SC Braga goalkeeper Joaquim Silva appeared to strengthen his claim to a place in Portugal's squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ finals with a substitute appearance in last week's friendly international with Spain.
The battle ahead
This was a 12th cap for a player better known as Quim, selected ahead of the fit-again Vítor Baía by national team coach António Oliveira. Two days later, however, it became clear that the battle for the Portugal No1 jersey with Boavista FC's Ricardo was not the only fight on Quim's hands.
Dark cloud on horizon
Friday brought the news that Quim must have been dreading: that the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) had suspended him, pending a disciplinary hearing, for a failed drugs test. The dark cloud labelled nandrolone now blackened the 26-year-old's footballing horizon.
Quim had started the week as one of Portuguese football's emerging talents, a player tipped for goalkeeping greatness after representing his country at every level from Under-16s. His senior debut came in August 1999 against Andorra, after which there was a short cameo as a substitute in the 3-0 win against Germany in EURO 2000™.
Since then Quim has become a regular in Oliveira's squad, and his form with Braga, his only professional club, has prompted talk of a move to SL Benfica. The Lisbon team could part company with German custodian Robert Enke in the summer, and reportedly view Quim as the ideal replacement.
However, leaving the Primeiro de Maio stadium is not the priority for Braga's sometime captain. If found guilty, he faces a minimum three-month ban which would rule him out of the Portugal party for Korea/Japan.
'I am innocent'
This had been looming since January, when a sample provided after the 1. Liga game with CS Marítimo in October revealed traces of the banned steroid. Quim's reaction at the time was: "I wasn't expecting this because I am innocent. I haven't done anything, I have never taken any substance."
'He's an honest boy'
But the case has subsequently put Quim into the same bracket as his international colleague, Fernando Couto. According to José Augusto, Portugal's fitness trainer at EURO 2000™, it is a place neither belongs. "Like Fernando Couto, Quim didn't needed to take a substance like nandrolone," he told MaisFutebol. "Quim is an honest boy and has an immaculately clean sheet."
Keeping the dream alive
A reference endorsed by the player this week. "I will go anywhere I can to prove my innocence," Quim said. "If necessary, I will appeal to the national, European and international courts. I will carry on working as if I was playing tomorrow, because I want to play again as soon as possible. My dream is to go to the World Cup." The stakes could not be higher.
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