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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Football : Afonso Alves: 'Bring me sunshine'

Alves plays against England at Wembley in June 2007 [GALLO/GETTY]Former English Premier League star Afonso Alves says his World Cup dream is over – but not because of his move from Middlesbrough to the relative obscurity of the Qatar Stars League.
The Brazilian striker played eight times for his country during a two-year spell in the Netherlands where he became one of the most coveted frontmen in Europe.
Despite netting twice against Manchester United following his estimated $21million move to Boro from Dutch side Heerenveen in January 2008, he failed to fire in England and saw his side relegated in May this year.
Boro exodus
The 28-year-old Alves completed a shock move to Qatar's Al-Sadd on September 4 after the exodus of Boro stars like Tuncay Sanli, Robert Huth and Mido.
But having finished runner-up to Roma's Francesco Totti for the European Golden Boot just two years ago with 34 goals from 31 games in the Dutch Eredivisie, surely Alves fancied resurrecting his career in the big leagues for a tilt at South Africa in 2010?
"I agree with you that in Europe it will be easier for me to play in a team where (Brazil coach) Dunga might look at me and call me for the national team," Alves told Al Jazeera at Al-Sadd's modern stadium in Doha on Wednesday.
"In Europe it would be easier for me to play in a team where Brazil might call me up, but at Heerenveen I played in a small side and I still played for Brazil"Al-Sadd striker Afonso Alves"But you can also see that when I went to Heerenveen I played in a small side and I was still called for the Brazil national side.
"It's going to be a little bit hard to play from here and be selected for Brazil, but the main problem is that I broke my toe against Newcastle last year and I stopped playing for three months.
"I'm not 100 per cent but I'm improving. No, I don't think I will be going to South Africa."
Alves' European exploits made him a surprise inclusion in Brazil's victorious 2007 Copa America squad – although, as Dunga pointed out at the time, he had a better goal average than compatriots Romario and Ronaldo in the Dutch league.
Whether even a fully-fit Alves would be able to break his way into the South Americans' front line from the footballing outpost of Doha remains a moot point.
Financial clout
Clubs in the oil-and-gas-rich Arabian Gulf state certainly have the financial clout to draw in players from the higher echelons of the European game – with Lyon genius Juninho also completing a move to Qatar champions Al-Gharafa.
But after eight years on the continent taking in the chilly locations of Gothenburg and Malmo in Sweden, Friesland in the Netherlands and Middlesbrough on England's North Sea coast, Alves said that year-round sunshine and the company of fellow Brazilian players in Qatar proved the biggest lure.
Love affair: Alves was the Eredivisie top-scorer with Heerenveen [EPA]Former Corinthians and Gamba Osaka striker Leandro will line up at Al-Sadd with Alves, while Gharafa's Juninho and Qatar international Fabio Cesar Montezine are also among the league's Samba ranks.
"I was eight years in Europe and it was so cold for me there," said the striker, looking laid-back in a black Al-Sadd strip and flip-flops.
"This is the first experience for me of playing in a hot country and playing for Al-Sadd will be the first time I've been able to play club football with other Brazilians.
"It was my decision to come to Qatar. My situation was difficult at Middlesbrough, eight good players had left the team when I went.
"The English league is very difficult and if you don't have strong players you will go down. That's what happened last season."
Scoring a Dutch-league record seven goals for Heerenveen against Heracles Almelo in October 2007 remains Alves' favourite memory from his time in Europe, more than the brace against United in April 2008 – "I was so sad because we drew the match."
And despite the splashes of talent among the Qatar Stars League teams, Alves is in no doubt that he will fill his boots this season, starting with the visit of Al-Ahli on Friday.
"For sure, not only me but Leandro will do our best to terrify the defences here," he said.

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