Arsenal Women’s Brazilian Rafaelle Souza nearly gave up football

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!

Michelle Maxwell

Follow Michelle on Just Gooner Women on Twitter for regular updates on the Arsenal Women’s Team!

Do you want to read more about the Arsenal Women’s Team? Click here….

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