x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Marcelinho: Sharjah's samba star

The Pro League club’s fans love Marcelo Oliveira Silva "Marcelinho", their Brazilian striker – and he loves them.

Sharjah’s Marcelinho, right, outjumps Al Wasl’s Waheed Ismail in Pro League action earlier this month.
Sharjah’s Marcelinho, right, outjumps Al Wasl’s Waheed Ismail in Pro League action earlier this month.

As Marcelo Oliveira Silva "Marcelinho" steps out of the clubhouse and walks towards his car in the car park, a loud cheer erupts and the waiting Sharjah fans swarm to him.

The cheerleaders start beating on their drums as the Brazilian striker gets a warm handshake from virtually everyone and hugs from many. He poses for photographs and signs a few autographs.

The mood of celebration is very different to the atmosphere that had enveloped the Sharjah stadium around 45 minutes earlier. The home side were drubbed 3-0 by Al Shabab and the anger from the stands was very evident after the final whistle.

The appearance of Marcelinho had changed the mood. Every other Sharjah player who had passed that way before him was given a cold snub.

"Sorry, we did not have a good match," Marcelinho, 26, told the fans.

"No problem, you did good," came the reply, as a supporter put a medal around Marcelinho's neck. The conversations continued for the next 10 minutes before the striker excused himself. The handshakes and hugs followed again.

"I am very happy here because I think I am doing well for the club," Marcelinho said a few minutes later, his sombre mood after the defeat being lifted by the adoring fans.

"All this support that I get makes me want to give my best every time I step on the pitch. I want these fans to be happy and score goals for them. They support me so much and I want to repay them."

Marcelinho has repaid a fair bit of his debt to the fans since arriving at Sharjah before the start of last season from the Portuguese club Naval 1° de Maio. He had earlier played in the Danish league with AaB Fodbold and Avai Futebol Clube of Brazil.

He admits knowing little about this part of the world or football in the UAE when Sharjah came looking for him. The presence of Manuel Cajuda, the respected Portuguese coach at the club, helped in making his decision.

The number of Brazilians plying their trade here also influenced his decision, but the clincher was Sharjah's presentation.

"I came here because Sharjah offered a really good deal and they had a good plan for the team," he said. "I was excited about becoming a part of this plan. I have enjoyed every moment of my stay here and I have no complaints or regrets."

Marcelinho did not need much time to settle into his new surroundings and he got his name on the goalscorer's list in his first official game for the club. Sharjah lost that match 3-2 at Emirates, but a flurry of goals from the Brazilian through the season and his dynamic partnership with Mustafa Kareem up front kept raising the stock of the club.

Marcelinho eventually finished with 15 goals in the league, which was the fourth highest tally behind Jose Sand (24), Fernando Baiano (18) and Carlos Tenorio (18). Sharjah finished the season in sixth place.

He is off to an impressive start again this season with five goals - the same as Sand and Baiano, and three less than Andre Senghor, the league's top scorer.

Marcelinho is hoping to overtake the Baniyas striker in the standings and help Sharjah achieve their target of a top-four finish.

"This season I want to score even more goals," he said. "This is my job. If I can keep scoring, it will help the club. So I want to do that and hopefully finish as the top scorer of the league."

While Sharjah lost their game against Al Shabab last Sunday Marcelinho said: "We had a poor result in this match, but I can promise you we will come back a lot stronger in the next game [against Al Wahda tonight]. We did not make a good game, but you will see a much better team for the next match."

Marcelinho is expecting the team to work hard as they prepare for Wahda and improve their fluency in the field as the season progresses.

"We have a good coach and good players," he said. "But I believe we still have a lot of work to do - we need to give better passes, run more and fight harder. If we can do that, I believe we have a team to challenge the top sides."

Away from the football, Marcelinho is enjoying his time in the country. He is friends with many of the Brazilian players and hopes to get an extension at Sharjah once his initial two-year contract expires in May.

"We have lots of players from Brazil here and it is really good to see that," he said.

"With so many players from Brazil here, it really helps in settling down when you come here new. It is also good for the football in the country because it makes the league stronger.

"I go out with them. I am friends will all of them. Gustavo, Robinho, Carlos Tenorio [of Al Nasr] - they are all my friends because we speak the same language. It is easy. But no clubbing or [partying] for me - I spend my nights at home.

"I am having a good time here and would love to continue with Sharjah. All the people here like me. If I continue to perform and if the club still see me as part of their plans, I would love to continue for another two years here."

arizvi@thenational.ae