I’ve never been called ‘uncle’ before. Actually, I’ve always wanted to have a little sister and I clearly remember constantly expressing this desire to my parents, who always laughed about it and delivered the same old argument: ‘Well, as a singleton you’ll have all the inheritance for yourself.’
A very good point.
The first time I was given the ‘uncle’ moniker was when I met Julia Rosado, a gracious nine-year-old, four feet tall girl, whose story came to me by accident when I was scrolling aimlessly through Instagram.
Juju — how she’s affectionately known — is a raw football talent with a left foot that would be the envy of a large proportion of professional players.
However, she’s not only a technically gifted attacking midfielder on the pitch, but she’s also what we Brazilians call ‘Guerreira’ — a warrior. Julia is the very first girl who could officially play with boys in the country, a right given by the FIFA-linked Rio de Janeiro Futsal Federation when she was only seven.
Let’s not forget to mention that she plays for Paris Saint-Germain — one of the world powerhouses in terms of women’s football — after a couple of successful years at Barcelona.
You may think that her biggest difficulty is to dribble around youngsters who are significantly taller and stronger than her, but no. Watching her in action, this looks incredibly simple.
Her day-to-day challenge is to cope with prejudice, sexism and, occasionally, the cruelty of parents who constantly see their male children ‘beaten by a girl.’
“Sometimes I hear them from inside the pitch and they shout things like ‘break her in half, son,’ or ‘she can’t play, she is just a girl,’” Julia told the Sports Gazette, with a naive smile.
She continued: “I don’t care, though. I think that it’s better for me to respond with my actions than with my words. I just want to showcase my potential and play football.”
Although she is just a lovely little child, Julia demonstrates what a good education can yield. She is extremely mature, self-confident and clever for someone of her age. Those truly responsible for that are her parents — Wellington and Claudia — who are like any proud parents. They are even capable of giving up everything to see their children thrive.
“Julia represents some momentous causes nowadays, such as gender equality, the growth of women’s football in Brazil and their space in the sport. That’s why we are so committed to her and her dream,” her father, Wellington, said while holding his fairly distracted daughter on his lap.
Wellington is a civil engineer who, apart from his job in the administrative section of a construction company in Rio de Janeiro, has to act like “super dad” and drive Julia to her training sessions and competitive matches over weekends.
He said: “I spend almost three hours in the traffic every day even though I only work at home. My daily routine nowadays is taking Julia to her training sessions and helping her with her Instagram, which is a very important part of her success.”
“I‘m sure that there are many girls around here that are also talented, but don’t have the same opportunities she has, so this is a legacy we want to leave.
“Luckily I have my wife with me who is also passionate about football and is always there to support Julia as well,” he added, pointing to Claudia, who was a couple of feet away listening to the interview and eager to take part.
“The biggest prejudice comes from the parents, not from the kids,” Claudia explained. “They don’t have this kind of cruelty on the pitch. At PSG we don’t seem to find this differentiation at least. She is just like any other athlete there.
“She’s able now to change her uniform in front of the boys because they don’t try to be funny about that and they respect her. That’s a day-to-day achievement.”
Juju is now nine years old, but her career did not start last year or the one before. It kicked off when she was only four and loved to play in a little court on the ground floor of her building in Rio.
“Her coach asked us if we had ever seen her playing football because she was unlike any other girl he’d witnessed at that time,” Wellington said. “He told us: ‘look, this court here is not enough for her. She is in an upper level. I would search for a club if I were you.’”
And that’s when Julia’s life embarked on a Barcelona adventure, where she played for almost three years and learned the club’s cohesive playing style. Although she didn’t lift any trophies there, she was able to grab the attention of Gustavo Duarte, the technical coordinator.
“Tactically she is awesome and fits very well with PSG’s mentality, which is similar to Barcelona’s,” Duarte said.
“Technically speaking she is very good, no questions asked. However, what really surprised us was her strong personality. She is not afraid of the boys and imposes herself inside the pitch.”
All Julia’s success granted her celebrity status in Rio de Janeiro and across the country. She has more than 12,000 social media followers and has already given a handful of interviews to different kinds of media outlets.
“I don’t think about it [being a celebrity],” she promptly said. “I just love to reply to my fans because they are always kind to me and support my struggle and my dream.
“Being famous is a consequence of your work, but the most important thing is to do whatever makes you happy.”
Featured photograph/Francis Melo Assessoria e Gestão