Arsenal Women & Brazil international Rafaelle Souza nearly gave up football for engineering by Michelle
In a recent interview with BBC World Service Arsenal defender and Brazil Women’s team captain Rafaelle Souza talks about playing football from a young age on the streets of Brazil, her call-up to the Brazil Women’s squad, nearly giving up on football for engineering and becoming the first foreign woman to sign for a club in China when she joined Changchun Zhuoyue in 2016, before signing for Arsenal in January 2022.
I started playing at about seven but I always played with the boys, barefoot in my small city in Brazil, says Souza.
At that time I couldn’t watch women’s football on TV so I didn’t realise I could be a professional player because I’d never watched one.
When I was 15 I was playing with the men’s team in my city, with adults, and I wasn’t used to playing with people my age, says Souza. When I got the call-up I was in shock.
Before her move to China Rafaelle had studied civil engineering in the US on a football scholarship and played a season for Houston Dash in the American National Women’s Soccer League.
I was about to give up playing soccer. I was going to go into engineering because I could make more money than playing football in Brazil.
Then I got a really good offer to play in China. I decided if I have to stay away from my family it’s better to stay away and make money to give them some support.
When I got there the culture was really different to anything I’d experienced in my life… I had a translator in China who was like my shadow, he went with me everywhere and he became a really close friend as we spent six years side by side.
I’m the [type of] person that doesn’t like to be seen, she says.
People talk about me like I’m one of the best players but I don’t see it. I feel like I’m still the same child that I was playing barefoot back then.
Talking of her hometown in north-east Brazil, Rafaelle says I came from this place so [perhaps] some other kids can see me and think ‘if she could make it, I might have a chance’, and try and keep their dreams alive.
Rafaelle Souza captained the Women’s Brazil national team to victory in both the Copa America Femenina: 2022 and the Copa Paulista Feminina: 2021/22. She was out of action for club and country for 2 months at the start of this season but returned to active duty in December.
We look forward to seeing a lot more of Rafaelle in 2023!
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