Idalécio Rosa is a former Portuguese centre-back who represented clubs such as SC Braga, Rio Ave FC, CD Nacional, SC Farense, and CD Trofense throughout a career exclusively built in his home country. He was the tallest player in the Primeira Liga by several times, with an impressive 1.96 meters tall, and consolidated his name in the history of Portuguese football. In this first part of the interview, Idalécio tells us about how his fascination for football has begun, his transition to the professional level, and his first experience in the elite of national football.
Although there was no member in his family connected to the football world or that had an appetite for sport, Idalécio fell in love with the ball from an early age. “It was something already deep within me. I was always happy to see a ball, even though I did not have anyone in the family to encourage me to practice this sport. Everything else seemed to stop around me. When I was young, it was such a joy to play with my friends… Back then, you could still do that: play in the streets or on the fields close to home”, he said.
His childhood idol was the talented former Portuguese international player Paulo Futre.
“At school, there were a lot of people talking about Paulo Futre at that time, because he also lived in Montijo [a municipality in the district of Setúbal]. There was a time when I wanted to have his haircut. I went to the hairdresser and left there looking like Marco Paulo [one of the most popular Portuguese singers]! Kids at school did not stop laughing at me. It was tremendous bullying!”, he said.
Idalécio concluded his formative process and took his first steps as a professional footballer in clubs with lesser expression in the Portuguese football scene. Nevertheless, he achieved his first cap for the Portugal national Under-18 team when he was playing the III Division with SR Almancilense, in the 1991-1992 season. “At that time, it was not easy for players from Louletano DC, SR Almancilense, or any other club inferior to SL Benfica, FC Porto, Sporting CP, or Boavista FC. Most of the athletes were from these teams. Having that opportunity was, in fact, something unexpected. I was a junior [in the period when he was on loan from Louletano DC to SR Almancilense], and I was already competing as a senior. That made people look at me a little differently in terms of ability and experience”.
His first adventure in the Portuguese first division took place through the doors of SC Farense in 1995, where the former centre-back even participated in the UEFA Cup in the first qualifying round against Lyon (1-0 victories in both legs for the French side). The Nigerian international goalkeeper Peter Rufai and the Brazilian international striker Christian were some of his teammates there. Reaching the highest level in Portuguese football at the age of 22 was, most of all, an experience that enabled him to bloom as a person and a player.
“Christian was still preparing to become what he has become. It was a huge joy to watch his successful path afterward. Rufai was the major reference of SC Farense. We had a group of very experienced athletes, mixed with young players. There were many financial complications and months of salary arrears. We ended up canceling training sessions to have meetings about the club situation with the members of the administration and technical team on many occasions. That helped me to grow too. Having the opportunity to play in the Primeira Liga and the UEFA Cup was something I will never forget.”
Representing SC Farense and being coached by Paco Fortes, a former Barcelona, Malaga, Espanyol, and Valladolid player, was a long-felt wish materialized. “For us, kids who played for Louletano DC, the only chance we had to watch teams from the first division was to go to Estádio de São Luís [home of SC Farense]. The atmosphere, not only from the public but also from Paco Fortes (…). I just thought: «I wish I could be here». Due to the turbulent circumstances, that possibility became easier, and it was a pleasure to have been coached by him”.