By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After weeks of silence, Brazilian superstar forward Neymar finally spoke to the media on Sunday, July 22nd, regarding Brazil’s surprising early exit from the 2018 Russia World Cup and the ensuing global ridicule he received from what many believe were his over-the-top theatrics on the pitch.
“I would not go as far as to say I did not want to play again but I did not want to see a ball or to see any more football played, because I wanted to disconnect a bit from everything,” Brazil’s No. 10 told Agence France Presse (AFP) at the Red Bull Neymar Jr. Five (five-a-side) tournament at the Neymar Praia Grande Institute in São Paulo.
“I was in mourning. I was really sad about it, but sadness passes,” said Neymar. “I have my son, my family, my friends and they do not want to see me moping around. I have got more reason to be happy than sad.”
In many ways, Neymar’s 2018 World Cup campaign was one to forget. During Brazil’s five Cup games, the world’s most expensive player tallyed only two goals and two assists and spent a total of fourteen minutes on the floor.
His flamboyant dives after arguably minimal contact saw him become the butt of social media jokes and memes around the globe, leading to the Neymar Challenge.
In the AFP interview, Neymar joked about the multitude of internet videos mimicing his dives, and noted that “when it comes to me, there are double standards.”
“People were faster to criticize the one being fouled than the one doing the fouling,” he exclaimed.
“I went to the World Cup to play, to beat the opposition, not to get kicked. The criticism of me was exaggerated, but I am a big boy, I am used to dealing with this kind of thing.”
“I cannot be the referee and play at the same time but there are times I wish I could.”