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Douglas Costa, Brazil’s lucky 13

October 6th, 2009
Brazil's Douglas Costa

Brazil's Douglas Costa

Fear of the number 13, or triskaidekaphobia to give the condition its official name, dates back centuries. Irrational it may be, but the belief that this much-maligned number brings bad luck is so deeply engrained that 13 is often nowhere to be seen in hotels, high-storey buildings and, of course, several squad lists. Douglas Costa, however, wears it with pride.

“As far as I’m concerned, the shirt comes with good luck, not bad,” he told “In Brazil, everyone knows 13 was always [Mario] Zagallo’s lucky number and, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!”

Zagallo’s obsession with the number is legendary, and justified – the Seleção icon would insist – by a spectacularly successful career. Yet, in football, one team’s fortuity is another’s misfortune, and it would seem that Uruguay have every reason to fear this particular No13. Douglas, after all, scored in both matches against La Celeste at this year’s South American Youth Championship and evidently feels that he has their measure.

“In Brazil, everyone knows 13 was always Zagallo’s lucky number and, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!” Brazil’s Douglas Costa

“I know their players well,” he said, “and they definitely have some defenders who are quite slow. This was why I had success against them in the qualifiers and hopefully it will be the same here. I respect Uruguay, but I think we are a level above them. Brazil are a five-star team.”

The Uruguayans, who shared ten goals with A Seleção during the continental preliminaries, will doubtless query this assertion of superiority. Yet Douglas’s confidence is understandable. After all, Brazil were able to rest almost an entire team in their final Group E game and still held on to top spot with a 3-1 win over Australia.

Ironically, it was only this shuffling of Rogerio Lourenco’s squad that enabled Douglas – the most high-profile of these Seleção starlets – to start his first match of the tournament, and score his first goal. However, the Gremio prodigy takes a refreshingly selfless view of his role thus far.

“I must say, I have no problem being a substitute while there are great players like Giuliano and Alex Texeira playing so well,” he said. “Every footballer wants to play and, as I showed against Australia, I am always ready. But a World Cup is about your country and the only thing that matters is Brazil winning the trophy.”

Douglas may be content to take a back seat for now, but his coach – who admits the youngster’s performance against the Aussies has given him “a pleasant headache” – knows he will not stay in the shadows for long. Such is the hype surrounding this speedy and skilful attacking midfielder, in fact, that he has already been dubbed ‘the new Ronaldinho’.

“That’s Brazil for you,” Rogerio told “Whenever an exciting new player comes through, he is always ‘the new Kaka’, ‘the new Ronaldo’, ‘the new Romario’. With Douglas, the fact he plays for Gremio made the Ronaldinho comparison almost inevitable. It’s dangerous because not everyone reacts well to that kind of pressure. But what encourages me with Douglas is that he has a great personality. As well as being an excellent player, he’s a very modest and level-headed guy.”

“What encourages me is that he has a great personality. As well as being an excellent player, he’s a very modest and level-headed guy” Brazil coach Rogerio Lourenco on Douglas Costa

The player himself is relaxed about the association with this two-time former FIFA World Player of the Year, and reveals that he has discussed the matter with Ronaldinho himself. “I have spoken to him about this on quite a few occasions,” he said. “He feels the same way I do: the important thing is for me to be myself. I have to follow my own course and I don’t want to be the ‘new’ anyone – I want to be Douglas Costa.”

This determination to carve out a reputation all of his own can only be admired. Equally laudable is Douglas’s frank admission that, though moving abroad remains “a dream”, he feels that he has done little to merit the interest of European giants such as Manchester United and Real Madrid.

He said: “I know that Gremio have received many proposals from big clubs like Manchester United and rejected them all. My opinion is that it would be wrong for me to even think about Europe while I’m on the bench for Gremio and often on the bench for Brazil. When I do move, I want it to because I’m already a star for my club and my national team.”

With a little dedication – and, of course, a sprinkling of good luck – that may happen sooner rather than later.

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