In ‘Past of The Future’, we will tell a story of an Ajax talent. Where did he grow up? What are his dreams? How did he get into the Ajax Academy? In this first episode: Danilo Pereira.
Almost one and a half years ago, Danilo Pereira da Silva transferred from Santos to Ajax. He left his home for a new adventure in Amsterdam. It is great to see how Danilo has developed, how he is trying to master the English language and how he increasingly starts to feel at home 10,000 kilometers away from his hometown. After a great freshman year in the U19’s, he has been a member of the Ajax U21 squad since this summer and he made his debut in the first team match squad on 31 October 2018 against Go Ahead Eagles (Cup Fixture).
Danilo grew up in Corinthians-Itaquera, a poor favela in eastern São Paulo. Life in the favela was not only one of poverty, it was also (very) dangerous. Even though it was not an easy childhood, Danilo is happy that he grew up in a hard-working family who, despite everything, managed to survive in a dangerous neighborhood. With his current own income he can also do something for his family.
“Every day my father said that I had to stay sensible. He skipped meals sometimes to take me to school or to football. If children around me were financially well and were able to buy something nice, I wanted that too. But my father then said: ‘Oh boy, that is not going to happen today, but tomorrow I will try my best to buy it for you.’ Those things really moved me.” (Ajax.nl, January 2018)
Danilo started playing football at a very young age, as a way to have fun and forget all the dangerous things around him in the neighborhood. His talent was already visible at the age of four, so his parents – despite the limited financial resources – registered him for a football school. It was at that school where Danilo’s dream to become a professional football player was born. After a while, he got the opportunity to play a tryout game for Santos. It took some time, but he got good news eventually: Santos accepted him and he was invited to play in their youth academy. This was an indescribable moment for a young Danilo, who enjoyed his time in the Academy of Santos, where he made a lot of friends and he got to know a lot of people. After a while, he was told that a club was following him closely. He heard that it was a club from outside Brazil, but they did not let him know which club. He continued to train hard and take in all the feedback. One day, after a game against Santo André, Danilo was told that Ajax was following him for a while now and was interested in him. It was a shock: the young striker could never have imagined that he could play football outside of Brazil.
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Danilo had to make a life changing decision. Ajax is a club that offers opportunities for young talents, improves these talents and is also one of the most famous clubs in Europe. He chose to take a chance: to play football outside Brazil, in Europe. Danilo crossed the ocean to follow his dream.
In the summer of 2017, Danilo moved from Santos and signed a five-year-contract at Ajax. The first three months were very difficult for him, because he wasn’t able to speak English or Dutch. Nevertheless, he had a great first season in the U19’s. He scored 16 goals in his first 23 appearances for the club and he even made his debut for Ajax U21 (March 2018). Since this summer, he has been a member of the Ajax U21 squad. Danilo scored his first two goals for Ajax U21 and in professional football in August, during the second game of the season. Danilo often gets playing time and he managed to continue his form of last season. He has scored six times in the first twelve games of the season and he starts to feel more and more comfortable in Amsterdam. He loves Ajax, especially because the club has given him the chance to be where he is now. Secretly, he dreams to play in the first team with his friend David Neres. On the 31th of October, he made his debut in the first team squad. Danilo stayed on the bench, but it still was a great experience and sign for him.
The appreciation for both David Neres and Danilo Pereira for Ajax is enormous: “I really enjoy everything here at Ajax. The Dutch people are always very nice to me, which is great. The only thing I do not like is the cold weather, but I certainly enjoy it here. Ajax is great. Everything is perfect at the club, unbelievable. I am treated very well by everyone who works here. It doesn’t matter in which team you play, the respect is always the same. I watch the first team a lot and I learn a lot from Kasper Dolberg and David Neres. I see them as sources of inspiration, especially Neres of course, because he also comes from Brazil “, Pereira told Ajax TV (March 2018). As mentioned before, also Neres’ appreciation for Ajax is huge: “Ajax really gives talent the chance to develop by investing in them. The club cherishes talents such as Danilo and me. It is comparable to Santos and São Paulo, while Palmeiras and Corinthians are appreciating the older and bought players much more.” (Ajax.nl, January 2018)
Pereira’s development does not only take place on the pitch, but also off the pitch. He can speak English better and better every day. “I used to never like learning English. In Brazil I never want to go to English lessons at school, but now it’s so useful for me. I need it and just try to talk to everyone.” (Ajax TV, February 2018)
Despite everything, it is sometimes very difficult to live far away from his family. Danilo wants to give his parents something back and it is now possible for his family to stay in the Netherlands for a while. His girlfriend is also very important for him, because she helps him enormously with everything.
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Danilo hopes he can make his debut in the first team, one day. He wants to win many titles with Ajax and wants to become as good as his idol: Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City attacker also grew up in a favela and is now one of the best footballers in Brazil. Danilo can mirror himself to Gabriel Jesus, not only because of his background, but also because of his style of play. He wants to continue his development and wants to become even more important with goals and assists.
Another source of inspiration for Danilo is friend and example David Neres. The two Brazilians are very happy with each other, something that Pereira benefits from. “David is such a good person. He is like a brother to me. He often helps me and I talk a lot with him. He is very funny, but also important. He plays in the first team and that’s something I want to achieve one day.” (Ajax TV, February 2018)
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