Interview: Fabio Cesar Montezine
Qatar's ex-Napoli star tells Paul Rhys about the need for a football revolution in Doha.
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2009 15:17 GMT

Celebrating a goal for Napoli with Portugal's Jose Vidigal [Pietro Mosca]

Free-kick specialist Fabio Cesar Montezine learnt his craft at Brazilian giants Sao Paolo, taking to the field alongside a golden generation of footballers including Kaka, Julio Baptista and Fabio Simplicio.

Three years at Napoli saw him soak up both the adulation and fury of southern Italy's hardcore fans, before a move to the Arabian Gulf saw the boy from Londrina in southern Brazil don the colours of the Qatar national team.

As Qatar struggle in their quest for a first World Cup appearance, Montezine talks to Al Jazeera about the need for Brazilian-style street football in Doha, the frustration of injury – and of being mistaken for Qatar's Uruguayan striker Sebastian Soria.

Fabio Cesar Montezine is the sort of player who likes to take the rough with the smooth.

As a midfielder aiming to fill the boots of Diego Maradona at the once-mighty Napoli in Italy, a trip to the shops could mean a barrage of abuse from ultras incensed at a poor performance – or an impromptu autograph session following a trademark free kick.

Players like Dutch legends Ronald and Frank de Boer have come to Qatar to escape the pressure of the spotlight.

Montezine feels at home in his Qatar shirt [Al Jazeera]
But as Montezine relaxes at home with his family in Doha, it's exactly that kind of pressure that the laid-back Brazilian misses.

Napoli test

"I chose the most difficult time to go to Napoli," he tells Al Jazeera, recalling the team's stint in Serie B and Serie C just 10 years after winning the Italian scudetto in 1990.

"But they had the greatest fans even in the lower divisions.  

"This is one thing that footballers who have played in Europe or South America miss in Qatar – the confidence between the players and the fans.

"In Napoli if you play bad they shout at you in the supermarket.

"If you play good you are Maradona. If you play bad they kick you.

"Here you don't know if you're doing a good job because you don't have the answer from the fans – they like football but they prefer to watch the games at home in front of the television."

At least when they do take the trouble to mob him, they might choose the right guy.

That's not my name

"I know the people in Qatar know me but sometimes they call me 'Sebastian'," smiles Montezine, referring to Qatar's Uruguayan star Sebastian Soria.

"If you play good you are Maradona. If you play bad they kick you"

Fabio Cesar Montezine, ex-Napoli midfielder

"The youngsters come up to me shouting, 'Sebastian, Sebastian!'.

"I say, 'No I'm Fabio', so they change it to, 'Fabio Cesar, Fabio Cesar!'."

Montezine laughs as he recalls the young fans' mistake.

But these are serious times for Qatar.

The euphoria of winning the Gulf Cup in 2004 and the Asian Games in 2006 has disappeared along with the nation's increasingly slim chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Hours after the Montezine spoke to Al Jazeera on Saturday, Qatar – missing the Brazilian through a hamstring injury – were drubbed 4-0 by Uzbekistan in a match they had to win to keep pace with Japan and Australia at the top of Asian Group A.

Bahrain's defeat to Japan leaves Qatar with hope of securing a third-place playoff, but Montezine is feeling the strain of being absent at a time when players of his skill are in short supply.

Wide awake

"Believe me, I don't sleep," he says.

"Now I have a small injury. But it's a re-injury for me because the first was in December and it made me miss the Gulf Cup. I was very upset.

Getting to grips with Aussie Brett Emerton in Doha [GALLO/GETTY]
"I have the chance to play qualifiers for the World Cup, and I know I can do something to help the team – but I'm out."

Coach Bruno Metsu, whose finest hour was defeating France with Senegal at the 2002 World Cup, has the chance for redemption when his charges take on Bahrain in Manama on April 1.

But it is clear something has to change in Qatari football culture for the team to get better, with too many children having football as an occasional hobby rather than an all-consuming passion.

"Every Brazil player starts playing barefoot outside with his friends," says Montezine.

"I think that it's different in Qatar because the people don't have the culture of football.

"It is changing, but here I think nothing can be natural.

"I see they are trying to do this at Aspire but it is not enough. The clubs must do something to get children training early.

"Still you see 17, 18-year-olds who are not ready to play.

"In Brazil if you are not ready by that age you can forget it."

The Aspire Academy in Doha is the envy of the planet in terms of facilities and training, and their boys have a proud record against the youth teams of the world's top clubs.

But they can only cater for a select few.

Where the streets have no game

A visitor to Doha will rarely see boys playing in the street. At best, they are taken to football practice by car.

Meanwhile, naturalised players like Montezine and Soria prop up the national team.

The day when a Qatari player will receive the reception the Brazilian got at Napoli in 2000 seems very far away indeed.

"My first press conference at Napoli, I couldn't believe it. It was like I was Maradona," recalls Montezine.

"The room was packed with reporters and TV cameras. Before, when I was at Udinese in Serie A, there had been a couple of reporters and that was it.

Fabio Cesar Montezine factfile

 February 1979: Born in Londrina, Brazil, where he plays as a schoolboy for Londrina Esporte Clube. 
 1996: Has three-month stint at Vicenza in Italy alongside Cameroon's Pierre Wome. Returns to Brazil and signs with Sao Paolo. 2000: Signs for Udinese in Serie A.
 2001: Moves to Napoli, scoring 10 goals in 77 senior appearances.
 2004: Short stint at rivals Avellino.
 2005: Moves to Al-Arabi in Qatar, then Umm Salal a year later.
 2008: Called up to Qatar national team. Scores two goals in 2010 World Cup qualifying win over Iraq.

"In my second game I scored my first goal from a free kick. This goal changed my football life.

"The fans would sing, 'Montezine, segna per noi' (Montezine, score for us). Still I have friends in Napoli who say the people don't forget me."

Injury took Montezine, now 30, to local rivals Avellino before a move to the Qatar Stars League with Al Arabi and now Umm Salal, where he is playing the club's first season in the Asian Champions League.

Whatever the national team's trials, he does not regret pulling on the burgundy shirt – and will be hanging around for a good while yet.

"For me it wasn't strange to start playing for Qatar," he says.

"I'm not the first Brazilian to do so and I won't be the last.

"I'm happy to play for Qatar because it means they like me not only as a football player but as a person.

"For me and the team, the World Cup is a dream. Metsu is a coach with great international experience and I know we will get better."

Al Jazeera
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