Ex-Vasco da Gama star player Ricardo Custodio rolls back the years in this interview with Senhor Cabo.
Ricardo, tell us about your days as a young kid and teenager playing football?
I think that the real legends of Vasco da Gama are the very people that started the club: Marcie de Nobrega, Dan da Silva, Joe Fransisco and a few more which I am not sure of.
I was a late starter. I played my first game when I was 11 years old when we lived in Paarl. We then moved to Goodwood and I started playing at Pens Goodwood AFC. I played my junior career there and at age 16 I was playing for the first side as a substitute sometimes. I played there till the age of about 18.
How did you join Vasco da Gama?
The last game of the season in 1986 (I think), we played against Vasco. They had to beat us to win the league. They won the league as Old Mutual had a game in hand and they lost it. A Portuguese man came to our dressing room before the game and said that no matter what the result, when the game was done, the two teams would enjoy a case of whiskey.
We won that day with Barry Wilmott using a hand to score the winner and, needless to say, we never saw the man with the whiskey. I was then asked by Sergio dos Santos to join Vasco and that’s what I did.
Did you ever play professionally with Vasco or another club in South Africa?
After playing at Vasco I was invited to go on trials at Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. That was in 1988. It was extremely difficult to make any inroads there as they have cliques.
Also coming from South Africa, the apartheid issues did not help my cause. I stayed at Sporting Lisbon for about one month, I had a dispute with a player and was asked to leave.
I proceeded to a club called Louletano. I was there for a few weeks and it was better than the first trials, but my fitness level was to my detriment.
I then went back to Lisbon and went to a club called Estrela Amadora – they had the biggest Bingo Hall in the world. The coach was a Brazilian and things looked much better. I was confident that I would get a contract as my fitness was improving all the time.
After about three weeks he called me in and said that he was going to arrange a contract for me, I should take a few days off and he will get hold of me. About three days later, on the 19th of April, one of my friends phoned for my birthday. I was homesick and decided there and then that I was coming back home.
I also went on trials at Orlando Pirates when the late Walter da Silva was the head coach. He offered me a contract but I turned it down as I was not prepared to leave Cape Town again. So that’s when I joined Cape Town Spurs.
Who is the best friend you made through football?
That’s a hard question. In my junior years at Pens Goodwood I played with Alan Keet and Johan Gouws. We are still friends today and used to play golf on a regular basis.
At Vasco I am still friends with most of the players that I played with, as well as with the coaches and managers. There were lots of friends also from opposition clubs whom we also befriended.
Which coach brought the best out of you and why?
As a junior it has to be Dawid McCarthy. He had this ‘never give up’ attitude. In the senior level it was Sergio dos Santos because he played in the top level, he knew what he was talking about and always got the best out of a player.
Throughout all the years at Spurs we had a great side. There were players that went to play for Bafana, that played in Premier League in England. The best for me was the closeness of the team and the will to always win and fight till the end. Never give up.
Name your perfect 5-a-side team?
Pepe Reina, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez. First sub: Robin van Persie, Second sub: Ricardo Custodio
Your toughest opponent ever and why do you say this?
No one specific, but it was difficult to play against players who could run as fast as you, or jump as high as you. I think on your day you can outplay anyone or you can be outplayed.
What would you like to see improved in the Premier Soccer League?
They can start by giving the lower tier sides a bit more grant so as to afford to buy better players. I think the financial strain of running a club must be tremendous and stressful.
Also maybe monitor more games that are played in the far places where cheating happens a lot. Maybe pay the referees better so as to help curb cheating.
What is your current occupation and where do you live?
I am currently employed by Britos Meats. I manage the butchery in Paarl. I reside in Durbanville.
Lastly, to my one and only fan … Paul de Gouveia (Porto Santo Butchery). Supporters like you are far and few!