Having an excellent first season with the Montreal Impact, the 21-year-old midfielder spoke with Goal.com about his trying past, promising present and uncertain future.MONTREAL - As an expansion team, the Montreal Impact have inevitably needed to make a considerable amount of decisions with respect to players and, by and large, sporting director Nick De Santis has put together a very solid side.
But of all the good decisions that have been made, none stick out more than the acquisition of midfielder Felipe Martins Campanholi, or better known as simply Felipe.
The Brazilian has been one of the Impact’s best performers this season. His four goals and nine assists make him the second best point getter in the team, and he’s now become one of the favorites to win some of Major League Soccer’s prestigious individual awards, such as best newcomer and best youth player.
Felipe has really thrived in the last half of the season, when he started playing in a more attacking midfield role. Despite having played many different positions in his career, Felipe explained that playing in a more advanced position on the field suits him most.
“I’ve played just about every position in my career,” Felipe told Goal.com. “Playing higher up the field, I have more freedom to express my qualities. Playing deeper in the midfield you have to be much more attentive to the defensive aspect of the game and you have to be more cautious with what you do. Then we have other quality players up front that help make my job easier.”
Before coming to the Impact, Felipe spent six years playing soccer in Europe - three years with Padova, and then three seasons in Switzerland with FC Winterthur, FC Lugano and FC Wohlen. It’s not every day that a 21-year-old soccer player playing in Europe decides to make the jump across the pond to play in North America, but Felipe didn’t see the move as a step down.
“The first time I heard that they were looking for me, I immediately said yes,” said Felipe. “I just had a really positive feeling when I first heard about this team. Coming here provides me with a good challenge. I came to a continent whose soccer is becoming more and more known throughout the world and many players are coming here now. It’s great to be part of a new team as well.”
Not everything has been rosy, however.
Having to live on his own, away from his parents and family from such a young age is a very big challenge for the Brazilian, and still is.
“I left Brazil for Italy when I was fifteen,” explained Felipe. “It’s always difficult leaving home, I didn’t speak Italian, nothing. Coming to a new country and you don’t know anything is tough. Sure, the people were very welcoming, but it’s not the same being in another country away from your family.”
The first time Felipe left his hometown in the state of Parana was at the age of eleven. He played for clubs in Santa Catarina and Rio de Janeiro, which were often 18 hour bus rides away as "planes were way too expensive."
Despite the challenges of new places, the pressures of succeeding and trying to find a stable income, the key for Felipe has been being confident in his own abilities.
“You always have to be aware of the qualities you have, and believing in yourself doesn’t mean trying to be a superstar, but being aware of what your strengths are. I always believed that I could come here and do well,” he explained.
“But there are other factors that help too: the people, the coach, the players, the staff, the president, Nick [De Santis]. They’ve all welcomed me really well, in a way that has helped me settle down and play better. I’ve found a city that’s very welcoming and I’m happy with what I’m doing and I hope to continue to do well.”
Already a fan favorite with the Impact faithful, if Felipe continues to play as well as he has been, he’s bound to become part of Impact folklore. But with every goal and assist, there’s always a greater chance that maybe another club will want his services too. For now, Felipe insists he doesn’t know what the future has in store, but that he wants to help the team reach its goals and play an important part of the club’s history.
“Montreal is a big project and where there is a project there’s ambition and objectives,” said Felipe. “Being a part of this project at its beginning, it’s obvious that I want to remain, do well and play an important part of the club’s history.
"In life you never know, you can always change direction, but it’s important to go where you’re happy and where you can find happiness, like I have here.”
Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com Canada.