[Texto de Guy Lawson, publicado no Observer, 5 de Setembro de 2004. Clique no título e leia na íntegra.]
Robinho 'Machado' adiantando
The malabarista nears the square, walking slowly, caressing her gently forward with his feet. She, in Portuguese, is ela. The ball. The Estadio do Morumbi, in S¿o Paulo, is packed with a crowd of 80,000 and millions more watch on television as Santos and Corinthians play in the final of last year's Brazilian league football championship. Robson do Sousa, a skinny 18-year-old who goes by the nickname Robinho ('Little Rob', courtesy of the diminutive 'inho'), was, until a few months ago, just another prospect playing amateur football for Santos, this port city team. A few years ago he was just another malnourished kid chasing a ball along the dirt roads of the slums and shantytowns of Brazil. Now, with the game at 0-0 in the first half, he takes the ball on the left side of midfield. And then the pedaladas begin.
Robinho approaches the goal with the ball - with ela - from the left side of midfield as the defender Rogerio steps backwards, towards the penalty area. A pedalada is a motion that mimics the action of pedaling a bicycle - not the famed bicycle kick, with the ball booted backwards overhead, but a specific kind of feint. Robinho's foot steps over the ball in a circular motion, as if he's going to dribble, but he doesn't. He could change the direction of the ball at any moment, forwards or backwards or sideways. But it just continues rolling, untouched, as Robinho's foot passes over her again and again.
The veteran Rogerio lurches left and right each time. The camera covering Robinho from behind the goal jerks back and forth. The moves are so convincing it's impossible not to believe the fictions.
A malabarista, in Brazil, is a magician with the ball, a trickster and illusionist. There is something comic in the serial deceptions, but there is also the hint of contempt. Robinho is just a skinny boy playing with men. But he is also a malandro - a kid raised in the streets, gangster-wise, ghetto-hard. He plays with malicia, or malice, disguised by the delicacy of his appearance.
By now Rogerio is wild-eyed, desperate.