Dário Essugo is the boy who cried these days. Tears of joy after Sporting’s debut, but paradoxically with the confrontation with the nickname that the 16-year-old conquered in his childhood: the child who smiles.
“He solemnly irritated colleagues and opponents because he only smiled,” says PÚBLICO António Martins, the first coach and football sponsor of the young “Leonino”. Dário was even enjoyed by his companions because he always showed his teeth whether he was playing, training, socializing, greeting or saying goodbye.
For Alvalade, Dário Essugo took this smile from the neighborhood. A young man emerged from the Serra da Luz in Odivelas, surrounded by unfavorable conditions, crime, lack of opportunities and alienation from urban modernization.
An article by PÚBLICO from 1999 already talked about the work of the neighborhood club. “The Sports and Recreation Union of Santa Maria is the only community in the region that tries to connect young people with positive values that keep them from an everyday life marked by marginality and crime,” it says.
Dário was also hugged by the UDR Santa Maria – “Santa” – for his friends. There they gave him his hand. And a lawn. And a ball. And a second family. A few days ago the country found out in Alvalade that they were giving him a future in “Santa Claus”.
“We did training sessions on a Saturday morning and there he was. At that time he was already an outsider. We asked him to return, but he disappeared. It was ashamed. But he returned there on Monday and signed the inscription ”, says António Martins,“ Mr. Tó ”, about the beginning of the adventure of a boy from humble and poor families.
“You are very humble and reserved. His success is thanks to the family he has. There are four [pais e o irmão, Danilo, dos sub-23 do Sporting]but they are one. And Dário is very attached to his mother, ”he says of the player who broke the record for the youngest player in the I Liga – he is only 16 years old and surpasses the 16 years and 122 days of Matchoi Djaló from Paços de Ferreira .
At Sporting, Essugo broke the record for Santamaria, a center-back who made his debut in 1999 at the age of 16. Out of curiosity, Santamaria also came from the neighborhood of Urmeira in Odivelas and started playing in Santa Maria – hence the nickname.
Benfica wanted to, but the wrong way
When he returned to Dário and played in “Santa”, the young man could no longer worry his mother, while his boy played in the street in the goal posts made of stones or rucksacks. At the club, he and his brother found themselves in a controlled environment, surrounded by people tailored to lead them. And there they became visible.
Darius in particular had rare valences at this level. Was it him and ten more? “I wouldn’t say so much, but he has taken on this responsibility himself [de ser a estrela da equipa]. He read the game very well and took over the game if necessary. The playing midfielder had the ability to catch the ball and vary the flank very well. As an extreme, it was fantastic too, for its speed and dribbling. It was way above average, with light dribbling, intelligence, a lot of strength and skill with both feet. “
In Dário’s case, playing with both feet isn’t just a triviality common to many players – the Portuguese-Angolan took the concept to another level.
Essugo and João Mário, now teammates Twitter / Sporting
“One day before a tournament I stopped to pick it up from Senhor Roubado, but I forgot. I didn’t miss him until we got to the game. I asked a friend to pick him up and I said to my colleagues in the game: “Watch him take the free kicks”. Dário scored two free-kick goals: one with a right foot at an angle and one with a left foot, also at an angle. “
Depending on the position of the foul and the position of the barrier, Dário Essugo chose the foot with which to hit the ball. And it was skills of this kind that put him in the Benfica and Sporting watch books.
Benfica, Mr Tó tells us, approached the player the wrong way and tried to show that he had a lot of economic power with offers to convince him – they talked about football boots and tracksuits, among other things. Dário’s mother Florinda did not like the materialistic approach and removed the fangs of the “eagles” of the then little Dário.
Sporting, on the other hand, convinced the player’s family with a more “human” project and, above all, long-term thinking.
At Sporting Dário knocked on the door of “Santa”
Dário joined Sporting in 2014, but the connection with the neighborhood and Santa Maria was an indestructible triangle. Two years ago, as a player for the youth of the sport, the athlete “Leonino” wanted to stay in shape in the summer. And by the hand of his father he knocked on the door of “his” “Santa Claus”.
“The father asked Danilo to work with us and of course I never denied it. Then Dário started walking ”, says PÚBLICO Hugo Cardoso, who at the time was coaching a team of athletes born in 2002. Danilo was at that level, but Dário was from … 2005.
“He was three years younger than the others, but he stood out. We have all seen that it has immense potential. We knew there was a diamond, ”he emphasizes.
When asked whether those who already played for Sporting and trained with Santa Maria athletes were arrogant, Hugo Cardoso made it clear: “Never. Nothing. It has always been very humble. He never had a raised nose. He and his brother. Both very respectfully. And Dário always with a smile on his face. Ever “.
The smile was that of a neighborhood boy who never lacked for anything. The tears in Alvalade, as he defined them, were “those of a boy who always dreamed of this day”.