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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kleberson arrival a dream come true for Fernandes

HORSHAM TWP. – It looked as if Leo Fernandes had found his dream job.

No, not professional soccer, though that’s pretty cool too for the supplemental draft pick and Philadelphia Union forward.
Kleberson, left, and Le Fernandes at the former's introduction
ceremony Wednesday night.

The rookie filled a different role Wednesday night: Translator, and for his idol, to boot.

At the unveiling of new signee Kleberson at a fan event in Horsham Wednesday, Fernandes, the native of Brazil by way of Stony Brook University, stood in as the Union’s translator for the newly-acquired 33-year-old Brazilian midfielder.

“It’s my first time translating, so I think I did a pretty good job,” Fernandes said. “I was pretty nervous, I can’t lie. … It was great to help him out.”

Fernandes was only drafted into the role when the Union’s original translating plans fell through.

Fernandes, 22, grew up watching the exploits of Kleberson in his home Brazil. A native of Sao Paolo, Fernandes didn’t move to the states until later in his youth.

The memory of the 2002 World Cup final, in particular, sticks out vividly in Fernandes’ mind.

“Fifth grade, I used to wake up early to watch the Brazil national team play in Japan,” he said. “The number one thing I remember was Kleberson in the middle going to work. That assist to Ronaldo for the second goal, I’ll never forget that in my life because that clinched the World Cup title for Brazil.”

The first interaction between the two when Kleberson arrived from Brazilian club Bahia two weeks ago is also indelibly marked on Fernandes’ mind.

“The first thing I said to him was, ‘oh you’re such a great player; it’s an honor to meet you,’” Fernandes said. “And of course he’s so humble so he said, ‘no, it’s great to meet you, too.’”

The fact that he’s playing with one of the players he so often watched play on television is a dream come true for him and his family.

“I told my uncle and my aunt, they live in Brazil,” he said. “They can’t believe I’m playing with Kleberson. It’s so surreal to me that I’m playing with him.”

In addition to the hope that Kleberson’s arrival will be a boon to the club, Fernandes is also hopeful he can learn from a player he looked up to in his youth.

“I’ve been trying to stick with him ever since he got here trying to learn everything. He’s a legend in Brazil,” Fernandes said. “… I think I can learn everything. Just how to become a better play, how to be a better professional. Just everything, the little things in my game that I can learn every day. That’s what I was most excited about: For him to come here to I could get better.”

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