, you’ll be playing. I was a good player, I was not bad, but I was a good player. So they put in another decent player in my position, because they make money like this in Brazil.

You have the agents who pay the coach to let the players stay on the team. So this is very difficult in Brazil, because of the politics. I don’t know how it is now, because this was like 15 years ago. But before it was like that. You had the players that were amazing, like 3 or 4 players per team. And the rest of the team are agents’ players. So the agents give some money under the table to have their players in there.

But isn’t it more like a spectrum of exceptional to good players?

In Brazil, you have like 3 or 4 exceptional players [per club] and the rest of the team is like decent players. They’re good, they’re really good, but they’re not exceptional—they cannot change the game. You know what I mean? I was not changing the game. I was until I was 15, but when I turned 15 I stopped growing and the other players kept growing. So it was more physical. Yeah. It was hard.

SV Darmstadt 98 facility in Germany.

If you had the choice, would you rather play futsal or 11v11?

I like 11v11 more, because you have more time with the ball. You can think more. With futsal, you have the ball, you don’t have a lot of time to think what you do. So you need to play quickly, and you need to run a lot. And I was never a player who liked to run a lot. I like to think, like to get the ball, have my time with it. And help my teammates. In futsal, you don’t have this time. But my dad said I was a better futsal player than an 11v11 player.

When you become a coach, how will you teach your players how to be a leader on the field?

I think the first thing is to respect others on the field. Doesn’t matter if you don’t like that guy. On the field, you have to respect everybody. Outside the field, it doesn’t matter if you’re friends or not friends. When you start respecting each other on the field, people start respecting you. And that’s how you become a leader. If everyone respects you, everyone listens to you. If they don’t respect you, you can say anything, you can be right, but they won’t listen to you. So first you need to get the respect from the players.

If you could choose, what age group would you like to coach?

I think after 15 years old. Because it’s the time that they start learning soccer. Before that, you can teach them, they can be good players but they’re not learning how to play the game. They know how to play but not why they are doing this. At 15 is when they start the tactical.

I think for me, it’s the time when players decide to be professional or they quit soccer. It’s that age, at 15 years old. Because it’s the time it starts getting boring. It’s not like scrimmages anymore. It’s not like 1v1 anymore. It’s more like the boring stuff ... So the players who grow up thinking, ‘I want to play professional’ or ‘I want to play Division 1,’ they keep doing the boring stuff.

What kind of coach will you be? Will it be the Brazilian method?

I think here [in the U.S.] I need to mix a little bit. Here, you cannot go hard, because some players are there just for fun. I cannot be too critical.

The coaches in Brazil, they are hard, they are really hard. They treat you as a professional player. When you’re 12, they treat you like a man. So if you see a practice for the professional team and one of the 12 year olds, it’s the same thing. You say, ‘wow.’ The coach thinks they are like 30 years old. They’re kids.

Is it too much?

It’s too much. But that’s what makes Brazil what it is. So when you see a Brazilian that’s 17, 18 years old, like Vinicius Junior, going to Real Madrid and practicing, you think this guy doesn’t look like he’s 18 years old. Because since he’s been 12, he’s been there, having a professional mentality. They build him to sell, to make money. They treat you as a business, not as a kid. You’re a business. For the Brazilians, the professional teams, the players they are business, for the future. ‘Oh this kid, if you work hard with him, he can make bring 50 million.’ So they treat you like they prepare you for real life.

Is that a good thing?

Yes, and sometimes no. Because the players that cannot go professional. What are they doing? They live for soccer. So most of these players, they start to drink a lot, using drugs. They get depressed. And they didn’t go to school. Because when you play, you don’t have time for school. Like I said, when I played, I missed a lot of classes. And when I was in high school, like 14 years old, I was going to night school with like 40 year olds. I was 14 years old. Because I had to practice morning and afternoon, and I went to school at night.

How can you be practical as an athlete?

Everybody wants to play professional. But at the same time, everyone wants to play for a top team because of the money. Everybody wants to do this to change their life.

My whole life, my dream was playing for the national team or playing for the top five leagues in the world. I could not make this. But this is still my dream, so right now, as a coach, this is my new goal. Try to coach a national team or a top team in the world. So this will be my challenge.

Do you think you’d change anything?

Everybody asks me if I regret stopping playing soccer to go to school, because I could make a good team. I say, if I was not married today, I’d say yes. Because I met my wife because I stopped playing soccer. I met her in high school. But when I was in college, I was playing so I didn’t have time. She was my sister-in-law’s best friend. So when I stopped playing, I started going out with my brother. I don’t regret it because of this. And she’s been with me since I was 19 years old. In the end, it’s difficult, but I think it was the best thing to go to school.

Do you still play sometimes?

I cannot stop playing soccer. But I want to be a coach for sure. I think it’s the only thing I can do good. Soccer is my life. And I enjoy every second I’m watching or playing.

To contact Christine Kwon, email criskwon2000@gmail.com.


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