Éderzito António Macedo Lopes (Guinea-Bissau, 33 years old) was, for a few years, Cristiano Ronaldo’s substitute in the Portugal national team. While Cristiano has scored 109 goals in 179 games, Éder did not score more than one in an official match. He scored it for France in Paris in the 109th minute of the 2016 Euro Cup final and it became the most important goal in Portugal’s history. This Sunday UEFA has invited him to Wembley to participate in the award ceremony.
Question. Did the goal improve your life?
Answer. It was very important. It made me look back and see that everything I went through, all the work, all the suffering, it was worth it. That goal is something that shows my character. Everything that I went through in my life I managed to put in this auction. My friends tell me that I have remained forever in the history of Portugal and that is something that makes me very proud.
P. Moutinho passed that ball to you in midfield, quite far from the area, and you, who had the two centrals in front of you, ended up scoring a goal out of nowhere. What was the first thing that came to mind when you controlled that ball?
R. The game was very difficult. I think that with my entry we started to hold the ball later and the team started to go up a bit. We knew it would be a one-shot, one-goal match. That whoever scored first would have 90% won. When I receive I think it is an opportunity to go to the goal. I held on, I took two steps forward and when I sensed that there was a shotgun opportunity, I shot.
I realized that if I shot at the near post it would be more difficult for Lloris because Umtiti covered me. When Lloris saw the ball it was late
P. The ball hit the post and Lloris couldn’t get there. How do you get so precise in your shot? Did you look at the goal?
R. With peripheral vision. I know more or less where he is but with Koscielny pressing, I didn’t have time to look. When I come out of the pressure I see that Umtiti does not approach me. He must have thought that I was far away and that I could hardly finish, because he also had Pogba behind him. But I felt that there was an opportunity to shoot on the side where there are usually fewer spaces, which is at the near post. I realized that if I shot there it would be more difficult for Lloris because Umtiti covered me. When Lloris saw the ball it was late.
P. How does it hit?
R. I thought about not finishing with the instep because the ball could go up a lot. I tried to hit it a bit with the inside, near the big toe, with the maximum force I could, and it came out strong and stoned. Portugal struggled for many years to secure a senior national team title. Winning it against a team like France, the strongest team in the world, was something formidable.
P. His only goal in an official match with the national team became the most important goal in the history of Portugal. Do you believe in destiny?
R. I believe a lot. God manifests Himself. As much as you go through difficult moments, in the end something good can happen. It was the thought with which I went to that European Championship and it was something I had in mind when I entered the field.
The most difficult thing for me was growing up only from the age of six. My father suffered a misfortune and is still in jail
P. Was the hardest thing for you to score that goal or to become a professional?
R. The most difficult thing for me was growing up only from the age of six. First in a school and then in an orphanage in Coimbra with 60 boys. Until I was 18 I lived there. When a child cannot be with his family every day and have someone to support him, to tell him that everything will be fine, things are complicated. This is the most difficult part of my story but thanks to that I matured a lot and became the man I am today.
P. Why did he grow up alone?
P. My parents went from Guinea-Bissau to Lisbon when I was three years old. They separated and since they had neither time nor possibilities because they worked a lot, they decided to intern me. When my father tried to get me back to him, he suffered a misfortune … And they put him in jail in England. He is still in prison. It was very hard. For a child, the father is the one who makes the difference.
R. At what point did you know that soccer could help you?
P. Since I was little I dreamed of being a player, but over the years I understood that it was complicated. You had to work hard and have great willpower. When I turned 18 I found that my club, the Oliveira do Hospital, would not let me go out. For a year I was left without a team and without the possibility of signing for anyone because my home club had training rights and I could not be released. It was very hard. He ran alone, he trained alone. At 19 I clicked and I thought I had to try one more time. Then I was taken over by Tourizense, a subsidiary club of the Académica de Coimbra that competed in Second B.
P. Where did you get strength from?
R. I have faith. I think God kept my back. When you are down you can only go up. At first it was tough. I thought about quitting because they tell you that a player who is unemployed for a year at the age of 18 suffers irreparable damage to his development. But I kept training alone, or playing with friends. That strengthened me.
The goal happened in seconds. My life is much more than the goal. The goal is the icing on the cake. The difficult thing was not the goal but to start playing football at the age of 18. I think you have to know how to suffer. Suffering always gives you something
R. I worked washing dishes. I helped my mother.
P. After all this, don’t you think that the goal in the final was the easiest thing you’ve ever done?
R. Yes, you look at it that way … The goal happened in seconds. My life is much more than the goal. The goal is the icing on the cake. The difficult thing was not the goal but to start playing football at the age of 18. I think you have to know how to suffer. Suffering always gives you something. Many young people find that their career reaches a level that they cannot overcome because they do not know how to suffer. Carlos Tevez is an example of a footballer who goes through many difficulties and when he encounters that higher level of difficulty, he overcomes it like a lion.
P. What did Cristiano say to you after the final?
R. I congratulate myself. He said a few words to the group. He said it was the most important title of his career. I was very excited.
P. Who is the player that you liked the most in this European Championship?
R. Pedri. He has a very good pass. If you see Spain, he is in almost all the goals: if he does not make the last pass, he gives the penultimate.
P. Do you have a club?
R. I left the Lokomotiv Moscow this summer and now I am looking. I have left it in the hands of my representative.
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