Born in Ireland, he has been called up from Cape Verde by Linkedin and will play in the Round of 16 of the African Cup.

From Irish football champion to Cape Verdean defender in the African Cup (Photo: @pico_lopes)

Sometimes fate has unexpected situations in the footballers’ store. A clear example is that Robert Lopez, the 29-year-old Irish defender, would have never imagined that at the height of his professional career, there was an opportunity The small and remote Cape Verde islands are represented in the Africa Cup of Nations. But the story gets even more surprising, as the call came through one of the world’s major job search platforms.

player shamrock rovers Irish Premier League title holder, check his account LinkedIn In the middle of 2019 I came across a strange invitation in a foreign language. Who was the sender? Cape Verdean national football team coach at the time, Rui Aguas. Born in Dublin Ignore the message, downplaying ambiguous content written in another language. Little did Lopez know he was missing out on an opportunity in international football.

After some time, the protagonist of this story regretted that he had looked the other way instead of translating the letter and sought an explanation: “Out of sheer ignorance and perhaps rudeness! I just assumed it was spam and it was a normal LinkedIn greeting in Portuguese.(Language) I don’t speak,” Robert admitted in a conversation with the British site Sportsmail, Focus on fighting against Senegal The Round of 16 of the African Nations Cup: It will take place on Tuesday 25 January at 1:00 pm (Argentine time).

The Dublin native helped Cape Verde to finish with four points in Group A with a 1-0 win over Ethiopia, a 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso and a 1-1 draw with hosts Cameroon (Picture: AFP)
The Dublin native helped Cape Verde to finish with four points in Group A with a 1-0 win over Ethiopia, a 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso and a 1-1 draw with hosts Cameroon (Picture: AFP)

Nine months after the first message, the footballer realized with astonishment that he was not being contacted by a machine, but Cape Verdean Football Association He really wanted him to declare himself a citizen of the small Atlantic island nation because his father had Cape Verdean roots. Descent comes from your parents’ side Carlos who had the opportunity to leave Africa at the age of 16 as a chef on a ship working in Belgium. Years later, a chance encounter leads to a job offer on a ferry to Britain. “He ended up accepting the offer and fell in love with Ireland and my mother. The rest is history,” Lopez explained.

Robert revealed that he created his LinkedIn account in college eight years ago, while studying business administration at Dublin Institute of Technology. How useful it ended up being. I came back, copied and pasted the original message in google translator And Roy Aguas asked me:We are trying to bring in new players, would you like to represent Cape Verde? “. I was so glad I didn’t see the opportunity coming and it just came. I am so glad I got back to you on time! The Irishman admitted the happiness he felt after ignoring the proposal for nearly a year.

On his reasons for believing that the invitation to Cape Verde was a lie, he added: “Growing up in my professional career as a footballer, I often received fake phone calls as they pretended to be from a club in England. You don’t know how authentic a contact on social media is until you get an official connection. I put the letter in English at the comfort of my mind and removed any doubt I had.”

Robert was named Ireland's First Division Team of the Year and celebrated with partner Leah O'Shaughnessy
Robert was named Ireland’s First Division Team of the Year and celebrated with partner Leah O’Shaughnessy

With the possibility of representing his native Ireland ruled out, birth certificates and passports were quickly exchanged, and within weeks, Lopez trained for the first time for the African national team ahead of a friendly against Togo in October 2019 at Barsmann Stadium, in the suburbs. Marseille. But there was one problem that had to be solved: Born and raised in Ireland, Robert could not speak Portuguese or the national language of Cape Verdean people.

“I really wanted to play international football, but the nerves were because of the language. My mom is Irish and my dad speaks Cape Verdean, but I never learned it. But once I went down and met the rest of my teammates, they were great with me. They all spoke English, put effort into me and helped me learn parts of Creole To help me when I’m on the field. It was great, my first flight was amazing,” he told the first person about that call.

Finally, he played 90 minutes against Togo With a 2-1 victory, it was his first international appearance. Today, after two and a half years playing as a player from Cape Verde, the 29-year-old is preparing to take on Senegal in the Round of 16 of the African Nations Cup, having qualified as one of the best third-place players. By sharing Group A with CameroonThe organizer and venue of the event, Burkina Faso s Ethiopia.

Lopez receives the Man of the Match award after the 1-1 draw with Cameroon
Lopez receives the Man of the Match award after the 1-1 draw with Cameroon

The current defender of Shamrock Rovers, the footballing birth in bohemians The Irishman, played all the matches in the current Africa Cup of Nations. In addition, he collected a total of 12 official matches for the Cape Verdean jersey He completed 90 minutes in each of the matches, embodying the defensive pillar in which he became to choose the volcanic islands.. With 3-4-3 as the preferred plan chosen by his coach Pedro Letao Brito, Lopez is positioned as a free player in both duels.

Lopez, who was more than happy with his present, also received during the first stage the support of his Cape Verdean-born father from the stands of the various stadiums. I must say he is very proud., adding with an amazing story: “He had one of my shirts from a previous game and people were coming to him and saying, ‘We’ve been trying to get this shirt everywhere, where did you get it from?'” ” When he said his son plays for the team, he was treated like royalty. Then he went to São Nicolau, which is the island from which he came and where my grandfather lives, and said I had a fan club there! “

Cape Verde is preparing for its final clash of the African Nations Cup. After one of the previous two matches, in 2013 and 2015, the baton was planted in the quarter-finals. One game away from making history and getting to that point, the team is ready to take on any opponent. It should be noted that Cape Verde selected It is made up of football players from 16 different tournaments among the 26 players selected for the tournament. Among the competitive squad assembled by the humble country stands out Jamiro Monteiro, the Philadelphia Union League Soccer striker and No. 10 holder.

With Shamrock Rovers, he had the difficult task of keeping an eye on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Europa League (Image: Reuters)
With Shamrock Rovers, he had the difficult task of keeping an eye on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Europa League (Image: Reuters)

Looking at the longer term, with World Cup arrivals in Africa increasing from five to nine by 2026, Lopez acknowledges the next goal he and his teammates will achieve. He will fight for a place in the biggest sporting event to be held in Canada, the United States and Mexico. “We know we can compete at this level. I want to reach the World Cup with Cape Verde, this is the next goal. But for now, we need to focus on the Round of 16.”

The African competition has reached the best moment in the competition and 16 countries will fight side by side in search of the new king of the continent. There is no doubt that the Cape Verdeans will be on the edge of their seats, ready to witness another surprise from their national team.

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