The hiring was on the BBC’s evening news, Scotland’s most watched, in that December 1999.
“Celtic announced that his new player will be called Rafael. Thank God for that,” concluded the presenter, after a brief description of the player.
Rafael Scheidt was a household name in Brazil in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He had been champion of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazilian and Recopa Sul-Americana with Grêmio and was called up for the Brazilian team. But his acquisition by the Scottish giant made him a legendary figure in the country’s football. Not for the right reasons.
The surname Scheidt refers to a popular pronunciation in northern England and Scotland for the word “shit”. It means “shit”. The headline in The Herald, Glasgow daily, the next day was an irresistible pun on the local press: Barnes hires Scheidt.
John Barnes was the team’s coach.
“They (the managers) did not explain the matter to me very well. My father didn’t like me changing my name very much, but I didn’t see any problem. After I heard about the problem. I thought I would give the answer in the field, so I didn’t care “, remembers the ex-defender, nowadays player manager.
Scheidt did not speak English. In this case, fortunately. The humor shows lay down and rolled with the pronunciation. Opponent fans, especially Glasgow Rangers, too.
“This question of the name has become folklore, but the truth is that I was very unlucky in Scotland,” he adds.
The day before the debut, Scheidt was admitted with appendicitis. It took almost a month to get back to training. When he was about to finally take the field, he was shocked in training with a reserve striker and suffered a new injury. In the first six months at Celtic, he played for only 90 minutes. The debut took place on January 3, 2000, against Dundee United, in the local league.
He was also unlucky to be signed at a troubled time for Celtic. John Barnes’s days were numbered.
“I didn’t know him. I had never seen him play. Kenny (Dalglish, former striker who was part of the coaching staff) said he was a defender for the Brazilian team and Rangers were making investments in players. We had to answer,” says the coach, 21 years later.
Scheidt was acquired after analyzing videos of his performances by Grêmio. Celtic even announced that the defender had 16 games for the Brazilian team, but later corrected for three. The other 13 had been for the Olympic team.
The Scottish club paid 5.5 million euros to buy it. Nowadays it would be R $ 35.8 million. The reinforcement salary was 25 thousand euros per week (R $ 162.5 thousand at the current rate).
“Other teams from Europe were interested. There was a history of probing Milan. But Celtic was quick and closed a deal,” said Scheidt.
His performances disappointed, which made the jokes even more vicious. “Rafael is Scheidt” (Rafael is Scheidt, with a pun because of the pronunciation of the surname) was one of the published headlines.
In late 2000, the Brazilian had played only 10 times and John Barnes had been replaced by Irishman Martin O’Neill. The new commander was sincere with Scheidt: he did not plan to use it.
To try to reduce the loss, Celtic agreed to loan it to Corinthians for two years, where the defender was champion of São Paulo, Rio-São Paulo and the Copa do Brasil. Under the agreement, at the end of 2002, he would have to return to Scotland.
“I was willing to prove that I could be a good player for Celtic. I wanted to show that, but I didn’t have a chance,” he says.
The defender was negotiated with Atlético-MG.
“We wanted to make a big signing. We didn’t even think about the name issue, but when we realized, it was already clear that it would be difficult for him to succeed because of the jokes. It would be complicated for Rafael anyway because the atmosphere was bad at the club. He would be criticized in any way “, concludes Barnes.
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