Eder with compatriot Ronaldo after the final match of EURO 2016
The fairy-tale run of Eder Lopes, Portugal football hero at the final of Euro 2016 tournament, is one that readily reduces one to a state of tears.
Rejection by his English club, Swansea City for failing to score in 15 appearances; biological father serving life sentence for allegedly killing his step mother were few of those trying moments that compelled the star striker to contemplate suicide before fortune eventually smiled on him.
In a recent interview conducted by Daily Mail, Éderzão António Macedo Lopes also known as Eder disclosed that he was born in the Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau in December 1987, before moving to Portugal when he was three.
Moving forward, Eder further threw more highlights on his father’s past, relives his upbringing in an orphanage and explains why, just two years ago, he came very close to ending his own life.
Eder's father, Antonio Lopes with Domingas Olivais in 2002
His father, Filomeno Antonio Lopes, has been in an English prison since 2003, serving a life sentence for the murder of Eder’s stepmother, Domingas Olivais.
At age 8, when it was obvious that the family couldn’t make ends meet, Eder was taken into an orphanage.
“I can’t lie, it was very hard,” he says, explaining how he played soccer with bare feet on a playground littered with broken glass.
“Yeah — very difficult. I was in an orphanage without my parents. Things can go badly in those places. I look at where some of my friends are now and... yeah, they’re not very well. I had two or three mentors but it was not the same as your mum and dad. I had little contact with my parents. I was resentful.
'As I grew older, my mum and I increased contact, but it was an irregular one. We don’t have a normal relationship because we lost those big moments together when I was growing up. Now, my mum and I are reunited and back in contact. She moved to England and my sister lives in Wolverhampton. And then there’s my father...’
It would be recalled that in 2003, a jury at Norwich Crown Court heard that Eder’s father had murdered his partner. According to witnesses report, he picked her up from work, struck her with a steering wheel lock, strangled her and dumped her body into the River Bure by Great Yarmouth.
Antonio Lopes is still serving jail term in England
However the man’s alibi was that he went to McDonald’s after dropping Ms Olivais back at a hotel. Unfortunately, the CCTV footage did not vouch for him.
Furthermore, local reports add that his father had sought asylum in England by claiming that he was fleeing civil war in his homeland but there are also claims that he was the subject of an extradition order by Portuguese authorities in connection with three armed robberies.
“I was just 12 and in an orphanage,” Eder says, puffing his cheeks out. ‘My stepmother died, they accused my father and he is in prison.
'I wasn’t there and obviously I can’t say for certain what happened. But my dad says he is innocent. Then, it becomes a question that requires a lot of soul-searching. He is my dad and I believe him. I am not stating that the court did anything wrong but he is my father. He is still in jail in England. I had visited him. I started to visit him when I was 22 and when I have time, I see him.’
After he had developed a passion for football at the orphanage, young Eder would escape to a nearby cafe to watch Premier League matches.
However, he moved out at the age of 18 and teamed up with Portuguese second-tier club Tourizense on a monthly wage of £330. He moved on to Academica and Braga, where he played Champions League football and got his international call-up in 2012.
After the 2014 World Cup, where Portugal failed to progress from the group stage, he was ridiculed by the press. On social media, he was compared to a traffic cone. Self-doubts emerged.
In the darkest moments, this charming young man contemplated ending his own life. ‘Yeah...’ he said, steadying himself.
‘My mind went to some very bad places. I went through a very low phase. I had suffered some bad injuries and went to the World Cup and things didn’t go well. It was hard. I struggled to believe in things and dream again. It was a really horrible period for me and you wonder whether you can escape it.
‘My turning point came after one game in Braga. I went to kick a ball about with a little girl who was wearing our colours. Her mum, Susana Torres, asked if she could have a picture. We began to exchange emails. Before the World Cup, she sent me a Facebook message saying her daughter wanted to go. I missed it and I didn’t respond.
‘After a year, I saw the message and apologised. I gave a jersey with her daughter’s name. Then she said that if my friends needed a psychological coach, then I should let them know about her. I worked hard on my mentality and began to dream again. Susana was the catalyst. She helped a lot.
‘I think footballers are still a bit funny about this kind of thing. Some think that they can seem weaker. But it’s changing,’ he said.
Eder now believes he is over his psychological problems but he continues to work closely with Susana. Indeed, they are planning to write a book.
In Portugal, all has been forgiven and a website has been launched called DisculpaEder.com (Sorry Eder), where fans have sent messages apologising for all that has gone on before.
He is a bright man, a fluent speaker of four languages — English, French, Spanish and Portuguese — and with a sharp interest in world issues.
On why he failed at Swansea City in England, this is how he puts it:
‘It was hard at Swansea. I started just two Premier League games and if you look at the statistics, you will see that I mostly had 10 or 20 minutes. I came to Lille because I wanted to make the Euros. There was something poetic about the goal. It was the tournament of the underdog.
Eder being applauded as he lifts the EURO 2016 Cup
'Unexpected teams did very well and then I scored my goal. Wales did it. Iceland did it. I did it. People have to dream and believe. Sport can never lose that.
‘Garry Monk, who signed me, sent me the loveliest text after the final saying it was an incredible goal and that he was thrilled.
At 28, this, remarkably, was Eder’s first competitive goal for Portugal.
‘I received it on the half-turn,’ he grins, shifting his salt away from Laurent Koscielny’s pepper.
‘I jinked away from Koscielny and found some space to shoot. Then I just let fly. And how it flew! I hit it so hard and when the ball smashed into the net I was so happy. It was huge for me, huge for us, huge for the country.’
The day Eder visited the orphanage after his great goal, he broke down and cried during the visiting.
God has rewarded him for all his pain!!!!
Amazing story, isn’t it?
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