Born Antonio Alberto Bastos Pimparel, Sevilla keeper Beto was given his playing name by a former coach when he was seven.
As committed as they come, the demonstrative Portugal custodian started out as a winger but was later switched to goalkeeping duties on account of a lack of pace. “I was too chubby,” admitted the player, who has since made the change in role a very successful one.
That success has not come easily, however, as Beto explained: “I’ve never had that many people looking out for me. Everything I’ve achieved has been down to my hard work.”
After emerging from Sporting CP’s fabled youth academy, he endured some tough times in the Portuguese second division and seriously considered giving it all up.
He then signed for Porto, and though badly shaken by his father’s death at that time, he came out stronger for the experience.
Beto’s reward for his dedication and commitment came in May 2014, when he stood tall for Sevilla in the penalty shootout that decided their UEFA Europa League final against Benfica.
A month later he was representing his country at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, an experience that ended in injury and tears as Portugal exited the tournament in the group phase.
Now on the recovery trail following a torn muscle sustained in the opening game of this season, the 32-year-old keeper reflected on his career highs and lows in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
We’ve seen you cry a couple of time this year, though they were tears of joy after the UEFA Europa League final in Turin. How many times have you watched that game?
A lot! It was the most intense final of my career. It was a memorable day… winning the trophy and dedicating it to my father, who was an example for me. And I was happy to be part of the history of the club.
What made it even more special as well, of course, was the fact that we beat a team who are eternal rivals for an ex-Sporting and Porto player like me.
We saw you cry again at Brazil 2014, though this time out of frustration. Talk us through the end of the match against Ghana?
They were the toughest three minutes of my career. I injured myself with 80 minutes gone, but I stuck it out because I didn’t want them to take me off. Everything kind of welled up inside of me.
I felt angry about not being able to play on and about us not having enough time to turn the situation around. I had all these negative feelings and I just exploded.
I burst into tears because I knew Portugal were slipping out of the World Cup and that I’d injured myself and couldn’t carry on. I’d have carried on if I could. I’d have played on without an arm or a leg even!
Now that you’ve had time to take stock, why do you think Portugal went home early?
It was a massive disappointment for the country and the players. We arrived full of hope and with a very good team, and we had the best player in the world.
The last 16 was our first objective, but our opening game (a 4-0 defeat to Germany) had a big psychological impact on us.
It was a heavy defeat and in a competition like that you don’t have a lot of time to recover. We’re already looking forward, though, and the past is for museums.
Do you follow the Portuguese league? Who will win the title this season?
I follow it as much as I can, and I keep an eye on the teams I played for. Porto are still the favourites. Sporting are improving all the time and are closing the gap on Porto and Benfica, the two sides who’ve been fighting for the title in the last few years.
The Portuguese league has been attracting a lot of South American players looking to pursue careers in Europe.
Yes, it’s almost like a feeder league, with a lot of very rich clubs coming in to snap up players. Portugal is a good springboard because there are three very big clubs in a competitive league.
It might not have the same high profile as Europe’s five other big leagues, but it’s a good enough stage for quality players to show what they can do.
We saw you and Cristiano Ronaldo give each other a big hug at the end of the UEFA Super Cup. What’s your relationship like?
We keep in touch. Ronaldo and I go back a long way. I was at Sporting when he joined the club and we are very close friends. We really have a go at each other during games. For 90 minutes we’re rivals, but it’s all good clean fun.
He wants me to do well and I want him to do well. I push him and he pushes me. There’s a lot of mutual respect and admiration in our relationship.
You almost turned your back on football at the age of 19. Why was that and what made you change your mind?
I’d spent years at Sporting, a big club, but I went on loan to Casa Pia. The clubs had a dispute and I suffered because of it. I wasn’t playing and I wasn’t getting paid. I was far from home and it wasn’t easy.
I decided not to renew my contract with Sporting the following year and I made the decision to go and play in the second division.
It was a good move in terms of my playing career, but my family don’t have much money and I needed to be financially independent. The thing was, it was a two-year period in which I only got paid for six months. It was a very tough situation.
I really thought it through and I said to myself: ‘I love doing this but I’m just not getting a chance. I’m going back to my studies.’ I was looking for a future outside the game, but we got promoted with Leixoes and things took a turn for the better. hen Porto came in for me, but my father died on the day I signed.
All the same, I said to myself: ‘I’m not going to stop fighting for my dream’. Things started working out for me after that.
Life has not always been easy for you. How have you managed to overcome adversity?
Thanks to my character. I fight for what I want. There are a lot of people close to me who’ve shared my pain, and they don’t deserve for me to give up. I fight every day for my family, my father, my son and for me.
Are there any lessons from life that you’d like your son to learn?
I always tell him that he has to be strong and brave. Life is no flat sea. There are always problems and obstacles to overcome, and you can never ignore them.
You have to face up to problems, be intelligent, push yourself and have dreams to fulfil. He has to know that you have to work hard if you want to achieve something. You can never give up on your dreams, though.
As long as you fight hard, then there will come a day when at least one of your dreams will come true.