By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With the restart of the Brazilian football season last weekend, so the hopes of fans the length and breadth of the country took an inevitable surge. And here in Rio, Botafogo supporters (affectionately known as Botafoguenses) are on the up again after a disappointing ninth place in last year’s Brasileirão.
For much of the campaign, the Alvinegro maintained their place in the upper reaches of the league, competing for a Copa Libertadores place. But a sorry run of just two points from their last eight games ended their dreams.
In an exclusive interview with The Rio Times, Botafogo and Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson de Oliveira Galvão gives his views on the past year, as well as club and personal hopes for the coming months.
Speaking on Botafogo’s unexpected plunge down the table, the international stopper said: “There’s no way to describe the disappointment [of missing out on the Libertadores]. We nearly always were among the top places but at the end we lost our rhythm a little.”
Having missed out on South America’s premier competition, the 29-year-old believes qualification can be achieved this year. “Unfortunately [the Libertadores] didn’t happen. But Botafogo have a strong squad and we are getting stronger. I am very optimistic for the coming season.”
Even though the team lost steam as the season drew to a close, 2011 did wonders for Jefferson himself. He was elected into the 2011 Team of the Year and has firmly established himself as the keeper in waiting to Seleção number one Júlio César, of Inter Milan.
“2011 was a great year for me. I put in good performances for Botafogo and consolidated my place in the Brazilian national squad. The Seleção has a very important year ahead, and afterwards we will dispute the Confederations Cup and the World Cup,” he commented.
But his 2012 resolution is pure and simple. “My objective [for 2012] is to help Botafogo win a major title.”
A ‘major title’ would mean the Copa do Brasil, whose winner qualifies for next year’s Copa Libertadores, the Campeonato Brasileiro, or the Copa Sul-Americana, South America’s version of the Europa League.
Despite the Campeonato Carioca getting underway last weekend, with Botafogo recording a comfortable 3-1 win over Resende, Jefferson made no secret of the fact the Brazilian Cup will be the club’s main focus in the first months of 2012, prior to the start of the Brasileirão.
“For Botafogo, the Copa do Brasil is our principal objective as it’s a competition where the winner earns a spot in the Libertadores, he explained.
Before finding a second home in Rio, the 6ft 2in giant spent a four year stint in Turkey at Konyaspor and Trabzonspor. Despite claiming it was great life experience, he has no immediate plans to abandon the ship.
“I would only go back to play in Europe if it was a grand club. I’m happy at Botafogo and only an excellent offer could make me consider leaving.”
Botafogueneses need not worry – their goalposts remain in safe hands. But current Seleção number one Júlio César should. He will be 34 by 2014, and Jefferson has his eyes on his place.
“To play in the 2014 World Cup is the principal objective of my career. To represent your country at a World Cup, playing at home, is a dream for any athlete,” he beams.
A few more performances such as he gave in 2011 and he will be one step closer to the dream.