Grafite took windy road to our Mzansi

JOHANNESBURG - Not many people expected Grafite to be at the World Cup - not even the Brazil striker himself.

He had no idea it would happen when he played in an amateur league in exchange for diapers and food for his newborn baby girl.

He had no idea it would happen when he hopped from door to door on the streets of a small Brazilian city selling trash bags as a 21-year-old.

Actually, he had no idea it would happen even on the day coach Dunga announced the 23 Brazilian players headed to the World Cup in South Africa.

Edinaldo Batista Libanio, known as Grafite, was a late addition to Brazil's World Cup squad, making the team after playing only a few minutes under Dunga's command.

"Three months ago I had no hopes of playing at the World Cup," Grafite said. "I knew Dunga had closed his group of players and my chances were minimal." One of the least known players in a Brazilian squad already missing many stars, Grafite got his shot after regular starter Luis Fabiano was dropped for a friendly against Ireland in March.

Grafite was added to the team and made the most of it, impressing Dunga in Brazil's 2-0 victory in London, the team's final match before the World Cup squad was announced.

"I still thought I was a long shot to make the team," he said.

Grafite was so nervous the day the coach summoned the Brazilian squad that he couldn't even watch the announcement.

"I was in my house and just went to the garden with my dog to wait there," the 31-year-old Wolfsburg striker said. "My family and my friends were in the living room watching the TV. From time to time I would just look at them from the garden to see what was going on. If they kept quiet I knew it would be bad news. All of a sudden they started yelling and celebrating.

"When I heard I was summoned to the World Cup, I started getting flashes of my early days.

"Of when I was in Campo Limpo Paulista playing for diapers and groceries for my daughter, Ana Carolina, who had just been born."

Unlike most Brazilian players, it took a long time until Grafite was able to make it as a professional.

- Sapa-AP