Australian football’s samba connections run deep, as far back as the inaugural NSL season of 1977.
That link looks more solid than ever, with the Brazilian who has made the third most Australian domestic appearances of his countrymen opting to remain and contribute to his adopted country’s football future.
Cassio Oliveira’s son Bernardo, 17, is knocking on the door of a senior A-League debut with Melbourne City, where his dad coaches in the academy.
The Adelaide United great, whose marauding runs from left-back were a sight to behold during an illustrious seven-year career, is also imparting his samba ethos at Parade College, where is a football coach.
“Always, always,” Cassio declared when asked whether he’d retained his Brazilian philosophy. “That’s one thing I never changed when I was a player and now I won’t as coach. I don’t change my values, everything I learnt I want to pass on.
“Sometimes there is a bit of conflict, Australia has a different mentality. But if I have to change my ways, I would rather not work. So far the clubs and the school have embraced this.
“I was brought up playing on the streets and beaches – sometimes not even with a proper soccer ball, we created one with socks and played on s*** pitches, but we still had fun. At Parade we have beautiful pitches, but there is a bad patch at the back, sometimes I take them there.
“These things stick in your mind, out of that you get technique – your brain works on you can react. The most important thing is to play with heart and be there for that reason.”
Cassio is among a growing number of A-League visa players to have settled in Australia after their playing career, underlining football’s key role in integrating new Australians, as the APL celebrates Harmony Week.
This was a key tenet of the great Johnny Warren, who played a crucial role in embracing Brazilians and the football culture.
Fast forward to 2021, and at least 60 Brazilians have featured in the A-League, W-League and NSL, with the 43 who’ve featured in the A-League only eclipsed by New Zealand and England.
Former Adelaide United, Brisbane Strikers and Parramatta Power attacker Fernando Rech remains the only player to have featured in both competitions, with 126 games from 2000-07.
Lais Araujo, Monica Hickman Alves, Camilla Pereira and Mariel Hecher are the four W-League Brazilians, while recently departed Adelaide United midfielder Dylan Holmes was born in Sao Paulo.
Agenor Muniz, Hilton Silva and Luis de Melo played in the inaugural NSL season, six years after Sydney Hakoah recruited them to Australia. Muniz, who won 20 Socceroos caps (1975-78), was headhunted by Adelaide City in ’77 where he stayed for three years, while Silva and Melo stayed with Hakoah.
Warren and 1974 World Cup coach Rale Rasic were among the countless Australians influenced by Pele’s Brazil and subsequent ‘Selecao’ teams.
After leaving St George, Warren travelled with nephew Jamie to Brazil, where he eventually became an honourary citizen and made lifelong friends with the likes of Carlos Alberto Perreira.
His fact-finding mission convinced him of the importance of inspiring kids, giving birth to Captain Socceroo, a skills-based show on SBS in the early 80s.
“I remember when I was a kid, running home from school to watch Captain Socceroo. It was always my favourite program,” Mark Viduka said during his days with Leeds United.
Australians no longer have to fly to Brazil for inspiration, with Cassio and ex Adelaide United teammate Cristiano among those whose kids are coming through the A-League system, having remained here.
Raphael Borges Rodrigues, Cristiano’s son, has already debuted for City. Former Flamengo product Cassio has kept his young family – which includes Henrique, 12, and Marina, three – here too.
“When I retired with Adelaide, 2014, we had a plan to move back to Rio, where we’re originally from. We weighed up everything and we stayed here and I got a job. One of the best choices we made,” Cassio said.
“The country itself is blessed in terms of nature, health, education. Everything works well – that’s what you want for your family. We love the fact that we work and you get everything back in a good way.”
A-LEAGUE AND NSL
Player Games Years Clubs
Henrique 181 2008-19 Brisbane Roar, Adelaide Utd
Fernando Rech 126 2000-07 Brisbane Strikers, Parramatta Power, Adelaide Utd
Cassio 124 2007-14 Adelaide Utd
Alex Moreira 121 1998-2003 Carlton, Northern Spirit, Adelaide City, Newcastle Utd
Guilherme Finkler 121 2012-18 Melbourne Victory, Wellington
Hilton Silva 117 1977-82 Sydney City, Marconi
Edgar Aldrighi Junior 116 1999-2003 Perth Glory
Daniel Cortes 106 2007-12 Wellington Phoenix
Agenor Muniz 95 1977-81 Adelaide City, Sydney City
Reinaldo 92 2005-11 Brisbane Roar