Phelippe Dantas From Brazil Has Taken His Talents To Europe

It is no secret that Brazil is the land of soccer. Naturally, well established European soccer teams have always looked at Brazil as a ‘talent producer’ when it comes to soccer players.

But could this be true for American football as well?

AFI’s Felipe Pereira went one on one with Phelippe Dantas, a lineman who started playing American football at age 19 in his home town of Natal, in the northeast part of Brazil and has since been contracted to play in Portuguese and European leagues.

Pereira – Tell us how it all started. How did you get introduced to American football?

Phelippe – I started playing football in 2008, when I was only 19 years old. A local team called the Natal Scorpions had been created by a group of friends that liked watching NFL games. It all started as friends having a good time and playing pickup games. When we first started, there were no equipment, only in 2010, two years later that we as players started to buy our own equipment. We had to import the equipment as equipment is not as easily accessible in Brazil.

My family and friends at first did not have a good understanding of the sport and instantly labelled violent, however as I explained the game further to them, they understood that football is not only a game about strength but also about strategy. After playing for a few years, I knew that football was my dream and wanted to make a career out of it, however I knew it would be difficult the sport was not well known in Brazil at the time and there were not may supporters.

Pereira – What made you realize that you could potentially play football at a higher level?

Phelippe – In 2013, I went to play for another team in my hometown called the America Bulls. I participated in many competitions and I would always get compliments from teammates, coaching staff both from my team and our opponent. Playing for the America Bulls, I was fortunate enough to play for an American coach (Scott Spencer). Scott saw that I had a lot of potential as a football player, however he also suggested that I worked the basic fundamentals of my game, as I was lacking, which is expected when you have been playing for only 5 years and many times without the proper coaching.

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Scott also suggested that if I were ever able to play in the United States, I would learn a lot and improve my game even more. The fact that he suggested I could make a team in the United States one day, made me want to continue working harder and harder to achieve that goal.

Pereira – Tell us how the opportunity to play abroad came about and your experience as one of the first players from Brazil to play in European teams?

Phelippe – In November 2015, I temporarily moved to Lisbon for my business but also with the idea of playing football abroad. One of the first people I met while in Lisbon was Duarte Hipolito, president of the Lisbon Devils. I was invited to try out for the team and after the try outs the coaching staff liked what they saw and placed me on the starting team. I played for the Lisbon Devils on the national competition where we were Portuguese national champions without a single loss during the tournament.

With the Lisbon Devils, I also participated in the European Champions League, where I played two games (Bogazici Sultans from Turkey and the Danube Dragons from Austria). Although we did not qualify for the playoffs of the tournament. I was extremely excited that I was playing football a semiprofessional level in Europe, I was learning a lot in this unique experience and had come a long way from the days of playing with no pads in Brazil.

To make matters even better, while I was still in Vienna and had just finished playing a game in the European Champions League, I was contacted by the president of the Hungarian team, the Misckolc Steelers, complimenting me on the game I had played and gauging my interest in playing in Hungary.

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Phelippe Dantas #50 in action with the Misckolc Steelers in Hungary

It was my dream come true. I was finally getting to experience what I had dreamed about for years, being hired as football player. All of this has been a tremendous experience and I am quite sure it is preparing for something even bigger yet to come. As a Brazilian, and as one of the first few to have played abroad, I feel a little pressure to represent Brazilian players abroad, so every time I put that uniform on, I am always looking to play as hard as try to serve as inspiration for others to come.

Pereira – What would you say the major differences of playing in Brazil versus the countries you have played are?

Phelippe – The major difference that I have noticed between Brazil and the countries I have played is the support that teams receive. In the European teams, there are sponsors, media coverage and teams work hard to make the public aware of games. There are multiple businesses and companies behind these events, while this is not always the case in Brazil.

We have a lot of structured teams in Brazil, but the support, both from sponsors and media is not always there. In terms of the level of play, in my opinion, we have excellent players in Brazil that could also be playing in many of the European teams. I feel that football in Brazil is growing very rapidly, teams are understanding the importance of structuring themselves, of making events out of football games and investing in personnel that can add to the team. The media coverage is growing as well and the numbers of fans attending games are also increasing. In my opinion, in not many years from now, Brazil will have one of the strongest leagues worldwide.

Pereira – What are your short and long term goals when it comes to football?

Phelippe – I will be playing another season (2016/2017) for the Lisbon Devils and in April of 2017 I will return to Hungary where I will play another season with the Misckolc Steelers. I hope that I can help both teams be once again national champions. At some point I would like to play for a team in Brazil and be able to fight for the Brazilian National Championship. I look back at where I have started and through all that I have been through and I see all of these experiences as practice for something bigger, which is fulfilling my dream of playing for a team in the United States. That is my ultimate goal and I will continue to work my hardest to achieve that goal.

Pereira– What tips or suggestions would you give to players that have aspirations to play abroad such as yourself?

Phelippe – I would tell them that as with anything in life, it is not an easy task, but that does not mean it’s impossible. I would suggest that they set goals, practice hard, give their all in every practice, every game, every situation. There are going to be difficult moments along the way, but by focusing and being disciplined, anything is possible.

As an advocate for the growth of football worldwide, Felipe has forged and continues to develop football relationships with different players, teams and leagues around the world. His goal is to assist the growth of football in his home country of