Angelo was about to turn ten, but he already understood what that meant. Kneeling in front of Dona Idene, he cried and repeated nonstop, on the verge of despair:
“Let me go, mother, please. It’s Santos!”
The couple Idene and Elismar didn’t even want to hear about it. How could that child go to live alone so far away? They had already turned down similar offers from São Paulo and Grêmio. The two needed to work and couldn’t leave Taguatinga, in the Federal District, where the family lived.
The insistence was so great that they accepted. Alongside another friend, Yan, now on the alvinegro under-20 team, he moved to Baixada Santista. The mother bought a cell phone to monitor where her son was at all times. Called morning, afternoon and night. It was a sacrifice. Before long, the boy was at home in Santos and Santos.
For better or for worse, everything happened very quickly for Angelo Gabriel Borges Damaceno. Now 18 years old, he already has 102 games for the top team. The first of them, at 15, made him the second youngest to work in professional training in the history of Santos. Younger than Pele. Only Coutinho (at 14) entered the field at a younger age.
The striker scored in the Libertadores three months after turning 16. A record in the most important South American tournament.
The young man is seen as the main source of future revenue for the board in foreign sales. Last week, a proposal from Nottingham Forest, from England, was rejected.
Ângelo also carries part of the offensive responsibility of a club that is going through its longest title drought since 2002. Santos has not won a tournament after the 2016 Paulista Championship. than the possibility of getting the trophy.
So much responsibility that the charge has already arrived. In the invasion of fans to the training center last Thursday (2), he was one of the players who heard the most complaints. This happened, in part, because he hit back at those who cursed him during the tie with Ferroviária, the previous Saturday, in Canindé. He later apologized.
Guided to the professional group by Cuca, the Brazilian is now managed by Odair Hellmann. The number 11 shirt claims to be immensely proud of being a Boy from the Village. But he knows that receiving the nickname nowadays is much more difficult than it was in previous years, when the team piled up achievements.
With only one victory in six rounds and in the last place in Group A of Paulista, Santos faces São Bento this Wednesday (8), at 21:35, in Canindé. For the third consecutive year, the club is fighting not to fall in the tournament. A situation that irritates and worries fans.
“When you’re at Santos, you have to be willing to listen to criticism because you’re at the biggest club in the world, at the club that had Pelé. In these last few years, it was very difficult to adapt to the different styles of the coaches. to make Santos return to the top”, says Ângelo to Sheet.
It doesn’t look easy. He appeared as a promise (or thunderbolt, as Santos love to define it) in 2020, in the last squad that really fought for an achievement: he reached the Copa Libertadores final and lost to Palmeiras. Since then, the club has been plunged into the technical crisis associated with what seems to be an eternal financial problem.
Being Menino da Vila between 2003 and 2005 or between 2011 and 2013, when Santos was the fashionable team, was much easier. Nowadays, it can mean being viewed with suspicion. Angelo doesn’t care about that. One of his main memories of his early days in the Baixada is going to the Memorial das Achievements, a museum inside the stadium, and admiring the collection of trophies.
He also remembers having watched dozens of times the documentary about the centenary of the foundation of the association, released in 2012.
“I always wanted to be a Menino da Vila. I started to live the club intensely and fell in love with it. I reached a stage where the team won titles and I saw the whole journey of Rodrygo, Gabigol. There were many good players, and that made me love the club. Meninos da Vila enchant anyone, the idea of being part of that circle of stars made me fall in love. This is where my idols came from, wasn’t it?”, he says.
“When I play football, I feel happy. I play football for the profession, for what I can change in my family’s life, but also because I love the sport. The ball is my favorite object, the game I have enjoyed the most since I was a child. So, , when I play football, I always want to have fun.”
He has been a name that fans see on the field for so long that it is very easy to forget that he is an 18-year-old boy. Cuca, who took him to Rio de Janeiro for the 2020 Brazilian Nationals and put him on the field for the first time in the final 15 minutes of a match against Fluminense, at Maracanã, predicted this: the forward speed striker would wobble. It would be okay. But Santos is not experiencing a moment where there is a lot of patience with technical variations.
The target of protests from organizations, the board is more proud of the work of trying to catch up on accounts than of the quality of the product it has been putting into the field. Angelo is a collateral victim of this process.
Everything always happened quickly for the boy discovered in a school in Taguatinga, the same one where Endrick, from Palmeiras, left. A start when he couldn’t go to training every day because of the long distances to cover. Coaches accepted that he only appeared in matches.
On the day he left for Santos, he gave his first autograph to an aunt. She swore that scribble on the piece of paper would eventually be worth a lot of money because her nephew would be a star.
Angelo doesn’t know where that signature is. But the shirt from his professional debut, the one from when he was called to join the squad, the one from the first goal and the one from the initial call-up to the Brazilian youth team are hanging on the wall of the apartment where he lives with his parents, in the Embaré neighborhood, in Santos.
One of his proudest moments was when he called them to say they could stop working and go live with him in the Baixada. The mother found it so strange that in the first few months she distributed resumes to try to find an administrative job, much to her son’s despair.
And everything in the Santos striker’s life goes back to his family. All the time mentions some relative in the conversation. Even if it’s not in a happy situation.
He had just entered the field for Santos’ debut this season when the boy João Miguel, 5, who was with the players in Vila Belmiro before the match against Mirassol, on the last day 14, pulled him by the shirt.
“Can I tell you something?”, asked the boy, who suffers from leukemia and had been honored by the striker in 2022.
“I love you. I’m a huge fan of yours.”
The player gave the boy a hug, but he felt in a way that he still cannot explain. He got a lump in his throat. He wanted to cry. In the warm-up, he had already felt something strange. His leg was heavy. At the time of the anthem, he blocked out all sounds. It was like he was silent. Minutes earlier, his grandfather Semplício Damaceno had died. He also lived in Embaré’s apartment.
“I knew he was feeling bad at the hospital, but I felt, I noticed something different. I didn’t know he had passed away, but I had the feeling that something wasn’t right. Playing with that in my head is complicated. I think that a lot of what I am today in day, to smile, play and always be with the people I love, comes from my grandfather”, he recalls, citing the photos in which he appears sitting, as a child, on Semplício’s lap and the ladies games in Taguatinga.
Ângelo was one of the current Santos squad present at Pelé’s wake, in Vila Belmiro. He was impressed by the phrase of Edinho, the King’s son, contesting the hyperbole that his father was an extraterrestrial. Everything he achieved, on the contrary, was the result of hard work. It was something that made the current number 11 of alvinegro want more from football. A lot more. It is necessary to change the level of the current Santos for this, first of all.
“Of course, I know I need to improve and I’m going to work for that, but I want to win everything, the World Cup, be the best on the planet, be an example for kids from the community. I want to have a career worthy of a star, be on the shelf of phenomena” , crave.
As a seasoned news journalist, I bring a wealth of experience to the field. I’ve worked with world-renowned news organizations, honing my skills as a writer and reporter. Currently, I write for the sports section at News Bulletin 247, where I bring a unique perspective to every story.