A Brazilian contingent are helping PFC Ludogorets Razgrad cause a stir in the UEFA Europa League, as they look forward to playing SS Lazio in the round of 32.
Defender Choco has been joined by Júnior Caiçara, Marcelinho, Michel and Juninho Quixadá as the Razgrad side have made the giant leap from the Bulgarian second division to European competition.
"The president had visions of the club achieving great things in Bulgaria," midfielder Marcelinho told UEFA.com. "He wanted to become league champions in our first year [in the top flight] and good things happened – that was what I was told about the club. When I arrived it was pure happiness. [Choco] used to help me out and we were friends right from the start."
The Brazilians have stuck together since moving to Bulgaria, with those close relationships helping Stoicho Stoev's team thrive on the pitch as they bid for a third successive A League title. "It's very hard to be far away from home, from your family and your friends," said midfielder Juninho Quixadá. "So we try to always get together when we're not on the pitch. I don't think Brazilian culture really exists here. It's up to us to create a Brazilian culture in the places we visit."
The players have certainly been made to feel welcome in Razgrad, a city in north-east Bulgaria. Júnior Caiçara explained: "When you are in the street they want to take photos; they want autographs. Everybody here is happy with any small thing we do in our matches.
"They love it when a player shows a bit of skill, like [striker Roman] Bezjak, who is a very skilful player, or Marcelinho. They make people happy just by dribbling, so imagine what it's like with the success we're now having in the Europa League. The people here are delighted."
Marcelinho agreed: "[The fans are] really happy with the club's progress, both in the Bulgarian league and the Europa League. When they see us on the street they always congratulate us on our wins. Sometimes we haven't performed well in a match, but they are there supporting us, shouting: 'Come on, heads up.' I really like the city a lot because the people are very hospitable and are always supporting us, especially the Brazilians."
Click on the video player above to hear more from Júnior Caiçara and Marcelinho.
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