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Name Wendell Lira
Gender Male
Nationality Brazil
Ethnic Brazilian
Job Brazilian Footballer
  EA Sports FIFA player
  Professional Gamer
  YouTuber

Affiliation

Club as Player Goianesia
  Goiás
  URT
  Fortaleza
  Vila Nova

Relationship

Colleague Neto

2015 11 06 Retrieve

I was having lunch with my mother. My phone kept ringing. I thought it was [someone chasing] debts, because I owed a lot, so I didn’t answer. But because it kept ringing and ringing, I ended up answering and it was a guy from Goianiense who told me, ‘You’ve been nominated for the Puskás Award!’

2018 01
Wendell Lira was invited by Radio Sagres 730, from Brazil, to be a commentator in Russia for the 2018 World Cup

2016 01 16 Retrieve

[Wendell Lira gives an insight into the whirlwind that picked him up after being nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award] People were all talking about ‘Puskás’ and I thought it was some kind of joke. I just tried to ignore it, but it was impossible. I’d never seen anything like it. In the days after the shortlist with the ten finalists came out I got 300 calls from all over the place

2018 02 20 Retrieve

[the life of Wendell Lira in September 2015] I didn’t have money to pay for milk for my daughter. I was suffering a huge pressure because I was unemployed, without perspective. I couldn’t see me in the mirror. [Two days later he was shortlised by Fifa as one of 10 nominees for the best goal of 2015] I had to turn off my mobile because it was impossible to attend to everyone. It was weird. The whole world was calling me

Cristiano Ronaldo is my idol. I love everything that he does. When I had my first serious injury, I tried to be like Cristiano. Because he is very focused. I didn’t see him become angry with any situation. He always works hard. I was always a big fan but after the ceremony I became even more. He was wonderful with me

[But on his first day in Moscow, Lira had a nightmare. He had an entry-visa problem and did not know what to do. He doesn’t speak English and in the immigration area no one tried to help him. Alone for five hours, the Brazilian was getting desperate and was afraid he would have to go back home, when the Puskas Award saved him again] It’s not easy to go to a different country where you have no idea even [how] to read a letter. I was almost crying … It was lucky a Russian man recognised me and came to my rescue

2018 07 21 Retrieve

[Wendell Lira speaks about how winning the FIFA Puskas Award in 2015 changed his life] I had to turn off my mobile because it was impossible to attend to everyone. It was weird. The whole world was calling me. I have no words about how the Puskas Award changed my life

2019 08 14 Retrieve

I’d already decided I was going to end my life [then a debt-ridden, injury-plagued footballer]. When you can’t put food on the table, give your daughter and wife the minimum they need to get by … I saw no way out. I’d spent the whole night crying. I was going to play a friendly in Goianesia. On the way from Goiania to Goianesia I cried my eyes out, because I’d already planned on ending my life on that journey. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I returned home. I hugged my daughter and knew I couldn’t let her grow up without a father.

Two days later I got the news I’d been nominated for the Puskás Award. It saved my life, allowed me to turn it around, rewrite my story, win the Puskás, get the opportunities it brought, work and support my family. The award came at a really, really crucial moment. Thank God I didn’t end up making that huge mistake

At first I didn’t think I had a chance of winning. I looked at Lionel Messi’s Instagram and thought he was certain to win on votes because he had so, so many fans. But then everybody in Brazil got behind me, started campaigning for my goal. Everyone kept stopping me in the street telling me I was going to win. It reached a point where I started to believe it myself. I got carried by the wave and travelled to Zurich believing that I had a chance of winning. But just to be going to the awards was a fairytale. I went to meet Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, of whom I’m a huge fan. Me and my wife, we spent the first five, six years of our marriage in difficult circumstances. We didn’t have much money. We’d never had a honeymoon. So when I discovered I was in the final three, I said, ‘Ludymila, let’s have fun, take lots of photos, see a new country’. That trip was our honeymoon

[When Hidetoshi Nakata read out his name as the victor, Wendell Lira, overcome with emotion, bowed his head, before turning to embrace his sobbing wife, Ludymila] Even today, I still can’t believe it. It was a fairytale. I don’t know if in 15 or 20 years it will sink in: that I beat Lionel Messi to win the Puskás Award. Leaving my name in football history is something that means so much more to me than money ever could.

My daughter was only two years old at the time, but she’s six now and people always tell her she’s the daughter of Wendell Lira who scored the most beautiful goal of the year. The other day she came home from school and said, ‘Dad, all my friends want your trophy - can I give it to them?’ (laughs) I said, ‘No, Marcela - this belongs to daddy.’

The Puskás Award changed my life. It gave me the momentary fame to be able to back myself to quit football and say, ‘I’m going to become a YouTuber and a gamer’

[Wendell’s fellow previous FIFA Puskás Award recipients are Cristiano Ronaldo, Hamit Altintop, Neymar, Miroslav Stoch, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, James Rodriguez, Mohd Faiz Subri, Olivier Giroud and Mo Salah, but whose goal does he believe was the most breathtaking?] Every one of them was beautiful, but for me Neymar’s goal was the best. Such magic! He used genius, ability, creativity and improvisation. He improvised everything so rapidly. It was unbelievable

[for The Best FIFA Men’s Player, Wendell knows where his votes are going] If you look at his statistics, you simply have to mention Lionel Messi, but Virgil Van Dijk was incredible. Nobody could get past him. I’ve never seen a centre-back do what he did. I’m 30 years old. I caught a bit of Fabio Cannavaro at his peak and he was a great player, but I don’t believe Cannavaro was as good [in 2005/06] as Van Dijk was last season. He was fantastic. He stopped some of the best players in football history and helped Liverpool win [the UEFA Champions League]. Van Dijk would be my pick

[for The Best FIFA Men’s Player, Wendell knows where his votes are going] For the women, I’m sad that Marta’s not there. She’s the Pele of women’s football. But Megan Rapinoe was exceptional at the World Cup. As well as being an outstanding player, she showed that she has everything a player needs to be the best in the world: character, belief, confidence. She had the firm belief to say that the United States would be champions. She didn’t just talk - she backed it up on the pitch. She truly deserves the award