Currently a part owner of Dias Tavern in Cape Town city central, former Vasco da Gama player Joe Hilario shares his footballing memories.
When did you join Vasco and what was it like?
I joined Vasco in around 1995/96 and my time there was fantastic. Before there I was at Saints. They had nothing, not even a soccer field or a club.
The amazing thing when I joined Vasco was they had all the facilities and things were different. We had so many good players like Richard Ribeiro, Johnny de Sousa, Andre Arendse and many more. I had a lot of fun and we grew.
What made the team so special?
It was the togetherness. Everybody used to do 150% for Vasco. The community itself was amazing.
Who was the biggest character in the team?
Gus Rafael, he was a naughty guy. But he was committed and whatever he gave was 150%. He was nice to play with. He used to come into the dressing room very perked up and saying ‘we are going to win today’. It was a bunch of good guys.
What inspired you in your career?
I started playing football late on. When I joined Portugal and the guys playing Saturday and Sunday for Vasco was quite a big influence on the game itself.
The coach played an important role on the Saturday, but on the Sunday the togetherness, again, was like a family and that is what inspired me.
Describe yourself as a player…
As a player I was a very good centre half at the time. I think I was a very decent player at the time. I reckon I was one of the best centre halves in the IFA, even in the Western Cape League.
Tell us about the IFA days?
It is totally different. Football is not the same as it used to be. I remember when Portugal played Italy we had 5 000 people there to watch.
They even took out their guns; somebody always wanted to shoot somebody [Laughs] – it was amazing.
Who was the best player to partner with?
Joe Francisco; he was a player who was behind me. You hardly see him get dirty. Everything he did was perfect. He didn’t get excited.
Everything that came over me he was there, just an amazing player. You can ask anybody they will say Joe went onto the field with clean shorts and came back with clean shorts.
What players would you pick to form a 5-a-side team?
I would pick Gus Rafael, Mario and Carlos Das Neves, Johnny de Sousa and Sandro de Gouveia. I wouldn’t even include myself.