EXCLUSIVE: At home with Sandro! He sings and strums along to Coldplay and enjoys darts and beers with Bobby George… when his Japanese fighting dog will allow it
22:39 GMT, 30 November 2012
To watch Tottenham's eccentric midfielder belting out cover versions of Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas numbers, scroll to the bottom of this article…
Sandro Raniere Guimaraes Cordeiro strums his guitar, leans back on his stool and sings into a gold microphone in a surprisingly pleasant tone. ‘Tonight’s gonna be a good night,’ he declares and, whatever the night might bring, it feels like it’s going to be an interesting interview.
Inside his relatively modest Essex home, Tottenham’s young Brazilian midfielder is going through the set list of an impromptu gig.
He begins by playing two colourful numbers from Brazilian duo Humberto and Ronaldo, then switches to the UK pop scene with Coldplay’s The Scientist before returning to that Black Eyed Peas number. ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ he reveals, even encouraging his five-man audience to join in. ‘Come on everybody,’ he says.
Lord of the strings: Sandro shows off his collection of guitars at his home in Chigwell, Essex
Out of his element but in his element; north-east London and plunging temperatures but also soulful sounds and a smile on his face. It does not take long to figure out this eccentric character has a lust for life.
It is not just music that he plays. He loves a game of darts. Once he wrestles free of his snap-happy pup Clique — a two-week old Japanese Akita named after a track by rapper Kanye West — he throws darts at the board he bought after discovering the sport on television. Believe it or not, that board has been pierced by missiles fired from the hand of Bobby George.
That’s right. Bobby George, former World Championship finalist from east London (age 66) and Sandro, Premier League footballer from a small town near Brasilia (age 23), have been known to enjoy a right old knees-up. The image breathes new life into The Odd Couple concept.
‘Really, really,’ says Sandro in English, sensing his interviewer’s scepticism. He mimes placing two bottles on his coffee table and adds: ‘I put the beers down. Bob George is funny. These days, only a little bit gold. But still…’
The King of Bling was introduced to Sandro by a mutual friend and the pair enjoyed an afternoon at George’s Essex mansion for the Premier League Show in April. A rather amusing video of Sandro being taught George’s classic putdown — ‘You want your mummy’ — was filmed and put online.
He slips into his native Portuguese to explain through a translator. ‘When I moved here I would watch darts on TV all the time,’ he says. ‘I saw the crowd, everybody cheering and thought, “It really looks like good fun”. I got a friend of mine to buy a board for me. I started getting better so my friend said, “I know this guy who used to be a professional and would really like to meet you”.
On the oche: The Brazilian midfielder is a keen darts player, and has had a game with Bobby George (below)
‘So we did the interview and I played his son Richard. Now we’ve become friends, he comes here, we play together. It’s great fun.’
He stands and arrows three darts from a distance of only five feet but finds his accuracy does not quite match that of his favourite, Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. ‘All fours!’ he exclaims in mock angst.
He flops into a reclining leather chair and emits a deep chuckle. It is a noise which punctuates the next couple of hours.
The tears flow easily.
At 17, Sandro has spent two years living in a house on a hill nearly 900 miles away from home in pursuit of happiness. But he is lonely and sad. Numerous other teenage football hopefuls have become housemates but they are away on trials with professional clubs while he stays and trains in solitary.
Accommodated in Curitiba in the southern state of Parana by businessmen keen to unearth the next Brazilian diamond, Sandro is told by his agent he is being saved for a chance at a top club.
At 15 he had left the town of Planaltina in the nation’s centre for a trial at Atletico Paranaense but, as he says in English: ‘They closed the door in my face — two times!’ Months of toil followed and Sandro was feeling the strain.
Puppy love: Sandro with Clique, a two-week old Japanese Akita named after a track by rapper Kanye West
‘It was the worst time of my life,’ he explains in Portuguese. ‘The businessmen had money to invest. This happens in Brazil, like a boy band in England. I was given basic training to bulk me up.
‘It was a small timber house on top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere, just isolated. There was a lady who would come once a day to cook my lunch, leave my dinner and clean a little bit. I would see all these boys coming and going and I would stay in this house.’ He shouts in English: ‘/11/30/article-2241197-1642BC3C000005DC-125_634x416.jpg” width=”634″ height=”416″ alt=”Brazilian flair, English graft: Sandro says he always considered himself suited to the Premier League” class=”blkBorder” />
Brazilian flair, English graft: Sandro says he always considered himself suited to the Premier League
It turns out the agent was telling the truth. A trial with league side Londrina led to a match at which scouts from Internacional spotted his talent. They whisked him away from the house on the hill.
His father Joaci was a bricklayer, his mother Rosangela was a housekeeper. They often left him and his elder brother Saymon to care for themselves while they worked long hours for little money.
‘Like every boy in Brazil we played in the streets,’ says Sandro. ‘We would make a ball with anything — you know, little socks or a can, and play mostly bare-footed.
‘Sometimes we would find wasteland, pull the weeds out and play there. But that wasn’t good, either. When I came home from playing, the top of my toes would be completely red raw.’
In English he chimes: ‘So bad! Look mum, look!’ He points to his feet which are now tucked inside Converse sneakers.
‘But you know, we would never give up because it was a passion. I remember other boys who had better financial conditions and their own football boots. Any little tear and they would throw the boots away. I would jump to get them. “Oh my god this guy is mad,” they thought. But I would get back home, stitch them and use them.
Growing influence: Sandro joined Spurs from Brazilian side Internacional in August 2010
‘It’s funny. Now that I can afford it I bought a house for my mother in the gated community where she used to work.’
The Barclays Premier League is a big deal in Brazil. It has been broadcast for years in the country, so when Sandro was told Tottenham were interested in him at the South American Under 20 Championship of 2009 he knew the scale of the news.
After he captained his nation to the title he returned to Internacional, who were about to embark on a successful challenge in the Copa Libertadores tournament — the Champions League of Latin America.
‘Tottenham came to see me play and they started negotiations which took one year,’ he says.
‘When I signed for Tottenham (in March 2010) it was about halfway through the Libertadores campaign and when I went back to Inter all the fans thought I wouldn’t do anything for them.
‘But after what Inter did for me I would never do that. I tried to dedicate myself even more because I knew how important it would be to win that competition. The fans appreciated that. My farewell to Inter was to win the Libertadores.
‘Every single Brazilian player dreams of playing in Europe. When you hear one of the big teams is interested you just get your suitcase. Actually, I prefer to play in England because I always thought the English style of football would suit me better.’
After a quiet start to life at White Hart Lane, he was thrown into a Champions League tie in the San Siro against AC Milan and starred — shackling Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Spurs pulled off an unlikely 1-0 win. ‘I think that’s when the Tottenham supporters really saw me.’
He says he was not surprised by Harry Redknapp’s departure at the end of last season because in Brazil changes in management are commonplace. The appointment of Andre Villas-Boas has helped Sandro find his voice.
‘Harry brought me over, so I’m going to appreciate him,’ he says. ‘Of course I was sad to see him leave but to me it wasn’t very strange, that’s what I’m used to.
‘With Harry, I didn’t speak much because of the language barrier. But with Andre it is totally different. You can see when we are on the pitch I go to the bench to talk to him. I like to give my opinion.
‘I am always aware what is going on during the game. I can see gaps here or somebody’s doing something wrong there, so now I feel more confident. I want to be involved. My English is improving so I can be more vocal, tell the players off.’
He demonstrates: ‘Come, go back, don’t do it! Not bossy because in Portuguese that has very negative connotations. I’m new to the club, I’m young, so I respect the hierarchy. I don’t go over the senior players.’
He laughs and says in English: ‘You can imagine, Brad Friedel…’
Blue-tiful: Sandro shows off an eccentric hairstyle on the pitch last September
This season began well as he formed an impressive partnership with Mousa Dembele but a dip while the Belgian was out saw Spurs slide down the table. They have won the last two, though, and Sandro is positive ahead of the trip to Fulham.
‘In my view, I always play to win the title,’ he says before adding: ‘We have to finish within the top four. Top four would be a good season.’
With that he seizes the Dictaphone and threatens to delete the entire recording, a big grin on his face. Thankfully, he does not follow through, instead grabbing his guitar and plucking the strings once more.
His cousin has arrived to cook a meal and the scent of warming beef stew wafts from the kitchen. The fluffy ball that is Clique bites away at any exposed limbs.
Sandro is hungry, too, but not so hungry that he neglects to offer a tour of his home. The living room, his sanctuary, contains a drum kit and flatscreen television and is decorated with pictures from his life. A Brazil flag is pinned up behind a small plastic Christmas tree.
Upstairs are sparsely-decorated spare bedrooms which friends and family use when over. Once in his room he rushes to the corner. He pauses for dramatic effect then switches on a favourite item; stars project onto the ceiling. He jokes that it woos the ladies, tongue firmly in cheek.
As a gimmick the sight is not bad. As a metaphor for the aspirations of Sandro the showman, it is better.
VIDEO: SANDRO SINGS COLDPLAY AND THE BLACK EYED PEAS!