When a LinkedIn Message Changed Everything: The Transformation of Roberto ‘Pico’ Lopes

When a LinkedIn Message Changed Everything: The Transformation of Roberto 'Pico' Lopes

Dublin native Roberto “Pico” Lopes had resigned himself to not representing the Republic of Ireland at the senior international level, despite his standout performances in junior competitions. However, a pivotal message on LinkedIn altered the course of his soccer career and life.

When a LinkedIn Message Changed Everything: The Transformation of Roberto 'Pico' Lopes
When a LinkedIn Message Changed Everything: The Transformation of Roberto ‘Pico’ Lopes

The Shamrock Rovers defender received an unexpected message in Portuguese from Cape Verde’s head coach, Rui Águas, via LinkedIn. Initially dismissing it as a welcome message due to the language barrier, Lopes ignored the first message. Fortunately, Águas persisted, sending a follow-up message in English nine months later, clarifying his offer.

With the help of Google Translate, Lopes realized he had the opportunity to represent Cape Verde’s national team. This marked the beginning of a journey that saw him make his debut for Cape Verde and subsequently participate in two Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournaments, accumulating 18 caps.

Coming off a fourth consecutive league title in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers, where he was the sole Rovers player in the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland’s team of the year, Lopes now prepares to face some of the world’s top forwards at AFCON, including Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.

Lopes is part of a growing trend where players, with eligibility under FIFA’s nationality rules, represent international teams based on the ancestry of their parents or grandparents. This phenomenon, a reversal of historical soccer migration, has become prevalent, with over 100 such players participating in AFCON.

The article highlights historical instances of African-born players representing colonizing nations and contrasts it with the current trend of African players featuring prominently in European soccer. With changing policies, more African nations actively scout for talent born abroad, tapping into the global diaspora.

The narrative includes insights from players like Samuel Eto’o, who played a role in recruiting players with Cameroonian roots, emphasizing the complex issue of changing nationalities and the personal significance it holds for individuals.

For Lopes, representing Cape Verde has not only elevated his soccer career but also strengthened his connection to his father’s homeland. The experience has allowed him to embrace his Cape Verdean identity, fostering pride in both himself and his father, who left Cape Verde at 16. Lopes plans to visit Cape Verde in the offseason, strengthening familial bonds and further immersing himself in the culture.

As he sets his sights on the Africa Cup of Nations, Lopes reflects on the profound impact of that second LinkedIn message, recognizing how it transformed not just his soccer journey but his sense of identity and belonging.

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