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Felipe Azevedo on football in Thailand and America The beginnings of the Copa Libertadores de Mineiro

By Louis Smith.

Felipe Azevedo will take part in his first Copa Libertadores game this week when his América Mineiro side host Guarani in the second qualifying round. He hopes it will be the first of many games in the competition this season.

His journey as a professional footballer began in 2006 with América de Rio Preto and his fledgling career saw him join six Brazilian clubs ahead of the 2009-10 season. During that season, he first ventured outside of Brazil, joining Slovak club FC Petržalka on loan.

It would take two more loan moves before Azevedo found his first real footballing home at Sport Recife in 2012.

During his three years at the northeast club, he racked up 174 appearances, scored 34 times and helped the club win the Copa do Nordeste and Campeonato Pernambucano titles in 2014.

In 2017, after two seasons at Ponte Preta, the Brazilian chose to move abroad again, this time on a permanent contract by joining Thai side Chiangrai United.

“I went to play in a Thai club, after the invitation of a Brazilian coach who was there at the time, Alexandre Gama, and I always heard good things about the country and the championship clubs”, says Felipe Azevedo . Wireless.

“Chiangrai United were a club looking to grow in the country and it was an invitation that was extended, and I saw it with good eyes, and we had a very good year there.”

During his time there, Azevedo enjoyed a phenomenal season, helping the club lift the Thai FA Cup where he scored six goals in the competition.

He represented Chiangrai a total of 30 times, scoring 18 goals – an incredible record for someone who had to adapt to a new style of football in a new country.

“Asian football is very different from Brazilian football,” adds Azevedo. “Brazilian football is more competitive, it’s football with a wider range of quality players.

“Thai football surprised me a lot, it’s a football that has good players, but with a little less intensity compared to Brazilian football.

“Korean football is a bit similar to Brazilian football. Korean football is fast, fast and transitional football. I had the opportunity to play in South Korea too and saw this difference.

“But Thai football is changing, they are changing every year, trying to improve their home teams, taking on more quality players to improve the league. I believe Thailand will soon reach a better level in international competitions.

“When I arrived in 2017, the club’s objective was to have a better league campaign. We managed to finish in fourth place, an unprecedented achievement for the club at the time.

“We have reached the final of the two cups that exist in the country, the Thai Cup and the Toyota Cup.

“Unfortunately, we lost in the Toyota Cup final, but we managed to become Thailand Cup champions [Thai FA Cup] which gave the team a place in the Asian Champions League the following year.

“You can see how in 2017 we managed to change the level of the club in the country and it was a really cool year in which I was the competition’s top scorer with six goals and we got that title without precedent for the team.”

After his stint in Asia, Azevedo again opted for the comforts of home when he signed for Ceará in 2018 who had just been promoted to the Brasileirão. Azevedo and Ceará enjoyed a solid campaign managing to avoid relegation.

América Mineiro came calling in 2019 and Azevedo signed the dotted line. In his debut season, América narrowly missed out on promotion to Serie A on the final day of the season in heartbreaking circumstances.

A year later, lightning will not strike twice as America finishes in second place, 15 points ahead of fifth-place CSA (the top four teams are promoted).

Coelho were expected to be in the relegation battle for the 2021 season but upset the odds, not only avoiding relegation but also earning a place in Brazil’s top eight on the final day of the 2021 season with a 2-0 victory on the 2005 world champions Sao Paolo. They thus qualified for the Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious continental competition in South America.

“The club’s main objective was to stay in Serie A, that’s something we talked about a lot,” adds Azevedo.

“We were working hard to keep the team in Serie A – something the club had never achieved – and we went beyond that. Now we have an opportunity in the Libertadores.

“We made a great story here last year – a very successful year for the club – and now we have the opportunity in 2022 to do even more. We will work to achieve the club’s goals this year too.

When the referee ended their 2021 season, Azevedo explains his full-time feelings.

“Happy, I felt very happy. It was a unique joy to have qualified the team for Libertadores.

“We have won an unprecedented opportunity for the club. Now we have to work to achieve even more here at the club.

Azevedo was key in helping the team qualify for the 2021 Libertadores, not only did he score five goals and three assists, but he played in all but one game of a difficult 38-game league season in six months. Not bad for a 35 year old man.

“It was a spectacular season for me,” he says of those accomplishments. “It’s something very important, considering my age too.

“I have always been a player who had this primordial physique, it is something essential for me to be able to play at a high level.

“I’m a guy who takes great care of myself. I train every day at high intensity and my life off the pitch is very calm — it’s family, there’s no alcohol, there’s no cigarettes, nothing disturbs my physical condition.

“I’m very happy to be able to play a season with so many games, but I think the main thing is to take care of yourself.

“Now this year has even more challenges than last year, with more competitions to play, so we have to prepare well once again.”

America MG will start their Libertadores campaign against a Guarani side that have been regulars in the competition.

For America, this will be a historic occasion, not only for the club but also for Azevedo who will achieve one of his life’s goals.

“I think when I go to the Libertadores game and step onto the pitch during the warm-up and see these ‘Libertadores’ signs around the pitch, I think it will strike me in relation to that feat and the accomplishment of it. in my career at the age of 35,” says Azevedo.

“There are things that only God does and in his time. It is not in our time. Sometimes we want to fight time, but God has a lot of power to make things happen in our lives.

“I had the opportunity to play in the Copa Sudamericana but not in a Libertadores, but it’s like I said, we have to prepare, don’t be mistaken, don’t get excited, because if you don’t do it right, we’ll come out at the first phase, leaving this dream behind.

“So we have to prepare very well to be able to play two good games against the Guarani of Paraguay and move on to the next round.”

In addition to the Libertadores, Azevedo and América Mineiro have to fight for the Campeonato Mineiro, the Copa do Brasil and the Brasileirão and they are also hoping for another historic campaign at domestic level.

“This year we want several things and we will fight for them all,” added Azevedo.

“I think individually it’s about trying to play as many games as possible, trying to help teammates in most games by scoring and assisting, that’s what a striker should make.

“We have the ambition to seek the title of Minas Gerais [Campeonato Mineiro], qualifying for the Libertadores group stage would be something spectacular for us. Another stay in Serie A and another aim to qualify for a continental championship in 2023.

“I think anything is possible. We are lucky, so we will continue all this with a lot of dedication and training.


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