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Lurgan Blues banking on Renato to deliver some Brazilian flair

By Graham Luney

Glenavon's new signing Renato Devicchi Martins has already immersed himself in the Northern Irish culture by sampling an Ulster Fry and Lurgan Blues fans are licking their lips at the prospect of witnessing some Brazilian magic in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Supporters are hoping Mourneview Park will soon rock to a Samba beat and the 27-year-old's arrival has certainly raised eyebrows across the Irish League family.

Renato, clutching his Italian passport, only touched down in Northern Ireland on Friday, and Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton has given him a warm welcome and an opportunity to showcase his skills on these shores.

The story behind Renato's arrival in the province is Kyle Neill's relationship with a Brazilian coach called Felipe which developed last year.

Not to be confused with the World Cup winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari who was in Northern Ireland recently on holiday - a different Felipe struck up a friendship with the Glenavon ace and now he's found the Lurgan side a footballer.

Glenavon chiefs introduced Renato to an Ulster Fry on Saturday morning before he went on to Shamrock Park to watch his new side conquer Portadown in the mid-Ulster derby.

When international clearance is obtained he is expected to be the first Brazilian to feature for the Glenavon first team - and it's also an exciting bit of business for the Irish League.

After all, we aren't Brazil, we're Northern Ireland.

You would need to look further afield for Brazilian talent with Limerick just signing striker Rodrigo Tosi yesterday, a 34-year-old who has played for 13 different clubs over a 14-year career.

Tosi has bagged 150 league goals on his travels from Brazil to Brunei to Greece, Switzerland, Iran, Singapore and Indonesia.

And Nelson da Silva turned out for Derry City in the late 1980s.

Former Glentoran player Neill explains how Renato's remarkable football journey has now brought him to Lurgan.

"I was doing the first part of my B licence in Bangor last September when I met a Brazilian coach called Felipe who had been working in England," said Neill.

"He asked me about the Irish League and raised the question could a few Brazilian players come here.

"I took it all with a pinch of salt but six months later I got a call out of the blue from Felipe saying he had a player for me.

"He sent me a few details and links so I could watch the player and I passed on the information to Gary (Hamilton).

"Gary decided to give the boy a chance and you never know, it can work out for both him and the club.

"Gary was winding me up after he arrived leaving me thinking he had picked up a different person at the airport but I spoke to Renato on Saturday and hopefully it works out for him.

"Hopefully it's the start of things to come and we will see a steady flow of Brazilian players coming to the Irish League!

"But we'll have to see how Renato does on Irish League pitches.

"He might find it a bit easier closer to the summer.

"He's got plenty of experience from his time in Denmark and he'll be keen to show what he can do over here. Good luck to him."

The striker was born in Itu in the state of Sao Paulo and played for several clubs in his home country before moving to Danish side FC Djursland in August, 2013.

In February 2014, Renato, who turns 28 on February 7, accepted an invitation to join NK Mosor Zrnovnica in Croatia but in the summer of 2015 he returned to Denmark to pursue his career with Skive IK and then Thisted FC.

Thisted compete in the Danish 2nd Division West following their relegation from the Danish 1st Division at the end of the 2009-10 season. Glenavon chairman Adrian Teer explained: "On Saturday morning we took him out for an Ulster Fry and he seems a nice guy.

"He was down at Shamrock Park watching the team beat Portadown.

"Despite his considerable experience he will need to adapt to our league and it will be interesting to see how he does.

"The contact came through Kyle Neill and he (Renato) has been based in Scandinavia in recent times.

"Kyle was happy with what he saw and Gary has obviously taken a look himself and decided to give him a chance.

"He has an Italian passport and he speaks good English.

"There will be no problem with him mixing with the boys and no interpretors required either.

"He's a well travelled player who has extensive experience of playing in Europe.

"The players in Scandinavia only tend to sign one year deals so there is more movement.

"I can't recall a Brazilian playing for Glenavon.

"Of course football is a global game and our players have found it harder to make it in the full-time game in England and Scotland because the clubs are taking on players from across the world.

"I've always believed that many of our lads, including our own Rhys Marshall, are good enough to play at a higher level but he's still with us."

Renato's arrival adds to the international flavour of the Irish League and fans are hoping the new signings will spice things up.

Crusaders have also just announced a deal for Mikel Suarez, a tall 30-year-old striker from Bilbao in Spain.

Suarez has played his football in the lower leagues in England most notably with Boston United and Bishops Stortford.

Irish League clubs are clearly searching far and wide, as they must do, to discover talent and they won't always strike gold but sometimes if you take a risk the gamble can pay off big time.

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