JOHANNESBURG – Even before he’s kicked a ball in the Soweto Derby, there is a strong belief from the Orlando Pirates bench that 20-year-old Brazilian-born defender Caio Marcelo can face this afternoon’s acid test with broad shoulders.
If the Buccaneers don’t chop and change their line-up, then Marcelo will start his fourth match in a row alongside a veteran of several of these big occasions in skipper Happy Jele.
When he was first introduced, it appeared as though he was perhaps a stop-gap to cover for an injured player in the goalless draw against AmaZulu on October 3.
But having now featured in the two consecutive matches that followed, although not really tested, the intent may have very well been to sharpen Marcelo for the derby.
“He will give us the 90 minutes,” Pirates assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena said.
“If you look at his character and personality – and you must put yourself in his shoes: you are a 20-year-old, you come into a foreign country, you can’t speak a word of English, and you have left your family behind about to embark on possibly the biggest stage or step in your football career – then the boy has done that with aplomb.
“No whining, no complaining, but trying his level best to understand the instructions, even watching the games on his own and doing analysis in Portuguese so that he can give us his opinion on his performances so far.”
Teammates Jele and Jackson Mabokgwane, who was in goal for Pirates in the last two matches, have both been in unison about Marcelo’s character – and Mokwena reiterated this when he gave such detail about the Brazilian.
“We will never know, he has never played the Derby before. He has never played big games per se in Brazil, and with games of this magnitude, you only know when the games kicks off (if he can handle it),” the Bucs assistant explained.
“A young boy that leaves the comfort of his family, his language and comes into a completely different club of this magnitude, and is then able to stamp his authority the way he has, I think speaks of the young kid’s character and his ability to withhold and withstand pressure.”
Marcelo was scouted because he is a centreback who can help Pirates build from the back, and has a left foot to complement his overall traits.
“This will be one of many Derbies because of his age. That was the view when we brought him here. It’s an investment into a young boy who can lead Pirates to even more success in future,” said Mokwena, who compares him to Ricardo Nascimento at Sundowns.
“Yes, there are similarities but this one (Marcelo) has the ability to be a lot better and may even be exported to Europe because of his Brazilian tag. It’s a big investment for this club.”