Ben Shires: My great love for Leeds United’s brilliant Brazilian

After a number of Brazilians failed to impress in the Leeds United shirt, Raphinha’s performances have brought out Ben’s poetic side.

Promoted by LDC Radio 47.8FM
Saturday, 13th February 2021, 6:00 am
Leeds United's Raphinha (left) and Everton's Richarlison (right) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Elland Road. 
Picture: Michael Regan/PA Wire.
Leeds United's Raphinha (left) and Everton's Richarlison (right) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Elland Road. Picture: Michael Regan/PA Wire.

Valentine’s Day is upon us once more and, around my household at least, love is in the air. Well, that and a lot of snow.

Alongside the regular heartfelt, romantic and (depending on whether’s she’s reading this), expensive display of affection I’ll be showering on my other half this year, I’ll also be sending love in a few other important directions. Firstly to my wonderful friends and family, many of whom I’ve not seen for a year; next to the key workers, NHS heroes and all those who’ve sacrificed so much to make sure life as we know and cherish it has a hope of someday returning; and lastly, to the first great love of my life, Leeds United.

Like many, my love affair with the club began at a tender age; it wasn’t difficult for a wide-eyed seven year old to fall for a team that had just won the First Division Title. This wasn’t just any team either, it was a squad packed full of dashing, romantic players that cried out to be coveted. Sure enough, I found myself being seduced by Strachan, charmed by Chapman and beguiled by Batty.

Even as times changed and championship winning dominance gave way to mid-table mediocrity, my passion never dimmed. The playing staff might have become notably less glamorous, but I still went a bit silly for Derek Lilley and was a suckerby for Darren Huckerby.

Despite my near-unwavering adoration of these footballing demi-gods (a term stretched to its very zenith by certain members of playing staff employed in recent years - I’m looking at you, Steve Morison), there has long been a note of lingering disappointment hovering over my hero-worshipping; our abysmal Brazillians.

For all their reputation as the world’s greatest footballing exports, prior to this season we’d never witnessed a brilliant Brazilian don the whites of Leeds United. That’s not to say none have ever played for us, just that none were anywhere near brilliant.

In fairness, we’ve only seen a couple of Samba Boys (not quite) strut their stuff at Elland Road.

First came Roque Júnior, the catfish to end all catfishes. On the surface his pedigree was impeccable; World Cup Winner, AC Milan star and unflappable defensive rock. In reality, we conceded 25 times in his seven appearances, he was sent off on his home debut, and rumour has it he’s still recovering from the harrying he received at the hands of Leicester’s Jamie Scowcroft, Lilian Nalis and Paul Dickov.

Adryan’s brief stint in West Yorkshire was even more underwhelming.

Awarded the kiss of death ‘wonderkid’ tag on arrival, his performances never lived up to the hype and he is now best remembered for perhaps the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) dive of all time. If you’ve not see it before, Google it and thank me later.

Since the arrival of Raphinha though, all has been forgiven. Despite being yet to experience the appreciative roar of an Elland Road crowd, the tricky winger has lodged himself firmly into the cold, cynical hearts of Leeds supporters everywhere. No wonder the Rennes fans went on strike when he left. He’s the type of player that inspires brilliance from his teammates, plaudits from the press and unfettered, weeping-at-the-TV-screen adoration from all who watch him.

We might’ve had to wait a long time for a Brazilian of his mastery to grace the newly laid Elland Road turf, but boy was it worth the wait. And just like the beginning of all great love affairs, this one has inspired some doggerel poetry too. So for Valentine’s Day, I give you my ‘Ode to A Brazilian’:

Roses are red,

Leeds is White, Yellow and Blue

In Bielsa we trust

(And now Raphinha too)