Simao Mate feels energy and love of the football fans in Japan. “They are the best”

  • text by Yoichi Igawa
  • photo by Manabu Takahashi

The man who has lived in three continents ? Africa, Europe, and Asia ? always respects and thanks others, saying that football is, "a sport of respect". For him, football is joy and love but also a job and a tool to explore many places around the globe, as well as to make friends.

Having played for five years in Greece, the longest run in his professional career, he still has a lot of friends there and goes to the Mediterranean for holidays.

"When I played in Greece, the financial crisis had yet to occur and the standard of the league was high. Especially teams like my club at the time Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, and PAOK, who competed well in the Champions League. Throughout that experience, the toughest opponent for me was Zlatan (Ibrahimovic), who was at Inter Milan at the time. He was a monster, a beast. I also played against (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but marking Zlatan was the hardest thing for me."

In Greece, Simao enjoyed exchanges and friendship with fans, some of whom are, "a bit crazy". They are, "fanatically singing, chanting, and laughing out loud" from the stands, and a few of them came to talk and made friends with him.

On the other hand, he "couldn't feel that kind of close connection with fans in China, even though there was a good number of supporters in the stands". And in Qatar, where he played before coming to Japan, "there is only a small group of spectators for league games, and 15 or 20 of them are family members, friends, or agents of players."