'Being a tiny part of Leeds United makes me proud everyday' - meet the Brazilian Whites supporters group

We explore Leeds United's devoted following in Brazil in our latest We All Love Leeds feature.

By Joe Urquhart
Sunday, 4th October 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Sunday, 4th October 2020, 12:04 pm
Giovanni and his english friend Jono Goldsack who brought him to Elland Road in 2014.
Giovanni and his english friend Jono Goldsack who brought him to Elland Road in 2014.

Leeds United boast one of the most passionate and loyal fan bases in world football.

No matter how far you go or where you travel, you're never a great distance from a club crest, scarf, car sticker or even welcoming a friendly salute, such is the outpouring.

It is a football club that has tested the very core of its support during ups and downs on and off the pitch in recent history.

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Brazilian supporter Vitor Dellagiustina at Elland Road 2017.

Those far and wide, though - just like the city of Leeds - have remained steadfast and unwavering in their loyalty to the team that plies its trade in Beeston.

In the Yorkshire Evening Post’s We All Love Leeds series, we look at those supporters groups from far and wide around the world.

We examine their passion for Leeds United and get to the root of what makes the club so special to follow from all corners of the globe.

This week, we speak to Giovanni who is a member of the Brazil fan base and Leeds United BR.

Leeds United Brazilian supporter Tassio.

Firstly, can you introduce yourself - tell us a little bit about who you are and where you are from...

I'm Giovanni, 27 years old, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - the Wonderful City.

I'm a journalist and I work coordinating the video production of one of the biggest newspapers in Brazil, O Globo. My first club is Flamengo, current Brazil and Libertadores champions, but I really feel like this passion is shared with Leeds United nowadays.

Why are you a fan of Leeds United? What drew you to the football club?

Mauro Kraismann, one of the other Leeds United BR founding members.

I can't name a reason I turned out to be a fan of Leeds. These things just don't have a rational explanation. They just are.

I didn't own a video console as a child in the late 90s, so whenever I played PES at friends houses, I would use an unlicensed Leeds United.

I remember the crest really called my attention, but I was just a child at the time and didn't have any knowledge about clubs, leagues and stuff. I only cared about Flamengo and Brazil winning whichever matches they were playing on TV.

But my passion for football in general only grew, and years later, I was interested in knowing how the leagues worked around the world, history of clubs, classic players. I found a Leeds DVD about the best Premier League goals. I remember it being a Hasselbaink goal that lit a sparkle in my mind, bringing all about that club I only knew through games.

Leeds United Brazil supporter Tassio's collection of shirts.

I went on to research about LUFC, found it wasn't the best club in England anymore and was just relegated to third tier. It wasn't as easy as it is today to get the latest news on the club, and I wasn't fluent in English either, so I just kept checking scores every week in and out. Some two years went by when I found a Brazilian community.

It was just a page talking about the club's history and some games, with an English guy or two who lived in Brazil. But at the time I joined, some other new guys also did, and we started making the group more active.

So me and four other lads decided we would also make news in Portuguese about Leeds, and then we created Leeds United BR around 2008-09.

We launched a website and the existing social networks only came to life in 2010, but until then we were chatting daily. I'm saying all of this just to paint the picture because that's when I realised, I was already a fan.

I talked to friends in school I was cheering for a third tier club in English football, I knew the starting line up full of Rui Marques, Andy Robinson, Casper Ankergren and some promising players like Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson, Luciano Becchio, and they wouldn't stop laughing at me.

I guess I felt attracted not only due to the childhood memories, but also the bright history LUFC has. The downfall also makes up a nice story. I always felt sympathy for the underdogs.

The passion struck me and I'm more than proud to have followed Leeds since those dark times to the Premier League once again.

What is so special about being a Leeds United supporter?

Leeds are an outstanding club, composed by marvellous people and supporters. It has a glorious history, titles, honourable players. Everything makes Leeds special.

Being part of it, even far away overseas and having watched a game in Elland Road only once, makes me proud every day.

The motto "side before self, every time" is something that resonates perfectly with me. The sense of being part of a team, helping each other, on and off the pitch, fighting for something along with your mates. Not every club has that energy that I could find in Leeds United.

Tell me about the supporters group? How did it come to be? How many members do you have?

We wanted to spread the word about Leeds in Brazil, even though it was in the third tier of English football by 2008. After we established a community, we started growing on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and our own website.

Following results, cheering during games, translating news to Portuguese, some people started following us and also supporting Leeds United. We have a strong 500 followers on Facebook.

On Twitter we have over 3000 followers, but not only from Brazil. On the WhatsApp group chat there are almost a hundred people talking about Leeds in Portuguese every day.

Unfortunately we haven't had the chance to bring the group to life outside the internet yet. Brazil is large as a continent, many of the fans are spread around, in Rio, São Paulo, but also the southern and northeast states.

So a meeting would consist of only two, three people at most. It hasn't made sense until now, but maybe that can change now more people are joining.

Marcelo Bielsa - tell us about how he is viewed in Brazil...

The worldwide known rivalry between Brazil and Argentina doesn't impact the way Bielsa is viewed in Brazil. He's seen as one of the great thinkers of the game, and everyone serious about football has utmost respect for him.

Have you ever visited Elland Road? If so, what was the experience like?

I have, fortunately! Only once, unfortunately... It's a long and interesting story. It begins in 2012, when a guy I didn't know then, sent a direct message to the group on Twitter.

His name is Jono Goldsack. He asked if anyone in the group was in Rio, because he was about to travel there and wanted some advice, maybe to meet a Leeds fan there.

I said I was available and interested in meeting with him, so when he finally came we met and I managed to show him around the city a bit. We instantly became good friends and I also brought him to a football match at Flamengo.

It made him propose the reverse scenario, inviting me to come to England where he would take me to a Leeds game. It took me more than a year, but I could come not only to watch Leeds, but also to spend New Years Eve in 2014.

We went to watch Leeds on January 1. It wasn't Leeds best times, as you know, and we lost to Blackburn 1-2 on a cold rainy afternoon. Matt Smith scored for us. I really want to come back to Elland Road now Leeds are playing great football.

How do you keep up to date with what is going on with Leeds United? Has social media been important?

Social media has been fundamental since we began our group, because it was born and raised on social media.

We first got in touch with the journalists covering Leeds for BBC, Sky, YEP, of course, and independent media such as The Square Ball. Also, some key supporters and other groups outside of Leeds or England, like Leeds United Americas.

It helped us to be recognised as part of the online community. We also relied on the official website, BBC and Sky Sports live coverage of games, and YEP analysis and exclusive articles on LUFC.

Nowadays social media is even more important, because you don't even need to look for information, it comes to you right in your feed. This interaction is priceless. It also made the group what it is today. If it wasn't for social media we would never be known abroad.

What are your thoughts on Leeds finally being back in the Premier League? How do you think it will boost the presence of Leeds United in Brazil?

I couldn't be more excited about it, and so are the fans in our group. We've waited so long to be back to the Premier League and the wait is finally over, and it was worth it - even though it could have been shorter.

Promotion had an immediate impact on the presence of Leeds United in Brazil. Not only have we been under the spotlight on TV and with a number of articles, lots of people have got in touch with us to get to know Leeds more.

It made people discover Leeds as a giant awaken from a deep sleep.

You mentioned you are trying to become an official supporters branch... do you anticipate a boost in membership?

Leeds is a club with great history, titles, famous players, international presence and a vivid spirit.

Being in the top division again, with Bielsa as a manager, giving trouble to Liverpool and frightening the big clubs, it certainly calls attention to Leeds.

It will happen not only in Brazil. Branches everywhere will feel the same boost. Being recognised as an official branch would feel like a prize and an honour to us, because we've been around the ups and downs.

And it's funny because we look at the team now, which isn't a side full of star players, but it's a very competent side, very well managed.

We've been through the hardest of seas in the middle of a hurricane. Now that the waters are calm, the sun is shining and sailing is easy, everyone wants to be on that boat!