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Hungry Pereira seeks lift-off with Sheriff

Published: Tuesday 17 April 2012, 12.00CET
Portugal Under-21 defender João Pereira has journeyed over 3,000km east to try to kick-start his career with Moldova's FC Sheriff, but his ultimate ambition lies closer to home.
by Evgeni Balanyuk
from Tiraspol
Hungry Pereira seeks lift-off with Sheriff
João Pereira is relishing his new experience with Sherif ©Sergey Sokolov
Published: Tuesday 17 April 2012, 12.00CET

Hungry Pereira seeks lift-off with Sheriff

Portugal Under-21 defender João Pereira has journeyed over 3,000km east to try to kick-start his career with Moldova's FC Sheriff, but his ultimate ambition lies closer to home.

Some 3,000km separate Tiraspol from Barcelona, yet for Portugal Under-21 defender João Pereira, the unusual decision to leave his home country behind and embark on a new adventure in the Moldovan capital was inspired by his dream of one day playing for the Spanish and European champions.

I'd wanted to try myself somewhere outside my country, fighting for medals and, the most important thing, playing in European competitions
João Pereira explains his challenge in Moldova

"I want to play for Barcelona," said the 21-year-old. "I understand that not everyone who wants to play there gets the chance to do it but I will work very hard and who knows, one day my dream may come true."

A former Soviet republic marks quite a detour on the route from Portugal to north-east Spain and Pereira, who had been playing for CD Trofense in his country's second division, admits that some of his U21 colleagues have teased him about his choice of new club.

At the same time, though, there is a clear logic to his move. "The majority of players agree that the possibility of playing in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League is a serious argument," he told UEFA.com. "Some of my team-mates have contracts with Spanish and Portuguese top-flight clubs but I have my own path.

"This is a step forward in my career which is only just beginning. For now I am happy to help Sheriff win the title and play successfully in Europe, hopefully in the group stage of the European competitions."

Sheriff are certainly used to European football – they competed in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds for ten consecutive seasons before losing their domestic title to FC Dacia Chisinau last year, and enjoyed UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns in 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Their signing of Pereira on a three-and-a-half year contract created quite a stir within Moldova and underlined Sheriff's determination to wrest back their crown from Dacia. For the player himself, it provides a challenge to relish having only played lower-league football in Portugal.

He joined from Trofense, having previously played for CD Fátima. Now, though, he has the chance to win trophies. "I'd wanted to try myself somewhere outside my country, fighting for medals and, the most important thing, playing in European competitions," he said. "Here you have the ideal conditions to improve as a professional as you've got great infrastructure and high goals."

He first played at Sheriff's training ground when appearing for Portugal against Moldova's U21s last September. "I was in Tiraspol for the first time when we played Moldova. We won 2-0 and I was lucky enough to score one of the goals," said Pereira, an ever-present for Portugal in qualifying Group 6.

"I liked Sheriff's training ground very much. Just a few months later the club offered me a contract so it looks like destiny." He made his debut in a 2-0 win against FC Costuleni on 3 March in which he helped out on the left, and set up a goal. Back in the middle, he has already appeared against title rivals Dacia twice – both matches finishing goalless.

He admits it is taking time to adjust to a different kind of football. "Teams pay more attention to power than to technique as [they do] in my country," Pereira added. "It is difficult to get used to it at the moment, especially with the majority of matches being played on artificial turf." There will be plenty more for Pereira to get used to, no doubt, but he and Sheriff will both hope his brave move pays off.

Last updated: 17/04/12 11.53CET

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