Roberto Mendes da Silva, who is better known as ‘Beto’, can undoubtedly be considered among the legendary foreign players in Indian football and he is currently on the verge of making more history as he could become the first foreigner to win the I-League with two different clubs.
The Brazilian won four Indian league titles with Dempo, including three I-League crowns and now is a win away from lifting his first league trophy with another Goan club, Churchill Brothers. Beto joined Churchill Brothers in 2011 after six highly successful years with Dempo and helped the Red Machines finish third in the 2011-12 I-League, scoring nine goals.
This season, Beto has contributed with 13 goals and six assists and thus has been Churchill’s best player for the last two campaigns. But despite winning almost everything in Indian club football, the 34-year-old still remains hungry for more success.
“Personally I never look for the status of being the best player or the top scorer. My goal is to win trophies and I put all my effort for that. I am a player who likes to win even practice matches, doesn’t sleep after any defeat and can’t even think about playing if I go even one year without fighting for trophies. So that is the force which drives me to give my best and I really believe in the saying that ‘I am what I am because of the great players who play with me’,” Beto told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
The fact that Beto could become the first foreigner to win the I-League with two different clubs is proof of the fact that it’s not easy for players to find success everywhere. When asked to compare his time at Dempo and Churchill Brothers, Beto talked about the similarities and differences.
“Well after winning many trophies with Dempo, I was really looking for a new challenge and winning the I-League for another club became the motivation of my day-to-day training. Although they are from the same city (and that’s the only similarity I can find) there are big differences between their approaches towards to the game. Overall as a player I have to thank both for making me feel like I am at my house in Brazil,” Beto reflected.
Beto was also full of praise for the attitude of his current teammates at Churchill Brothers and believes they fully deserve to be champions.
“I can say apart from being great players they are top human beings. I am really thankful to have the opportunity of experiencing two seasons with most of them. I always believe that in football there is always something to learn and I learned a lot. They really deserve the title and all the compliments,” he opined.
Back during his Dempo days, Beto enjoyed an explosive partnership with Nigerian striker Ranti Martins. At Churchill, Beto has played behind and sometimes alongside three different strikers and the Brazilian admitted that without the presence of quality forwards it wouldn’t be possible for playmakers like him to have an impact.
“Having a good striker is very important for a playmaker especially nowadays where you can’t dribble past 3 or 4 players to score. My combination with Ranti was magical. We played together for years so with time we improved and achieved everything.
“Henri (Antchouet), Sunil (Chhetri) and Akram (Moghrabi) are equally great strikers. We have just started to understand each other and I believe if we could stay together we can have similar success like I had with Ranti,” he added.
The playmaker’s next challenge is to win the AFC Cup especially after Churchill Brothers’ disappointing campaign during which he mostly remained injured.
“Winning the AFC cup for an Indian club is my dream and I was very close to that with Dempo once. I really believe with a proper plan an Indian club can be AFC Cup champions which would raise the profile of Indian football in Asia. I am disappointed for not being able to play but we weren’t ready for the AFC Cup this time since we were focusing on the I-League,” Beto commented.
When asked to compare the state of Indian football now and back in 2004 when he first came and played for Mohun Bagan, Beto gave a mixed reaction.
“There is a desire to make Indian football more professional although it’s not happening. Clubs are investing more and the quality of the Indian players has certainly improved,” he said.
This term, Beto will complete his ninth season in Indian club football and certainly sees his future in India as he has already come up with an academy in Goa along with compatriot and another legendary foreigner Jose Ramirez Barreto. The duo has plans to come up with a similar academy in Kolkata in the near future.
But in any other country, Beto would have probably become an international player by now as most nations worldwide naturalise the quality foreigners of their domestic game. Indian laws don’t permit that but Beto strongly believes that naturalisation is necessary and he is still willing to play for India at the international level.
“Yes of course I would love to play for India as I have been here so long. I do believe if India wants to improve their FIFA Ranking they should do that (naturalisation) for the first few years of football development. But first they also have to see whether changing those rules will affect other aspects of life,” Beto concluded.