Published on: Amended:
Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (AFP) – Green body paint is all the rage in the stadium, where legions of fans chant his name – there’s a superhero in the house of new Brazilian champion Atletico Mineiro: the real-life Incredible Hulk.
The Hulk has been the franchise-worthy talisman of the season at the Belo Horizonte club, which defied long chances to win their first league title in 50 years last week, with two games of the season remaining.
The club brought the 35-year-old international, dubbed for the bipolar superhero Marvel, back to his native Brazil in January, signing him at the end of his time in China with Shanghai SIPG.
Atletico Mineiro were betting the veteran forward still had some superpowers in store after 15 years playing in Europe and Asia.
The move paid off – heading into the last round of games, the Hulk has been the league’s top scorer this season with 19, almost a third of Atletico’s total.
“He’s already one of our biggest idols, even though he’s not been here for so long. It’s the main reason why we won the championship,” said Mauricio Maoli, the DJ behind. the club’s public announcement system.
Maoli, 45, played a big part in Hulk fever in Belo Horizonte.
Hired to give games a realistic soundtrack after fans were banned from stadiums due to Covid-19, Maoli decided he needed a song for the new Hulk.
He found a recording of a 2012 game in which Hulk, then playing for Portugal’s Porto side, scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Sporting Lisbon.
In the recording, the Porto announcer shouts “The Incredible …” and fans fight back: “Hulk! “
Maoli remixed the audio to give it a more Brazilian feel, turning the scream into a triple “Hulk!” Hulk! Hulk! – which real-life fans quickly embraced when authorities allowed them to return to the stadium in August.
“It has become a kind of fever, like a warrior’s battle cry,” says Maoli proudly.
“Mum, dad, Hulk”
The Hulk, whose real name is Givanildo Vieira de Souza, is from the town of Campina Grande, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, more than 2,000 kilometers from Belo Horizonte.
But he made his adopted hometown his own.
Outside the stadium, vendors sell mini Marvel Hulks sporting Atletico Mineiro jerseys for 70 reais ($ 12) apiece, and fans regularly show up painted green in homage to the famous striker’s namesake superhero. .
One notorious fan is 17-month-old Samuel Reis, whose vocabulary consists of three words: mum, dad and the Hulk.
When he hears the player’s name, the tot strikes the Incredible Hulk pose and does his best whisper in a low voice.
His father, Daniel, 31, had never seen his team win the championship. He wasn’t born the only other time Atletico Mineiro won the league title, in 1971.
When the stadiums reopened for fans, he began attending games with Samuel, who quickly became known locally to his avid Hulk fan.
Hugging a Hulk minifigure, sporting a superhero mask and painted green, Samuel has played four games – and Atletico Mineiro has won them all.
“He has become a kind of lucky charm for the team,” jokes Daniel.
The Hulk mania is intergenerational.
Atletico Mineiro’s all-time top scorer Reinaldo said the player’s signing was “the best move Atletico has made in recent years”.
The Hulk paid homage to the 64-year-old legend during a game in November, raising a closed fist to the sky after scoring a goal – much like Reinaldo did to protest Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-1985.
“I’m not the only one hugging you, it’s all fans of this club,” Reinaldo, who was watching from the stands, told him later.
“You will be in our hearts forever. We love you!”
© 2021 AFP