Adriano “The Emperor”

We all remember generations of great Brazilian teams that conquered the world in the sacred yellow. The story of the individual can often be different. Perhaps the plethora of talent has deemed talent to be replaceable. One can replace talent, but the human character of the players can never be truly replaced. One can learn to adjust the team without a certain player but some undefinable spirit remains missing.

The number 9 of Brazil has not been the same since the days of Adriano. Adriano “The Emperor”, a powerhouse of a striker from the streets of Brazil, has had an interesting career, to say the least. The history books have a story to tell about Adriano, perhaps the story Adriano has to tell is more important. In a recent interview with the Players’ Tribune Adriano sat down and set the record straight.

Adriano speaks fondly of growing up in a community. After all, what is home without community? Adriano was a cheerful kid, enjoying his childhood running around with his friends. 

It was clear to all that Adriano had a special talent in football. 

His family pooled money for him to go to the Flamengo academy. His grandmother accompanied him everyday to training. She would analyse his game on the bus ride home, and give him tips. This was Adriano’s life for 8 years. The dream took a hit when a 15 year-old Adriano, a left-back at a time, was going to be released because he was too big. As he was leaving, one of the coaches shouted for Adriano to be kept back one more time to try out striker. The coach not only gave Adriano a second chance, he gave the world a gift. The Emperor was born. 

By age 17 he was training with the first team.

 It was evident that he had something special. A few months later he was asleep in the house, when his mother woke him up to tell him that his dreams were coming true. Adriano was selected for the Brazil team. Adriano was viewed as the long-term successor to Ronaldo. One year later he made the move to Inter Milan. Adriano was living the dream. The Emperor had arrived in Europe. 

Life can Change in Nine Days

July 25, 2004, a 22 year old Adriano scored a 93rd-minute equalizer against arch-rivals Argentina in the Copa America final. 

Brazil won on penalties. Adriano won the golden boot for the tournament. After being the hero of the Copa America, Adriano is the king of the world. Nine days later he is back with Inter Milan. He receives a devastating call that his father passed away due to a heart attack. Zanetti describes a screaming that he had never heard before. Adriano later said that his love for football was never the same. Football was genetic for Adriano. His father loved the game, so did his uncles, so did his grandmother.

 Thus, Adriano loved the game too.

 Above all, Adriano loved his father. Adriano talks of going into a deep depression. Zanetti describes the biggest defeat of his career as not being able to help Adriano overcome the pain. Being far from his family, he did not have the same desire to train everyday. He had no idea how to cope, and started drinking heavily. Not all injuries are physical. Some are mental. Adriano was unable to heal mentally, while he was in Italy. To make matters worse, the press turned on Adriano. The Emperor has fallen, they exclaimed. Gossiping and rumours that Adriano had turned to drugs began to emerge. Something that he vehemently denies. Respectable media should not be gossiping for the sake of shock value. 

When Adriano was called up for the national team, he bought a one-way ticket to Brazil. While in Brazil, the Italian Press said that he had disappeared. In reality, the Emperor did not disappear, he merely went home. The emperor did not want to sit on his high horse anymore, he wanted to be with the people who raised him. Those that showed him love, before the ball was at his feet.

Restoration of Adriano

Around this time, Adriano decided to seek help from a psychologist. He slowly gained back his mental and physical health. Moratti, the Inter Milan President was willing to give Adriano time and space. Unheard of in the hyper-capitalist world of football. After a while, Adriano knew that for him to heal, he needed to stay at home. The press plastered the news, Adriano gave up millions to go back home. They could not understand valuing someone’s mental health over money. Somehow despite giving millions up, Adriano became the richest person in the world. The Emperor was no more, but Adriano was alive again. 

He came back to a welcoming Flamengo team. Adriano proudly states, he went to training not for football, but to hang out with his teammates afterwards. That is why we all started playing football. Playing with love for each other. That is the beautiful game. Adriano went on to lead Flamengo to their first title in 17 years. Adriano was Adriano again. Media will remember Adriano as another Brazilian who let the party life end his career shortly. It is easy to ponder what could have been for his career. It is more difficult and scary to wonder what could have happened had Adriano not sought any help. Some things are more important than football. Long live the Emperor!

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