Get Your Drinks From a Brazilian Soccer Player While You Still Can

Julia Pimentel/NYU

Veto at work behind the bar. (Julia Pimentel/NYU)

Velto Chapeta Matoso is a bartender who doesn’t drink alcohol. He’s a Brazilian professional soccer player who gave the sport up by choice. He’s lived in New York City for 18 years now, but he’s thinking of returning to Brazil to go back to soccer helping disadvantaged kids get into the sport. He’s also an immigrant to the United States. It might seem like Matoso’s life is a series of contradictions, but the one thing that remains true is that he loves New York City.

JP: Tell me about where you’re from and why you’re in New York.

VCM: Well, I’ve been here for 18 years here, a year and a half in Holland, and one year in Portugal. I’m from Macaé, in the state of Rio de Janeiro. I played soccer – I started in the Flamengo youth team but then played for Bangu. We were vice national champions and vice state champions. In 1993, I came here on a trip, liked it, and never left. I abandoned my soccer career in Brazil and started to play at an amateur level here in the U.S. But I also started to work and make good money, so I ended up staying. I got married after six months. I really fell in love, and we were married for eight years.

How was your English?

I didn’t know English when I got here, I didn’t even know how to say “what time is it”… When I first got here, I worked at a nightclub, a really popular one in the 90s here in New York called China Club. Monday nights were crazy… That’s where I met my American ex-wife. She actually thought I was American… I had long, curly hair. She got my number, and in six months we were married.

How long have you been working here?

I’ve been working here [at Pomodoro restaurant on the Upper West Side] for fifteen years. I love it. Because I’m Brazilian, the owner put caipirinha on the menu.

Why New York? What’s your favorite part of the city?

Oh… Manhattan is amazing. There’s culture everywhere you go, and anything you might need on every corner. Everything is easy. That’s what kept me in New York back then, and it’s what keeps me here today. I live in New Jersey now, I just bought a house there. I love Manhattan itself – I’ve lived on the Upper East Side, on 91st between 1st and 2nd, and I really liked that area. It’s funny, when I went to get my greencard, the Brazilian consul-general lived on the same street as me! I saw him and thought it was the coolest thing. Now, my grandmother lives there. But it was a huge coincidence.

Do you ever miss Brazil?

Oh, a lot. I actually miss Brazil more now than before. I actually plan on returning definitively. I don’t really know why, but family… I’ve been visiting more often, and… Unfortunately, I never had any kids here. I was married twice, divorced twice, but no kids. And now I’ve converted, I’m an Evangelical now, so my headspace changed a little bit. I’m looking at life a little differently now. I want to be more with my family. My mother’s family consists of eight sisters and five brothers, and I have a lot of nephews and nieces. Two weeks ago, one of my nieces passed away in a car accident. She was 26. It was terrible. Really, really terrible… So now my family asks me, why don’t you come back? I have my things there, you know, I have my apartment, I have some land, so I’m thinking very seriously of returning.

Would you go back to soccer?

Well, I have some offers. For example, today, back in Macaé, a friend of mine has a soccer clinic, like a soccer camp, for children from humble backgrounds. It’s a big project, and I think it’s very cool. I want to work with that. I told him, if we’re going to work together, it has to be like this and this and that. He told me, yes, that’s what I’m thinking, man! So, we’re thinking of calling like eight guys who’ve gone through the same thing so we have some perspective of experience, and then each one can work in an area. It would be a serious project, really.

Would your time here in the U.S. help you once you’re back in Brazil?

It does. The infrastructure here is better so I know what that’s like and can apply it back home. Even material things I have more experience with because I’ve been here.

This interview has been edited for clarity and has been translated from Portuguese to English by the author.

Pomodoro Restaurant is on 229 Columbus Ave, (212) 721-3009

About author

Julia Pimentel
Julia Pimentel 2 posts

Student. Writer. Brazilian (via London, South Africa, India, Canada and the US). Dog enthusiast. //

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