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Listen: World Cup winner Gilberto Silva

The name of Gilberto Silva may not be the first to spring to mind when mentioning the Brazil’s World Cup winning team of 2002 or Arsenal’s Invincibles. But the soft-spoken Brazilian emerged from the shadows with his hard-working displays to establish himself as one of the best midfielders not only in the English Premier League but also in world football. Valhmor Camilleri met with GILBERTO SILVA who discussed his career achievements and gave his views on the situation at Arsenal…

When Gilberto Silva was named in the Brazilian World Cup squad for the 2002 World Cup, he never imagined that it would mark the start of a golden-laden career which saw him not only help his country move on top of world football but also help Arsenal break the dominance of Manchester United in the English Premier League.

When Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari named him as the replacement of injured Emerson for the 2002 World Cup, Gilberto Silva made the most of his opportunity as despite being one of the youngest members in the Selecao he tried to learn as much as he could from legendary team-mates Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo and Ronaldo, just to name a few.

“I feel blessed to have been part of both the Brazilian national team as well as the great Arsenal side under Wenger,” Silva told The Sunday Times of Malta.

“When I started my career, never did I ever think that I could achieve so much. But the secret of my success was that I always grabbed every opportunity I was given in my career with both hands. I was always ready to work hard to make sure I could achieve the goals I set.

“When you play for a big team like Arsenal or Brazil, you are surrounded by great players. But it’s up to you to try and make space for yourself and ensure that you achieve things for which fans can remember you forever.”

Winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil was certainly the best way for Silva to announce himself on the world stage.

He says that Brazil’s triumphant run in Japan and South Korea was inspired by the heartache suffered by the Selecao four years earlier.

“To win the World Cup with my country was an amazing experience,” Silva said.

“Many of the players in that Brazilian team were part of the team that had lost the final four years before in France so for them the 2002 World Cup turned out to be a perfect opportunity for redemption.

“Players like Taffarel, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo and Ronaldo were determined not to experience the same frustration. In fact, the main message in the dressing room was to win every match and go on to lift the trophy to cancel that experience.

“At the time, I was one of the young players in the squad, but I still understood the consequences of losing a major final. People don’t remember players who reach a final and lose it and we didn’t want to be in that group again.

“Having the opportunity to train with players like Cafu, who was at Atletico Mineiro when I was still in the academy, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, who were my idols, was a gift for me and I didn’t lose the opportunity to observe them in training and learn from them as they were winners.

“Everybody worked hard in that team and the chemistry between players like Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo was exceptional and it’s no surprise we went all the way.”

“I always grabbed every opportunity I was given in my career with both hands. I was always ready to work hard to make sure I could achieve the goals I set”

After that World Cup triumph, Silva moved to Arsenal where he had the opportunity to form a formidable partnership with Patrick Vieira. His biggest achievement came in 2004 when he was a key member of the Arsenal team who won the Premier League title without conceding a single defeat and no surprise they earned the tag of Invincibles.

“To play for Arsenal was a fantastic experience for me,” he said.

“That team of 2003-04 was fantastic as we had a winning mentality matched by nobody. Over that season, Arsene Wenger told us that we were going to be crowned champions without losing a single game and that put a lot of pressure on our shoulders.

“The previous year we had lost the title to United and that hurt a lot. We wanted to bounce back and show that we were the best team. We trained very hard and there was a strong mindset among the players that we had to win every match.

“The secret behind our unbeaten run was that every player fought hard for each other and even when we fell behind during matches we never thought that we could lose. We kept fighting and we put everything we did in training into practice.”

It has been a few years since Arsenal have won a league title now as the North London club are finding the going tough to challenge for silverware in the last few years.

Silva says that financial strength of Manchester City and Liverpool’s emergence as a force under Jurgen Klopp is hard to match for the Gunners and said that it will take time before Arsenal can challenge for the title again.

“It’s very hard to explain why Arsenal have failed to challenge for the title for so many years,” the former Atletico Mineiro player said.

“In football there is always a kind of cycle. You have teams like Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea who seem to be going in some kind of transition and are facing challenging times. Liverpool passed through this but now they are gunning for the title after several years.

“Competition is very hard especially when you have teams like Manchester City who have money to spend. Arsenal have struggled to compete financially especially since the transition from Highbury to the Emirates.

“All big players are with big clubs and you need to be quick to identify them and lure them to your club. There is a lot work to be done at Arsenal to get back to the top but if they are patient and they adopt the right strategy to improve the team I’m confident that in a few years’ time they will be challenging for the title again.”

As a former Brazil international it was natural to discuss with Gilberto Silva the situation of Neymar who in recent months has more attracted attention about his off-field antics than on what he does on the pitch.

Asked on his views on Neymar, Silva said: “It’s quite sad that people talk more on Neymar on what he has done outside the pitch than on it.

“He did make a few wrong things but what I’m observing at the moment is that he is not doing much talking. He took responsibility of his actions and is working hard to turn things round.

The secret behind our unbeaten run was that every player fought hard for each other and even when we fell behind during matches we never thought that we could lose”

“Everyone knows he is a fantastic player. Hopefully he has learnt from his mistakes and will soon return to be the football idol that many kids and fans dream of in the Brazilian team.”

Silva travelled to Malta to attend Playcon. The Brazilian said that he was amazed how the world of Esports has evolved in recent years and said that this new phenomenon could be a great tool for kids to socialise with their peers.

“It’s amazing how Esports has developed so fast,” he said.

“It’s been going through different continents and honestly I am here in Malta to try and understand more about it.

Esports impact

“Certainly, Gaming gives opportunity to young kids to experience the world of football in a different dimension.

“They can come close to the reality of playing in big stadiums, which may be they will never be able to visit.

“More importantly it provides the chance to play with people from around the world and make new friendships.

“That will enable children to develop their skills and at the same time integrate better with other kids while enjoying football through Esports.”

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