Even now, several months after the goal that some have called “historical”, I still have no words to express how I felt at the 116th minute of the Europa League semi-final in Salzburg (on May 4, 2018, full-time score 2-1). What I can say is that it was both incredible and unforgettable. Probably the strongest emotion I’ve had after scoring a goal. I also felt immensely proud. Proud for my club at that time, and proud for me, for getting the chance to play another European final in my career. And finally, proud for my children.

Even now, several months after the goal that some have called “historical”, I still have no words to express how I felt at the 116th minute of the Europa League semi-final in Salzburg (on May 4, 2018, full-time score 2-1). What I can say is that it was both incredible and unforgettable. Probably the strongest emotion I’ve had after scoring a goal. I also felt immensely proud. Proud for my club at that time, and proud for me, for getting the chance to play another European final in my career. And finally, proud for my children.

Rolando’s cry for victory even in training.

Rolando’s cry for victory even in training.

01| It was very tough for me

This was not the best moment of my career, but it’s a moment that will stay for me forever. My favorite moment of my career is my first ever professional match. I had dreamt about it for so long, had made so many sacrifices to make it. I had suffered so much, rolling with the punches…
When I was a small kid, and my teacher would ask me what I would like to do when I grow up, I’d always answer: “I want to be a professional footballer”.

I was born in Cape Verde. Soon after, my mother went to Spain to work and send money to us. I stayed in Africa with my grandparents who raised me. My dad was there, but we did not have any connection, really. At my grandparents’, I was happy but it was not easy every day. So many of us were living there, including my uncles, who I treated like my own brothers. My grandparents had ten children! We had food on the table, but that was pretty much it.
In my mind, I just had one idea: become a football player. Nothing else. I was not bad at school. Plus, my grandmother used to tell me all the time: “Dream about football all you want, first you need to work hard in class. You cannot afford to miss a year, otherwise we will not afford your studies. If you are focused, you will see everything will be alright. Otherwise you will have to go and look for a job… ”
It was really tough, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it again without a doubt.
A few years later, I saw my teacher crying… She told me: “I knew you would make it!… ”
You have to know that Cape Verde is not a well-structured country for football. There are not many opportunities for kids to play football, and professional football is practically nonexistent there. To make it in football, one must go to Portugal. But how many young kids from Cape Verde fail… It’s like an impossible dream.
I listened to my grandmother: I worked hard at school, and luckily I found an opportunity to fulfill my dream.

01| It was very tough for me

This was not the best moment of my career, but it’s a moment that will stay for me forever. My favorite moment of my career is my first ever professional match. I had dreamt about it for so long, had made so many sacrifices to make it. I had suffered so much, rolling with the punches…
When I was a small kid, and my teacher would ask me what I would like to do when I grow up, I’d always answer: “I want to be a professional footballer”.

I was born in Cape Verde. Soon after, my mother went to Spain to work and send money to us. I stayed in Africa with my grandparents who raised me. My dad was there, but we did not have any connection, really. At my grandparents’, I was happy but it was not easy every day. So many of us were living there, including my uncles, who I treated like my own brothers. My grandparents had ten children! We had food on the table, but that was pretty much it.
In my mind, I just had one idea: become a football player. Nothing else. I was not bad at school. Plus, my grandmother used to tell me all the time: “Dream about football all you want, first you need to work hard in class. You cannot afford to miss a year, otherwise we will not afford your studies. If you are focused, you will see everything will be alright. Otherwise you will have to go and look for a job… ”
It was really tough, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d do it again without a doubt.
A few years later, I saw my teacher crying… She told me: “I knew you would make it!… ”
You have to know that Cape Verde is not a well-structured country for football. There are not many opportunities for kids to play football, and professional football is practically nonexistent there. To make it in football, one must go to Portugal. But how many young kids from Cape Verde fail… It’s like an impossible dream.
I listened to my grandmother: I worked hard at school, and luckily I found an opportunity to fulfill my dream.

Rolando’s joy, as he has just sent OM to the UEFA Europa League final, thanks to his famous goal against Red Bull Salzburg.

Rolando’s joy, as he has just sent OM to the UEFA Europa League final, thanks to his famous goal against Red Bull Salzburg.

02| If you do not say that, you will not play !

I signed my first professional contract, which was an important step. But it was not enough: what I really wanted above all, was to get on the football pitch, and finally be able to say “I am a professional footballer”!
I was coming from the U19-team. My coach told me one day:  “I’ll take you to go to the press conference this week”, without telling me anything else. I was a bit shocked since that was all new to me, but the coach told me: “Do not worry. The press just want to know if you think you’ll play or not. So you’ll just answer: ‘yes, I’ll play’. If you can say that, you’ll play. If not, you won’t play!

I followed my coach’s instructions in front of the reporters, who were surprised by my answer… And on August 27, 2004, I was starting my first game of the season, my very first official match as a professional footballer: Belenenses vs. Maritimo. We won 1-0. I scored the winner myself!
That’s why this moment is the most important in my life as a professional player, because after so many years of sacrifices, perseverance, courage, struggle… I made my one dream come true.
That goal in Salzburg, anyway, changed my career. Not just my career here at Olympique de Marseille, but my career as a professional player above all. I’m a defender: I’m not supposed to be creating chances on goal. If I’m honest it may happen 2, 3, or a maximum of 4 times in a match.

I was warming up in front of our supporters. It felt like I was playing already! We were 1-0 down. And then 2-0. I was saying to myself there’s no chance the coach will make me come on now…
And suddenly, he says: “Rolando, get ready! I know you’re not 100% fit, but I know you can play for 20, 25 minutes.”

I never imagined that my contribution would have been so massive. I came on just to help in defense, to keep it tight at the back…
And then… on that corner kicked by Dimitri Payet…

Since then, some people compare me to Basile Boli and his goal against AC Milan in Munich in 1993… but that’s not the same at all! Boli played the Champions League final, the top of the top in football.

When I arrived to Marseille, I was told about Basile Boli, and today I am honored to have entered in the history of such a big club like Olympique de Marseille.
That’s great. Especially for my children who, that evening of May 2018, felt so proud of their dad.

02| If you do not say that, you will not play !

I signed my first professional contract, which was an important step. But it was not enough: what I really wanted above all, was to get on the football pitch, and finally be able to say “I am a professional footballer”!
I was coming from the U19-team. My coach told me one day:  “I’ll take you to go to the press conference this week”, without telling me anything else. I was a bit shocked since that was all new to me, but the coach told me: “Do not worry. The press just want to know if you think you’ll play or not. So you’ll just answer: ‘yes, I’ll play’. If you can say that, you’ll play. If not, you won’t play!

I followed my coach’s instructions in front of the reporters, who were surprised by my answer… And on August 27, 2004, I was starting my first game of the season, my very first official match as a professional footballer: Belenenses vs. Maritimo. We won 1-0. I scored the winner myself!
That’s why this moment is the most important in my life as a professional player, because after so many years of sacrifices, perseverance, courage, struggle… I made my one dream come true.
That goal in Salzburg, anyway, changed my career. Not just my career here at Olympique de Marseille, but my career as a professional player above all. I’m a defender: I’m not supposed to be creating chances on goal. If I’m honest it may happen 2, 3, or a maximum of 4 times in a match.

I was warming up in front of our supporters. It felt like I was playing already! We were 1-0 down. And then 2-0. I was saying to myself there’s no chance the coach will make me come on now…
And suddenly, he says: “Rolando, get ready! I know you’re not 100% fit, but I know you can play for 20, 25 minutes.”

I never imagined that my contribution would have been so massive. I came on just to help in defense, to keep it tight at the back…
And then… on that corner kicked by Dimitri Payet…

Since then, some people compare me to Basile Boli and his goal against AC Milan in Munich in 1993… but that’s not the same at all! Boli played the Champions League final, the top of the top in football.

When I arrived to Marseille, I was told about Basile Boli, and today I am honored to have entered in the history of such a big club like Olympique de Marseille.
That’s great. Especially for my children who, that evening of May 2018, felt so proud of their dad.

77th minute in the match OM vs. Amiens, last game of the 2017-18 season. The strong defender has to leave the pitch injured, having ruptured his Achilles tendon…

77th minute in the match OM vs. Amiens, last game of the 2017-18 season. The strong defender has to leave the pitch injured, having ruptured his Achilles tendon…

03| It only hit me when I tried to get up...

A few days later, I got injured (May 17, 2108, OM vs. Amiens, 38th minute).  Football can be so exhilarating one minute and so cruel the next. That’s the way it is. In my career, I may have missed two or three matches in a row, tops. I had never experienced being injured for such a long period of time.

I knew I was not perfectly fit. I knew it was the last game of the season but I promised my kids that we would go together on the football pitch, because we had missed the chance of doing that during my first few seasons at the club, since I was systematically suspended for the last match of the season!
And they had seen the other players of the team coming out with their kids, so I owed it to them, even though I was not at the top of my physical abilities.
Then the match started. I was feeling OK. No pain, no discomfort, no problem. I just had spent two months going through recurring issues, therefore I wasn’t pushing to hard either. I was just focusing on playing well.
Even when that happened (77th minute), I didn’t realize something was terribly wrong. I even said to the doc: “Can you check it up, please? ” He looked at me, surprised: “Are you sure you don’t any pain? And you want to stay on the pitch? Stand up for me please!”
I responded: “Yes, of course I’ll stay, I’m fine!”.
It only hit me when I tried to get up…

03| It only hit me when I tried to get up...

A few days later, I got injured (May 17, 2108, OM vs. Amiens, 38th minute).  Football can be so exhilarating one minute and so cruel the next. That’s the way it is. In my career, I may have missed two or three matches in a row, tops. I had never experienced being injured for such a long period of time.

I knew I was not perfectly fit. I knew it was the last game of the season but I promised my kids that we would go together on the football pitch, because we had missed the chance of doing that during my first few seasons at the club, since I was systematically suspended for the last match of the season!
And they had seen the other players of the team coming out with their kids, so I owed it to them, even though I was not at the top of my physical abilities.
Then the match started. I was feeling OK. No pain, no discomfort, no problem. I just had spent two months going through recurring issues, therefore I wasn’t pushing to hard either. I was just focusing on playing well.
Even when that happened (77th minute), I didn’t realize something was terribly wrong. I even said to the doc: “Can you check it up, please? ” He looked at me, surprised: “Are you sure you don’t any pain? And you want to stay on the pitch? Stand up for me please!”
I responded: “Yes, of course I’ll stay, I’m fine!”.
It only hit me when I tried to get up…

04| There was no time for me to stress about it

In the locker room, I could finally understand how serious my injury was. The doc explained that I had torn my tendon: 6 months out! For the first time in my career!

I had no idea what to do. What was worrying me was not so much my injury, but rather my attitude, my morale, my state of mind…
What was I going to do during that extremely long period on the sideline? But I can say today that everything went very well. I could actually spend some quality time with my children and my family.
My bosses were really great with me. My coach came to see me at the end of the match to reassure me he was fully behind me. The President and the Sports Director also were very kind. They did not even give me time to stress too much about it, as they immediately they told me: “Do not worry about your situation. We were talking about your contract, but it doesn’t matter now. You will go through surgery soon. Now, take care of yourself, take some rest. We will talk about the rest later.”

It was a strong sign from the club. I felt it as a form of reward for the hard work and the commitment that I had shown every day in training, during every match, helping my team and always doing my best for the club.

04| There was no time for me to stress about it

In the locker room, I could finally understand how serious my injury was. The doc explained that I had torn my tendon: 6 months out! For the first time in my career!

I had no idea what to do. What was worrying me was not so much my injury, but rather my attitude, my morale, my state of mind…
What was I going to do during that extremely long period on the sideline? But I can say today that everything went very well. I could actually spend some quality time with my children and my family.
My bosses were really great with me. My coach came to see me at the end of the match to reassure me he was fully behind me. The President and the Sports Director also were very kind. They did not even give me time to stress too much about it, as they immediately they told me: “Do not worry about your situation. We were talking about your contract, but it doesn’t matter now. You will go through surgery soon. Now, take care of yourself, take some rest. We will talk about the rest later.”

It was a strong sign from the club. I felt it as a form of reward for the hard work and the commitment that I had shown every day in training, during every match, helping my team and always doing my best for the club.

Rolando can see the end of his nightmare after 6 months spent without playing football. OM’s version of “The Rock” is on his way back.

Rolando can see the end of his nightmare after 6 months spent without playing football. OM’s version of “The Rock” is on his way back.

05| You are not on the pitch, but you are still part of the team...

I spent the beginning of the season all by myself. I worked very hard to come back as quickly as possible. I could follow what was going on in the group too. I was never very far away. For example, we have two WhatsApp groups: one for workouts with Rani Berbachi [OM’s Sports Coordinator] to share day-to-day practical information such as “meeting at so-and-so o’clock, training session later, etc.”.   And a separate group between players only, we exchange private messages!

Sometimes, some teammates would tease me… That was a good way to still feel part of the group. You are not on the pitch, but you are still part of the team…

I was taking it easy, even though I couldn’t really share how my teammates were feeling. I was more like a fan back then! I worked by myself, separate from the group. That was very difficult. Probably the most difficult. I would arrive two hours before everyone else, and would finish training well after everybody had left the training center.

I was looking at my friends training, playing football, scoring goals, etc.  As for me, I was only going through exercises to recover and build up to come back. It was hell!… Every day was just about: running, running, and again running.
I could see the light at the end of the tunnel… But day after day, sometimes it was going away, some other times it was getting nearer….

There was no way I could have gone through anything different, since the goal was to recover all my sensations for my body to recover its potential, and to be able to function normally, like before the injury. I knew it was the only way to come back to the football grounds. To have fun again. To do my job as a professional footballer: defend well and perform at the highest level.
I remember when the medical staff gave me the “all clear” and said: “You’re good, now you can go train normally with the others”.

For a spit second, I saw in my head all those days when, after the surgery, I wasn’t even able to walk, to drive, to go and pick up my kids at school. Wearing a huge boot over my leg.

I did miss playing football. I missed my job. My job, as I say all the time, is to defend well.
I make mistakes, like everyone else, I’m not perfect, both on the pitch and in real life, but that’s how one learns and progresses.

That’s what I tell the young players. I do not consider myself a model because I still make mistakes. I often repeated that to “Little” Boubacar Kamara, who was only 15 when he joined the professional group.
Today, he’s not a kid any more. I saw all the progress he has made, and that makes me proud. He listens to everything you say to him. He has many qualities but he must continue to work hard to make it. I know that, in a few years, when I will be a retired footballer, I will come to see him play in a big stadium for a very big club!

05| You are not on the pitch, but you are still part of the team...

I spent the beginning of the season all by myself. I worked very hard to come back as quickly as possible. I could follow what was going on in the group too. I was never very far away. For example, we have two WhatsApp groups: one for workouts with Rani Berbachi [OM’s Sports Coordinator] to share day-to-day practical information such as “meeting at so-and-so o’clock, training session later, etc.”.   And a separate group between players only, we exchange private messages!

Sometimes, some teammates would tease me… That was a good way to still feel part of the group. You are not on the pitch, but you are still part of the team…

I was taking it easy, even though I couldn’t really share how my teammates were feeling. I was more like a fan back then! I worked by myself, separate from the group. That was very difficult. Probably the most difficult. I would arrive two hours before everyone else, and would finish training well after everybody had left the training center.

I was looking at my friends training, playing football, scoring goals, etc.  As for me, I was only going through exercises to recover and build up to come back. It was hell!… Every day was just about: running, running, and again running.
I could see the light at the end of the tunnel… But day after day, sometimes it was going away, some other times it was getting nearer….

There was no way I could have gone through anything different, since the goal was to recover all my sensations for my body to recover its potential, and to be able to function normally, like before the injury. I knew it was the only way to come back to the football grounds. To have fun again. To do my job as a professional footballer: defend well and perform at the highest level.
I remember when the medical staff gave me the “all clear” and said: “You’re good, now you can go train normally with the others”.

For a spit second, I saw in my head all those days when, after the surgery, I wasn’t even able to walk, to drive, to go and pick up my kids at school. Wearing a huge boot over my leg.

I did miss playing football. I missed my job. My job, as I say all the time, is to defend well.
I make mistakes, like everyone else, I’m not perfect, both on the pitch and in real life, but that’s how one learns and progresses.

That’s what I tell the young players. I do not consider myself a model because I still make mistakes. I often repeated that to “Little” Boubacar Kamara, who was only 15 when he joined the professional group.
Today, he’s not a kid any more. I saw all the progress he has made, and that makes me proud. He listens to everything you say to him. He has many qualities but he must continue to work hard to make it. I know that, in a few years, when I will be a retired footballer, I will come to see him play in a big stadium for a very big club!

ROLANDO

ROLANDO

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