|Huỳnh Kesley Alves changed his life by playing football in Việt Nam. Photo webthethao,vn|
HÀ NỘI — Before he arrived in Việt Nam to take part in the BTV Cup football tournament in 2004, Kesley Alves and his Brazilian Matsubara FC teammates were told that if they played well, they could win a lucrative contract with local clubs.
Alves, 23 at the time, told himself: “Just play as you can, who knows if the V.League is a quality tournament!”
After 15 years of success in his second home, Alves thanks God for bringing him to Việt Nam.
“After that event, I joined Becamex Bình Dương with a dream salary. Everything became more wonderful when I grabbed the top scorer title in the first season in 2005,” said Alves who has a local beautiful wife with two sons and enjoys life here.
“In Việt Nam I am in heaven!”
Alves was born in 1981 in Palmeiras City. He played for Portuguesa, Vasco Da Gama and Matsubara before earning his berth in the Becamex Bình Dương’s line-up in 2005.
His outstanding performance at the 2004 BTV Cup for Matsubara FC impressed Bình Dương’s managers who wanted to sign him.
Months later Alves travelled more than 17,000km to his the new team, marking the biggest turning point in life.
While most foreign players in Việt Nam use their superior physical talents to dominate the local game, Alves impressed fans with his skill, smarts and improvisational style.
He quickly became one of the league's top players and scored 21 goals in the first season to become top scorer and grab the annual Best Foreign Player award.
In 2006, Alves moved to Hoàng Anh Gia Lai but struggled and striker returned to Bình Dương and enjoyed success again with three V.League 1 trophies in 2007, 2008 and 2014.
Playing for Bình Dương at the AFC Cup in 2009, Alves scored seven goals and was one of the four best scorers of the competition.
In the same year domestically, he netted nine times in the V.League and once in the National Cup. That was enough to push him to the top podium of the Golden Boot Award.
It was the most memorable year for the player and he was called up to the national team after he was naturalised under the name of Huỳnh Kesley Alves.
“Henrique Calisto called me and asked if I was ready to play for Việt Nam. I said, ‘yes sir, I have waited this moment for a long time!’” Alves recalled.
“I competed in a friendly match against Kuwait on away ground. I was paired with striker Nguyễn Việt Thắng in the attack. Honestly, we did not work smoothly but it was not as important as we won that match 1-0. It was a wonderful memory in my life,” he said.
In 2011, he received the Bronze Ball statue for the third-best player of the year.
After leaving Bình Dương at the end of 2014, Alves played for Đồng Nai and Sanna Khánh Hòa briefly in 2015 before moving to Krabi FC in the Thai League 2.
Back in Việt Nam, he was invited to play for HCM City FC in the second half of the 2018 season at a time when the club, under former national team coach Toshiya Miura, were close to the relegation zone.
Alves brought a breath of fresh air to the side with three goals and five assists at the age of 37, helping HCM City stay in the national premier league.
A year later, HCM City finished second in the league and Alves decided it was time for a rest.
“I had a short unhappy time when I was with Hoàng Anh Gia Lai. But in that period, I learnt many things which helped me succeed again when returning to Bình Dương,” said Alves.
“It was the best time of my life. I reached the top form in my career. Even when I left the team in 2015 when my performance was not very good I still felt lucky. It was football, you could be this and that, no one can be on top forever.
“After two years in Thailand, I played for HCM City where they called me ‘old man’. I like that nickname. I am old in age but on the field, I am forever Huỳnh Kesley Alves,” he said with a smile.
With 95 goals, Alves is currently the V.League 1’s fourth-best scorer of all time after Hoàng Vũ Samson, Đỗ Merlo and Lê Công Vinh.
“A true professional player he is,” said midfielder Trần Phi Sơn of HCM City.
“He is nearly 40 but always show his professionalism in both living and training. He has been known as one of the best foreigners in V.League 1 history. He is an example for us on and off the field,” said Sơn about his former teammate.
Alves has not retired yet and is enjoying a break from football as he wants to spend time with family and for plans that he has nurtured for a long time.
“I have offers from three clubs, one from the V.League 2 and two from V.League 1, But now I also have my sports company to take care of too. After the social distancing time, when everything is back to normal, I will let everybody know what I’m going to do,” he told Việt Nam News.
Alves is qualified as a football coach and has established the firm K&K Soccer Agents.
The 39-year-old hopes to be a scout to show the world the new Neymar.
“I also have a project to develop football. I want to bring young players and professional players to Brazil, and also Brazilian coaches and players to Asia and Europe. I also talked with clubs and hope to do something to improve Vietnamese football,” said Alves who together with friends is giving free meals for poor people in HCM City during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I think Vietnamese football is developing and there are great players here. The country needs more support to reach a World Cup. And I hope I can help in some ways.” VNS