Brazil-born player makes unlikely trip to Olympics
NEWCASTLE, England (AP) - Renan Bressan didn't see this one coming as he was growing up in Brazil with dreams of becoming a soccer star.
He never could have thought that he would be playing in the Olympics, or imagined that he would be defending the colors of a country like Belarus.
The idea would have seemed even more absurd after doctors told him that he probably wouldn't play again following a life-threatening injury caused by an elbow to his head during practice as a teenager. Or when his career nearly ended a few years later because an agent lied to him and forced him into a bad deal.
Things turned out just fine for the 23-year-old Bressan, though, who found a way to make it in soccer and is at the London Games trying to lead Belarus to the second round of the men's tournament.
Bressan is the man in charge of the Belarus midfield and has been one of the team's best players in the first two matches. He scored the early goal against the Brazilians on Sunday in Manchester, when Belarus held the gold-medal favorites to a 1-1 draw until the 65th minute before eventually losing 3-1.
"We were not happy with the result, but that was a special day for me,'' Bressan told The Associated Press. "To get my first goal like that, against the Brazilians, it was something else. It really meant a lot to me to be playing on the same stage as all of those guys. I didn't expect this to be happening in my career.''
Belarus remains in good position to reach the quarterfinals despite the loss. A draw against Egypt in the last group match on Sunday will be enough if Brazil doesn't lose to New Zealand. Belarus has three points in Group C, three less than Brazil and two more than Egypt and New Zealand. The top two teams from each of the four groups advance.
Bressan said he is confident Belarus will make it through to the second round. But it wasn't long ago that he had doubts about whether he would even be playing.
The talented midfielder was born in southern Brazil and began playing at an early age, joining the youth squads of his hometown club Atletico Tubarao. But he was only 15 when a freak injury nearly put an end to his career before it even had a chance to take off.
Bressan was going for a high ball in a training session when one of his teammate hit him with an elbow to the side of the head. Bressan passed out right there and had to be taken to a hospital. He had a blood clot and doctors said his life was in danger. They also said that if he needed to undergo surgery he would not be able to play soccer again.
"I spent a month in the hospital and another month at home resting,'' he said. "I couldn't play again for for months and even today I'm a bit afraid to head the ball.''
He said it was even more special that his goal against Brazil on Sunday came off a header, something that hadn't happened in a long time.
Bressan was doing well with his career after the injury scare but was still looking for a big break. He thought he had one in 2006 when his agent called and said Corinthians, one of Brazil's most popular clubs, wanted to sign him.
At the time he was already negotiating with Atletico Paranaense, which also plays in Brazil's first division but is not as traditional, so he couldn't pass on the chance to move to Corinthians.
He ended negotiations with Atletico Paranaense and went to Sao Paulo, but when he got there he found out that there was no deal to sign him. His agent had lied to him. It was only a test Corinthians was making with several players and Bressan spent only three days with the club before being turned away.
"The agent said I was going to get there to play, making a lot of money, but that was not the case at all,'' he said. "It was tough, but it's in the past now. I learned from it, it's part of football.''
Things looked grim for the youngster until a city councilman brought a Russian scout to his hometown and introduced Bressan to him.
A few months later he was making his move to Belarus, joining local club Gomel. In 2010 he transferred to bigger club BATE Borisov, where he still plays.
Already at home in the country and even speaking the language, Bressan earned citizenship and in the beginning of this year got his first call to the national team. It was his big break.
"Things worked out in the end,'' he said after the Brazil match. "Look at where I am now.''
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