Túlio Maravilha, star of the 90s: “Back then, we had idols. Today, we don’t have”

Botafogo's immortal hero talks about overcoming obstacles, the iconic thousand goals controversy, and his opinions on current Brazilian football in an exclusive interview with Sambafoot.
2022-02-28 12:05:32

Tulio Maravilha is one of the most vocal figures in Brazilian football. He was Botafogo’s perennial hero, reaching his peak in 1995 when he won the Brazilian Championship, and he was known for collecting artillery everywhere he went.

He featured in the drama of the thousand goals in the closing stretch of his career, according to his claims, reaching his goal in 2014. He played until he was almost 50 years old and wore the jerseys of over 30 different teams across the world.

In this exclusive interview with Sambafoot, the former number 7 discusses his time at Botafogo, offers his thoughts on the Brazilian National Team’s current phase, and shares some amusing stories from his career. Take a look!

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Sambafoot: Everyone knows you as Botafogo’s eternal hero. You’ve also won the Brasileirão three times, scored more than a thousand goals, and have a lengthy list of other achievements. But first, let’s talk about your professional roots. What was it like in the beginning in Goiânia? Was it tough to get into the Brazilian football scene? That was some of the folks who stuck out to you at the time?

Tulio Maravilha: For those who don’t know, I’m from Goiânia, the capital of Goiás. Despite being an idol and having a stronger affinity for Botafogo, I created all of my fundamental categories at Goiás Esporte Clube. However, it was in Goiás that it all began. And thanks to my father, who was a huge supporter, inspirer, and motivator for me to pursue my dream of being a football player. He accompanied me to the games of Goiás’ opponent, Vila Nova, so that I could watch the games. That was the case for the most of my youth, from the ages of eight to twelve. That sparked my interest in football, and one day I asked him, “Dad, do you see these guys on the field?”

It would be an indescribable thrill for you to watch me playing football here at Serra Dourada one day.” Thank God I was able to realize my ambition while he was still alive, since he was the driving force behind it.

I passed through all of the trials in the fundamental categories of Goiás from then on. It wasn’t simple for a young man from the outskirts of Goiás to make a name for himself in a large squad. I became a professional thanks to a lot of drive, perseverance, and training, and by my second year, in 1989, I was already the top scorer in the Brazilian Championship at the age of 20.

Sambafoot: You were at Botafogo for three years, but the first was the most memorable. What were some of your favorite memories from your time at Botafogo?

Tulio Maravilha: Isn’t it true that the squad nearly resurrected from the ashes when I came in 1994? It lacked a training facility as well as a functional headquarters. With my entrance in 1994, I already carried a big potential of becoming an idol and reviving the Botafogo supporters’ latent ardour.

I was the leading scorer in the Carioca Championship and the Brazilian Championship in the first year, and despite financial challenges, we managed to have a successful season.

The squad returned in 1995 with more experienced players and a major sponsor at the moment, Seven Up, a subsidiary of Pepsi, and with this tremendous support, everything at Botafogo changed. Let’s start with my phone number. I used to play with number 9 but switched to number 7 because of Seven Up.

Everything went well that year, and Botafogo were crowned Brazilian champion. Look how many years have gone since we were champion in 1968. And I was the top scorer and winner once again. As a result, it was a memorable and spectacular year. These first three years in Botafogo, as you said, were crucial. Tulio Maravilha was born from there.

Sambafoot: After all of your early career success, you’ve previously said in interviews that you regret leaving Botafogo in 1997 to join Corinthians. You also traveled through Fluminense, Cruzeiro, and a number of other teams. Why do you suppose it didn’t play in the same league as Botafogo with these other teams? Is it possible that it was the time, the technicians, or something else entirely?

Tulio Maravilha: There are a number of things at play. I was the leading scorer and champion at Botafogo for three years in a row. This mark, this idolatry, was already on me. With Botafogo, I had a really strong image.

When I chose to leave Botafogo… That’s why I say that if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t be able to predict that I wouldn’t have the same success at Corinthians, Cruzeiro, and those other teams, Fluminense, since we don’t have a crystal ball.

I already knew who I was there. I had to start from scratch at the other clubs. With new players, new coaches, and a changed attitude, I was able to reclaim and dominate my area. Everyone at Botafogo was familiar with my personality. It was to remain in the lead so that the rest of the squad could fill in for me.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the same luck and success at other teams, owing to the inconsistency of players who have become used to watching my game, my method of playing. My biggest regret was that, but we don’t have a crystal ball.

The main thing is that I brought delight to the fans everywhere I went.

Sambafoot: You spent two seasons with Sion, a Swiss club, before joining Botafogo. Tell us about that time in Europe, when you were in a colder climate than you were accustomed to in Goiás. In an interview, you said that you had considered retiring from the game. How was your time away from the country?

 Tulio Maravilha: Imagine a young athlete leaving the core of Brazil, Goiás, for a first-world nation, Switzerland, thirty years ago, practically forty years ago. There was no internet back then, and no such facility as we have now. When you go to a new nation, you have an idea of what to expect in terms of cultures, habits, and cuisine. And, since there was none of it at the time, we went with our faces and our bravery.

In truth, I traveled to France to perform, and I joke that I slept in Paris and awoke in Switzerland. Because the aim was to be sold to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), but they didn’t know who I was and there was no internet, the goal was to be sold to them. So, in order for the coach to get to know me, I had to undergo a last-minute audition.

I’d been on vacation for about a month, with no exercise and no routine. Regardless, they sent me on the field for approximately thirty to forty minutes, and I failed. Isn’t it true that they’re football destinations?

Today, on every street peladinha, everyone knows who you are and whether or not you can be recruited. After that, I found myself in Switzerland, a country having nothing to do with football. I just trained in the morning and spent the rest of the day doing nothing since [football] was still semi-professional at the time. It was -15oC, -17oC, and it was really tough to adapt. My children did not acclimatize to the language at the time. It was a jumble of languages: French, Italian, and German.

I had intended to return in the first year, but the president insisted that I remain and finish the contract. As a result of my poor self-esteem and depression. “I’m returning, but when I go back, I don’t want to know anything about football; I’m dissatisfied, and I want to call it a day.” That was between the ages of 23 and 24.

But, thank God, the possibility to return to Brazil, especially Botafogo, emerged before the contract ended. Everything changed after that. Tulio do Goiás and Switzerland were abandoned, and Tulio Maravilha do Brasil was born.

Sambafoot: Still on the subject of European football, do you regret not having pushed more to remain in the competition? Which European side, for example, would you have like to play for if you had the option?

Tulio Maravilha: What should have occurred was that I should have left Goiás and gone to a large club like Botafogo or a team in Sao Paulo at the time. I received a number of ideas. Internacional sought to sign me, but the Pass Law, not the player’s, was in effect at the time. We were only entitled to 15%, and given the difficulties, we were effectively slaves. We had to follow the team’s wishes rather than yours. My ambition was to be able to take the traditional route of leaving Goiás, joining a large team in Rio or Sao Paulo, and then being sold to Europe. But I did the opposite; I went from a good club to a bad club in Europe.

I could have had greater success if it had been France, Italy, or Spain. But I had just returned from Switzerland, where the football was mediocre. In my whole life, I have never ran as much as I have in Switzerland. Because football is probably the second most popular sport there, skiing is the most popular. Just to give you a sense of what I’m talking about.

Sambafoot: Let’s speak about your thousand-goal odyssey, which began in 2014, according to your calculations, when you were playing in Araxá. Pelé and Romario had already achieved this goal. How did Tulio Maravilha’s notion for a thousand objectives come about?

 Tulio Maravilha: Isn’t it Pelé who was the first? In 1969, the year in which I was born. Pele had just scored his thousandth career goal as I was being born into the world.

But it wasn’t from there; it was from the Gol 500 in 1999, when I was wearing a Cruzeiro jersey and competing in the Campeonato Mineiro. It happened to be the year of Brazil’s discovery. In the 500 years after Brazil’s discovery, I’ve had the good fortune to score 500 goals in my career.

“Who knows, in 10 years I may not be able to achieve King Pelé’s dreamt milestone of the thousandth goal,” I reasoned. It was then that I got the idea for this project. We had a lot of problems, of course, since I was already over 30 years old. The athlete was regarded to be nearing the end of his career at the time, and we lacked the sports medicine that we have today.

So it took a long time, and it was quite stressful, to get at this historic milestone in 2014, over 45 years later. Before that, Romario arrived, providing me with even more drive. “Now I’ll be the third person in history to attain this milestone,” I added. We made it, thank God, despite all the challenges, sacrifices, roadblocks, and triumphs.

I had hoped to do it at Botafogo, my favorite club, but it was not feasible at the moment. Then came the chance for Araxá Esporte Clube to assist me in reaching the 1,000th goal.

Sambafoot: Let’s speak about some of your most notable and contentious objectives. There’s no way we can avoid discussing the “Mo de Deus” goal against Argentina or the heel goal against Chile. Is it true, though, that the 1995 Brasileirão vs Santos is your favorite?

Tulio Maravilha: The [goal] that Botafogo scored against Santos in 1995 was the most crucial because it was the culmination, the consecration of my history with the Botafogo jersey.

Because I had been the top scorer in multiple events, but I constantly wondered, “What about Tulio, won’t he win a title?” Will you not be the champion? He is usually the leading scorer, but he has never won a good championship.”

As a result, that year was critical. That goal against Santos at Pacaembu was the turning point in my Botafogo and Brazilian football careers. That is why I see that goal as the most significant of my career, if not one of the most significant in club history. Because at the time, Botafogo had not won a Brazilian championship in 26 or 27 years.

Sambafoot: Still on that point, you’ve said multiple times how VAR is preventing football from being played. Do you believe you would have scored 1,000 goals if VAR had been available when you first began playing?

Tulio Maravilha: I may have arrived or could not have come. At the time, I had scored numerous goals on which the linesman had called me offside when I was not. When it wasn’t a foul, he scored a goal. I missed a penalty kick, and vice versa. Suddenly, some of my objectives were on the wrong side of the track, and numerous of my goals were out of class. As a result, I believe it might aid both up and down. But, of course, today’s players have many more opportunities to score goals and cancel goals. As a result, I feel it is possible. It was only a question of time and acclimating to the new environment.

Sambafoot: These and more anecdotes about your aspirations may be found in Wilson Rossato’s newly published biography, “A Thousand Times Tulio Maravilha.” Tell us, do you have any spoilers, any stories about Tulio Maravilha that no one or practically no one knows about? Also, tell me how you plan to get the book.

Tulio Maravilha: We started “Mil vez Tulio Maravilha” with Editora Zit here in Rio de Janeiro at the end of last year. Those interested in purchasing the book may do so by visiting www.fokaki.com.br. Isn’t everything today virtual? You purchase it and have it delivered to your house within a day or two. Something incredibly contemporary and useful. We unveiled it towards the end of the year, on December 11th, the same day I played my last game in a Botafogo jersey.

It tells various tales, most of which take place behind the scenes. Everyone is familiar with this player’s life, which includes travel, large clubs, goals, championships, and losses. But people are perhaps unaware of the day-to-day operations and the backstage.

I’ll tell you about a scene from my 2001 season with Vila Nova de Goiás. My second wife and I weren’t even married yet; we were still dating and getting to know one other. The supervisor would come to the rooms in the evenings around 10 or 11 p.m., but my roommate already understood that I had to take a break so I could be more comfortable and date my wife without the supervisor knowing… So he’d build a rag doll and stuff it with pillows and blankets. “Speak gently, quietness, he is already asleep,” my buddy murmured as he (supervisor) entered the room. If you don’t wake him up, there won’t be a goal tomorrow.” They constructed a rope out of the sheets after he went so I could climb out the window and descend two or three meters from the concentration. When I hopped over the wall, there was a dog next to me that began barking. People speculated that the dog began barking because Tulio was leaving, and that he was going on a date (laughs). I would only return at 6 or 7 a.m., eating breakfast first and then resting. There were two or three “easy, easy” goals in the game, and the animal was assured.

Sambafoot: Let’s speak about your time with the Brazilian National Team, where you had a terrific run, although brief, and scored a lot of goals. The World Cup is taking place this year. What are your thoughts on the current squad? Above all, what are your thoughts on shirt 9, which has yet to be assigned an owner? We haven’t located the number 9 jersey that will be the starting since the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And we’d want to know whether Tulio Maravilha will be a part of today’s squad!

Tulio Maravilha: That is correct. After Romário, Ronaldo Fenômeno, Careca… outstanding number nine forwards like Reinaldo and Roberto Dinamite. That’s something I’ve done as well. I believe the most recent was Fred in 2014, who lacked the luster and success that we had hoped for. There was a significant letdown.

Brazil will have had this question mark for over eight years as of 2014. Who will be the next number nine, the guy in charge of scoring the game-winning goals? During that time, Tite conducted various research and testing but has yet to locate this shirt 9. Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, and Richarlison have all been mentioned. But everyone has had their chance, and there isn’t anybody who, with Neymar, can unbalance the team and, who knows, provide hope of bringing home the sixth title.

However, since international football has become more globalized, the number 9 jersey no longer exists. They’re both floaters, so Tite is attempting to find Neymar’s perfect teammate in the qualifications and friendlies when he has a sure position. We’re expecting that an Aladdin of the Magic Lamp will arrive before the end of the year to provide this “9.” See, if it were me, I’d definitely do it. My position had already been secured. Up front, it would be just me and Neymar, with the rest of the team turning around in the back.

Sambafoot: What are your thoughts on Tite’s current work in the Seleçao? Will the hex be unleashed this year?

Tulio Maravilha: I think we will achieve more than we did in 2018. We lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals, but it was a fantastic elation since we had a terrific qualifying, grabbed the slot early, and qualified this year. We had already clinched the slot prior to the finish of the qualifying.

Tite, on the other hand, is more experienced, mature, and has a better understanding of how the World Cup works. The first phase consists of three games, followed by the knockout round.  It is in this knockout that Brazil cannot go wrong.  It’s a little issue that may jeopardize the whole project and all of your efforts.

As a result, I feel [Brazil] will have a greater chance this year. I think it will go farther, and I feel we have a chance to reach the final. Let’s hope he doesn’t run into a strong opponent in the quarterfinals or semifinals, since he’ll need a little luck as well as skill. Brazil, I feel, will go much farther this year.

Sambafoot: When you were at the peak of your career in the 1990s, there was a joke about who was the “King of Rio,” and there were feuds with Romário and Renato Gacho. There was a friendly rivalry, but it was all in good fun. What was your interaction like with these great Brazilian players? They still played football here at the time, which is not so prevalent nowadays. Do you believe this kind of competition is still appropriate in our sport?

Tulio Maravilha: I think that is correct. They were excellent scorers in every famous Brazilian football club at the time, both in Sao Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. There was a reference in it.

That’s why he had a good, pleasant rivalry. Goals were guaranteed, and simple baskets were wagered. The stadium was packed, and there wasn’t nearly as much violence as there is now. These organized fans, who only worry about violence and neglect to clap, get in the way a lot. Players are now frightened to guarantee goals and declare they’ll do the “Gol Urubu” or “Gol Bacalhau” since they’ll be seen as underestimating. Even more so with social media, which many utilize for evil rather than good. False information…

There would be room, but it would take a lot of ingenuity and intellect to play with this kind of circumstance without belittling anybody or disrespecting the institution. Also, don’t be swayed by the mob or the Public Ministry. Football has become too “mimimi,” too politically correct, and dull, in my opinion.

Sambafoot: Tell us about the players you played with who left the most impression on you. Both those with whom you shared a team and those with whom you competed against.

Tulio Maravilha: Wow, let’s get this party started, shall we? To begin with, there was Donizete at Botafogo, who was my attacking partner in 1995. We were Brazilian champions, and he must have passed to at least 15 of our 23 goals. We had practiced plays because he already understood the placement. He was a superb player who could play on both the right and left sides, was a great crosser, and yet managed to score goals. Donizete was my most effective offensive partner.

Then I had the privilege of playing with Bebeto at Vitória da Bahia, and then at Botafogo. In the 1995 Copa América, I was a member of the Brazilian National Team with Edmundo. Marcelinho Carioca, a player at Corinthians, and Craque Neto both had opportunities to play. There was a constellation on Cruzeiro. Valdo Muller, Valdo Muller, Valdo Muller, Valdo In any case, he was a monster. You closed your eyes and only had a star on your side in the 1990s.

Sambafoot: Were there any players with whom you didn’t get to play and would have liked to have? The one you wish you could have starred with.

 Tulio Maravilha: Despite the fact that both Romário and I have the same feature, I believe it would be natural for us to form an attacking pair, right? Bebeto and Tulio, like Bebeto and Romário.

 In 1995, I also played with Ronaldo Fenômeno, who was just becoming started, and we shared several games. We already knew he’d be one of the finest players in the world when he arrived. A good player, in my opinion, can play anywhere and with anybody on his side.

 Sambafoot: What, in your view, is the most significant difference between today’s football and football in the 1990s? Do you believe that today’s athletes, for example, have a lack of passion for the jersey and a lack of commitment? What do you think the primary distinction is?

 Tulio Maravilha: The primary distinction is a technical one. Let’s be straightforward and objective about this. As I already said, we had clubs full with stars and amazing acts throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Both offensively, in midfield, and defensively. Today, you can count on one or two fingers the number of players who are the standard. We had idols back then, but we don’t have them now.

 Apart from Palmeiras, Flamengo, and currently Atlético Mineiro, these are the only three clubs with notable players, who have won practically everything in their careers. Others, on the other hand, must chase after them and unveil fresh athletes. When they begin to unearth gems, they sell internationally. The youngster lacks the necessary qualifications to be his team’s champion and top scorer. His name isn’t even remembered by the fan. Those are the major distinctions. The technical quality is poor. I’m not a fan of the clothing, but there’s still time for supporters to adjust to their new hero.

Sambafoot: In Serie A, B, and C, you were the lone top scorer. Which tiny team shocked you the most favorably towards the conclusion of your career, when you were on the verge of running a marathon in Brazil? It might be a problem with the structure or the technological quality.

Tulio Maravilha: That was in the year 2000. It was my final visit to Botafogo, and I went to Sao Caetano shortly after. Imagine if Sao Caetano was playing in So Paulo’s second division and no one had heard of him. When I arrived to ABC Paulista, the city was ultra-modern, ultra-advanced, and surrounded by various corporations. And it was a well-organized squad with a training facility and gyms. As a result, Sao Caetano started to be seen in a new light. We were winners of Serie A2, the second league, that year, and I was the leading scorer with 20 goals in 20 games. On average, one goal is scored each game.

Then followed the years 2000 and 2001, when they were Libertadores finalists and Brazilian Championship runners-up against Vasco and Athletico-PR. I joke that if I had kept going, one of these titles would have undoubtedly been ours. The Libertadores or even the Brazilians. Sao Caetano was a pleasant surprise.

Sambafoot: We’re talking about smaller clubs and promising young players. What advice or message would you provide to these young Brazilian football players that want to have a great career like yours?

Tulio Maravilha: First and foremost, you never surrender. You may be aware that 95% of football players are paid, have financial issues, and play for a tiny club. To earn his daily bread, he grates. Only 5% of the population enjoys opulence, high wages, membership in a prestigious club, and other privileges. So, if you want to be one of the 5%, you must first have confidence in God and believe that He will watch over you, protect you, and lead you throughout your personal and professional life.

Second, you must commit yourself. Being a good player or having skill isn’t enough. “Oh, I know how to shoot, score, and cross,” says the player. No, you must put forth the effort. It must consist of 99 percent perspiration and 1% inspiration. Then you must be modest, since working as part of a team, with others, is difficult.

You must possess a high level of expertise, as well as humility, respect, and simplicity. Because the hardest thing in football is for you to perform the easy thing. Things don’t always work out when you start innovating.

Don’t give up on your ambitions. Have faith and believe. If the first door closes, don’t give up on the second. Go to the pinnacle, find the place where you really believe you can’t do it any longer.

The big aim, the great message is this. And don’t assume you’re the greatest in the world when you get there. Because going up is difficult, but falling is easy.

To be successful, you must have humility, respect, appreciation, and the ability to cherish every minute of your life. As a motivational speaker, these are some fundamental instances that I go through. My presentation is all about attitude, and that’s what I want to instill in youngsters who want to play soccer. Not only in football, but also in the general workplace.

Sambafoot: Your career came to an end when you were about 50 years old. What would you say if you were to sum up your football career in one word?

Tulio Maravilha: I triumphed. That’s what I’m known for. Tulio is the Phoenix God, who emerges from the ashes and turns around when you least expect it! So that’s my word for it, and that’s my story: triumph!

 Fast game: 

  1. Team of the heart: Botafogo.
  2. Soccer idol: Pele.
  3. Best career goal: 1995, Brazilian Championship final, Botafogo and Santos at Pacaembu. Title goal!
  4. Best game: 1995, was where I had my total consecration in Brazilian football.
  5. Worst defeat: Taça Guanabara, 1995, against Flamengo. We lost 3-2 and I was sent off for the first time in my life.

 Off the field: 

  1. Family: It’s the base of everything, my safe haven.
  2. Bosom friend: God is my best friend and everyone’s friend.
  3. Favorite food: I like rice with beef and onions.
  4. Favorite song: Regis Danese, “Work a Miracle on me”.
  5. City you liked the most to live in: Rio de Janeiro, the Marvelous City. The face of Túlio Maravilha!