Champion massage therapist in 1971 and 2021 at Atlético celebrates the end of the wait


Belmiro de Oliveira, 70, does not allow anyone to speak ill of Atlético-MG athletes. “I don’t accept that they swear. For me, Atlético don’t have a bad player. Never”, he says.

The days have been glorious for Bel do Galo, as he likes to be called. Since last Thursday (2), when the team won the Brazilian title, he recognizes that he is living a dream that took five decades to happen.

When Atlético won Nacional for the first time, in 1971, Belmiro had been at the club for nearly three years. He had been hired at the end of 1968 to accumulate the functions of massage therapist and nurse. It was a 17 year old boy. The second Brazilian title, that of 2021, took 50 years to become a reality, the biggest fast among the main shirts in the country.

The masseuse is the only remaining employee of the football department from the two trophies.

“It was gratifying to finally see Atlético realize this dream. For me, it was special. I waited all this time, always believing, always with faith that it would come. We hit the bar so many times. But I never doubted that we would be Brazilian champions again.” says the masseuse.

He didn’t go to Salvador last week, but was at the party held at Mineirão on Sunday (5), when the players raised the cup after the victory over Red Bull Bragantino. It was the party moment that made up for the suffering of the previous Thursday. Atlético needed the victory to seal the title, but lost to Bahia 2-0, at Arena Fonte Nova. It made it 3-2 in the second half. The decisive goal was by Keno.

“those 13 minutes [entre o terceiro gol e o fim do jogo] it took longer than 45. The anxiety was unbearable, but when it ended, it was too good,” he adds.

So good that Belmiro’s house, in Belo Horizonte, stayed awake and full of people until 6 am the next morning. When the match ended, he accepted visits. During the 90 minutes, no. Belmiro has been treated like a Brazilian champion in the neighborhood. Wherever he goes, he hears congratulations and gets patted on the back. After all, he is Bel do Galo, 53 years of service to the club. And no prospect of stopping.

“I’ll work while I can.”

It wasn’t just joy that the masseuse felt. It was relief. As he said, Atlético hit the post several times in these 50 years. More than once, he was called a favorite, he was close to winning again, but he couldn’t.

It was like that in 1977, when he lost the final to São Paulo, on penalties, and ended up undefeated runner-up. He lost the decision again in 1980, to Flamengo, in one of the biggest series in the history of national football (“I don’t even like to remember”, he says). It was also second in 1999.

Not to mention when he fell in the semifinals in seasons with better campaigns than his rival. As in 1987 and 2001. The latter still leaves Belmiro unhappy.

“That Atlético 2001 was great. To this day I don’t believe we lost”, he recalls, citing a defeat to São Caetano in the semifinal with a team that had goalkeeper Velloso, midfielder Gilberto Silva, midfielder Ramon and forwards Guilherme and Marques .

That’s why frustration choked Belmiro, witness of all these defeats, until the 2021 title. A victory he told everyone at the club, months ago, would happen. For Bel, this achievement is more memorable than the 2013 Libertadores, considered the most important trophy in athletic history. “This Brazilian was the most exciting of all. Nothing compares.”

“This Brazilian was the most exciting of all. Nothing compares”

The star of that Atlético champion of America, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, was not the one who most marked Belmiro’s more than 50 years as a masseur for the association. This throne belongs to Reinaldo and nobody takes it away. The center forward of the team between 1973 and 1985 is one of the greatest names in alvinegro of all times.

“I saw Reinaldo being born at Atlético. He’s a guy who really impressed me. I’ve seen him since I was a boy. If you think about the problems he had, the knee injuries and even then it was that whole center forward… They talk a lot about Ronaldinho Gaúcho. Between Ronaldinho and Reinaldo, one was a star, the other was a genius. The genius was Reinaldo”, he analyzes.

Clube Atlético Mineiro is Belmiro’s life. Working at the club gave her a career, the chance to get married, have a house, raise six children (three biological and three nurture). In these 50 years, the masseuse claims to have received invitations to go to work in Saudi Arabia and earn more money. It didn’t even cross his mind to accept.

What if he was far away and the team was finally Brazilian champion? It was something I couldn’t bear.

“I joined Atlético to be a normal employee, like any other. Today, when I go out on the street, they ask if I’m ‘that young man at Atlético’. It’s really nice to be recognized by older people, boys… I feel like a player. The connection I have with the fans is very strong,” he marvels.

It is because of this connection that Bel do Galo does not accept to hear any player who wears the black and white shirt be cursed.

“I don’t even let my children. If they want to talk bad, they have to leave the house.”


You May Also Like

Recommended for you