Pressure, somehow, seems incapable to faze Neymar Junior.
Time and time again, the 24 year-old has been called to, as he puts it, “defend” his country; yet his trademark showmanship and passion never seem to fade behind the burden of expectation.
Even last month, during Brazil’s victorious Olympic campaign, the expectation was upon Neymar to lead Brazil to redemption of sorts. Ironically, a gold medal victory over Germany at the Maracaña, can be seen to complete that mission and soften the bitter blow of World Cup embarrassment in 2014.
In an exclusive interview, Neymar chatted about expectation, sacrifice and family.
Q. How would you describe your personal style?
Neymar: My personal style? Bold. Always.
Q. Is this the same off the field?
Neymar: It does. The style I live my life with does go well with the one I have on the field. Of being a bit bolder, being daring, dribbling around opponents. I think I do everything on the field like I do more or less in my personal life.
Q. Heading out onto the pitch, can you describe the sensation of competing on the international stage?
Neymar: It’s hard to describe the sensation I have when I go to compete, when I’m going to play a match, whether it’s a regular game, a friendly match or a final. I just want to be on the pitch, and always win.
Q. What did it mean to you to play for your country in the Olympics?
Neymar: I am always very proud to wear the jersey of the Brazilian team. To have the chance to defend Brazil in the Olympics… it’s huge, it’s tremendous, so it’s unique, it’s a unique sensation.
Q. To a young footballer looking to play for their national team, a World Cup or an Olympic games someday – what advice would you give them?
Neymar: I’d say to be dedicated, to go after their dreams and their goals. It’s a hard journey, but it’s worth it when you start achieving your goals, and you see that all of your efforts are meaningful.
Q. What was your earliest memory of football?
Neymar: My father is responsible for me being a football player. My first memories are playing ball with him, in our living room…I was kicking the ball and he was celebrating.
Q. Was there a moment growing up where you really fell in love with football and knew this was something that you knew you wanted to pursue?
Neymar: There was no time to know the exact moment, you know? Things happened so quickly that I feel like when I finally opened my eyes I was scoring during the Champions League final! And that’s how life flows for me to this day .
Q. Family is very important to you. What impact do your parents and your son have on your life?
Neymar: Their impact on my life is truly huge, because they’re my parents, they raised me, they took care of me, and they encouraged me and showed me what the world really is. And my son is a blessing from God. Every day, I learn with him how to be a better human being, a better father and also a better friend. So, for me, these people are everything in my life.
Neymar Jnr. can be seen in the new Nike Tech Fleece Collection. Available 1 September.