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Brazilian star Jobson struggles with fame, drug addiction


In 2009 Jobson was an unknown Brazilian striker making little impact with struggling South Korean club Jeju United. Homesick and unable to adapt, he was offered the chance to move back home on loan to Botafogo of Rio -- where he changed the course of the Brazilian Championship.

Stocky, quick, two- footed, Jobson was a defender's nightmare, able to beat his marker on either side and shoot at goal or set one up for his teammates. He produced one inspired display against Sao Paulo that effectively saved his club from relegation and deprived his opponents of a fourth consecutive title win. That such a player could emerge from nowhere was truly remarkable. Bearing in kind the extraordinary number of quality players the country produces, it is probably the kind of story that could only happen in Brazil.

Jobson's is a thoroughly Brazilian story. He comes from Conceicao do Araguaia, a small and remote northern town with a place in history that belies its size.

It was here that some four decades ago, while Brazil was in the grip of a military dictatorship, a guerrilla force inspired by Che Guevara established their base. It was here that many of them died, their revolt crushed by the military.

Conceicao do Araguaia was the scene of a battle for the country's soul. Jobson was born there in 1988, over a decade after these events, when democracy had returned and those who had been on opposite sides during the dictatorship were jostling for position in the political process.

The conditions into which he was born perhaps illustrate why so many in Brazil, whether on the right or the left, had been looking for extreme solutions. Poor, with a shaky family structure and little in the way of opportunities, Jobson had his mother worried that he would become a petty thief. Soccer saved him -- or appeared to. Soccer gave him a path, but also provided him with temptations that he would not have the structure to resist.

There were tales of indiscipline with Brasiliense, his first club. But the dangers were bigger when he hit the big time with Botafogo. Fame and money opened doors that should have stayed shut. A year ago he was lined up to join Cruzeiro of Belo Horizonte, one of Brazil's strongest clubs. The whole thing fell through when Jobson failed a drug test. It soon became clear that this was much more than a one off walk on the wild side. Jobson had a serious problem with crack cocaine.

He was banned from soccer for two years. Cruzeiro dropped him like the hottest of bricks. He seemed to be on a one way ticket back to where he had come from.

On appeal, though, the ban was reduced to six months. Botafogo took Jobson back. Wily old coach Joel Santana loves playing the father figure, and was optimistic of steering the youngster on the straight and narrow. After the pause for the World Cup, Jobson was thrown into the Brazilian Championship, and once again made an immediate impact. His style of play, with his speed and skill down the flanks, made him an excellent partner for the team's center forward, the big Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu -- who scored that wonderfully cheeky penalty in the shoot out against Ghana that ensured his country's qualification for the World Cup semifinals.

Abreu might be nicknamed 'el loco,' but his wisdom, experience and collective spirit seemed good for Jobson. For a while the youngster could have been considered the most effective striker in the Brazilian Championship. With new coach Mano Menezes rebuilding the side, there was talk of an international call up.

It was all going too well. Just like the previous year, fame and success proved unwelcome visitors. The word started to spread around Rio de Janeiro that Jobson was overdoing the nightlife, hanging out with dubious company. His sports psychologist gave up on him -- it was impossible, he said, to help people who do not want to be helped.

In early October, coach Santana said of his young striker, "there is no limit to his potential as an athlete. There was a moment when he went too far [referring to the crack problem] and we are here making an effort to see that he doesn't repeat this kind of attitude. And in addition to giving advice, we're praying for him."

Santana's prayers fell on stony ground. Into November, with Botafogo in the fight to qualify for the Copa Libertadores, Jobson undermined the entire campaign. There were late nights and missed training sessions, and Santana was forced to take action, leaving Jobson on the bench or leaving him out. When he did play, his touch was slightly off -- the lack of professional dedication taking its toll. "My heart is bleeding," said Santana.

Botafogo had to think about what they would do with Jobson, both for his own sake and to protect their investment in him. A loan move was their chosen solution. "All of this has saddened us," said club director Andre Silva, "because of the potential he has. For a player to throw this away as a result of a weakness is sad. The main thing at this moment is to take the player away from Rio de Janeiro and try to make him get his head in the right place."

And so he has been loaned out to Atletico Mineiro. He should not lack motivation in his new colors -- Atletico are the big Belo Horizonte rivals of Cruzeiro, offering him a chance to gain revenge on the club that turned its back on him when he tested positive. Atletico also gives him the chance to work with highly rated young coach Dorival Junior, who impressed in his previous job with the way he handled the talented youngsters at Santos.

But it may never happen. WADA, the world anti-doping agency, are pushing for the re-instatement of Jobson's original two year suspension.

This, to my mind, seems extraordinarily harsh. It is one thing to take a banned drug in an attempt to gain an unfair sporting advantage. What Jobson did is completely different. He had a problem with a recreational drug. There is no cheating involved. The career of a soccer player is short enough. Is it really fair that he should lose two years for using a substance that is prohibited on moralistic grounds?

Here's hoping, then, that Jobson is cleared to keep playing, to carry on writing the chapters of this very Brazilian story. Here's hoping, too, that he can find himself through his soccer, work out the priorities in his life and not fall back into temptations. Wouldn't it be great if this story could have a happy ending?