Today, in the series “Unlikely Heroes,” we will tell the story of how the irreverent attacking midfielder, Adriano Gabiru, became the hero of Sport Club Internacional de Porto Alegre’s most important title, the 2006 Club World Cup, won against none other than Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s Barcelona.
Beginning in Professional Football
Carlos Adriano de Souza Vieira was born in Maceió, the capital of the state of Alagoas, on August 11, 1977. His professional football career began in 1997 when he was 19 to 20 years old with CSA, a traditional club in the capital of Alagoas.
In his debut season, he quickly stood out, primarily due to his speed and physical ability. Despite being 1.72 meters tall, he was very agile and fast. Adriano’s contributions helped CSA become the champions of Alagoas in 1997, starting his professional football journey on the right foot, which, let’s admit, still held fascinating achievements for the young man.
Adriano continued to excel, scoring more goals and providing assists. He sometimes played on the wings but was mostly accustomed to playing as a second striker. His impressive performances caught the attention of Athletico Paranaense, which signed him in 1998.
His start at Athletico was challenging since it was the first time Adriano had moved away from his hometown. However, he did not give up and continued to develop at the Paranaense club. This was evident in his consistent call-ups to the Brazilian under-23 national team in 1999 and 2000, including scoring a goal for the team against Colombia in the South American Pre-Olympic Tournament in 2000.
With rigorous training and continuous improvement, Adriano became more comfortable at Athletico, even earning a nickname he carries to this day. His teammate Flávio often teased Adriano about his appearance, which wasn’t the best, and the goalkeeper gave him the nickname “Gabiru.” Needless to say, the nickname stuck.
This adaptation was also crucial for Adriano to play more for Athletico. He spent a total of seven years at the Paranaense club, being loaned to Olympique de Marseille in 2000 and to Cruzeiro in 2004. While Gabiru wasn’t frequently used as a starter, he contributed to Athletico’s victories in the state championships of 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2002. He also played a significant role in one of the club’s most important titles, the Brazilian Championship in 2001, where he played alongside stars like Kleberson, Alex Mineiro, and Kleber Pereira.
After his years with Athletico, Gabiru was signed by Internacional in 2006.
Gabiru and Internacional, a Love-Hate Relationship
Adriano Gabiru arrived in 2006 to join Internacional’s star-studded squad, which featured players like Fernandão, Iarley, Clemer, Ceará, Jorge Wagner, Índio, Bolívar, Tinga, Rafael Sóbis, and many others. Upon his arrival, he quickly adapted to life at Internacional, particularly because of his great rapport with his teammates, most notably his close friend Perdigão, with whom he still shares a love for “danone” (beer) to this day.
However, the Colorados (Internacional fans) were not entirely thrilled with his signing, despite Gabiru’s multiple championships in his career. Nevertheless, Gabiru was occasionally used, often coming off the bench to aid in tactical adjustments, thanks to his seemingly endless energy and a relentless work ethic.
Gabiru, even though questioned by the fans, played a crucial role in the conquest of the 2006 Copa Libertadores. Alongside midfielder Michel, he appeared to have the complete trust of coach Abel Braga. When one was not on the field, the other was, or sometimes both played together. Gabiru was of immense importance to Abel because, within the star-studded Internacional squad, he could play in any midfield position except for defensive midfield. He could also play in any attacking position, as Internacional mostly used a 4-4-2 diamond formation.
Internacional had an epic run in the 2006 Copa Libertadores. The club from Rio Grande do Sul was seen by the press as one of the few teams capable of challenging the mighty São Paulo, the defending Libertadores champion and future three-time Brazilian champion (2006, 2007, and 2008). Internacional was also considered a major national force in 2006 after a strong showing in the 2005 season, where they finished as runners-up in the Brazilian Serie A, with many considering them the true champions due to controversial refereeing that year.
The Colorado’s campaign in the 2006 Libertadores began with a tough battle to secure a spot in the Round of 16. They were placed in Group 6 with Nacional from Uruguay, Maracaibo from Venezuela, and Pumas from Mexico. They had a challenging journey, fighting hard to clinch first place in the group, which they achieved with 4 wins and 2 draws. Iconic moments included a 4-0 victory against Maracaibo, with Adriano Gabiru scoring the opening goal, and the historic 3-2 comeback win over Pumas, where the inspired Gabiru sealed the victory with a header for the Clube do Povo (People’s Club).
Later, in the round of 16, Inter ended up facing Nacional from Uruguay, an old acquaintance of Colorado, at the time, there was no draw to decide the clashes in the round of 16, but rather the logic of the best first placed team in the group stage facing the worst second placed in the group stage, therefore, as Inter was second best placed and Nacional was second to last, there was a clash again, but this time qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Inter ended up deciding their passage to the quarterfinals in the 2-1 victory over Nacional at Parque Central, Gabiru played that game as a starter, but on this occasion the star of Wason Rentería shone, who scored an anthological goal to seal Colorada’s 2-1 victory, after a header from Fernandão (eternal Colorado captain) Rentería dominates the ball, already giving the Uruguayan defender a hat and before the ball falls, he covers the goalkeeper with a beautiful left shot. In Beira-Rio, Inter held on to 0-0 and qualified for the quarterfinals.
At this stage Inter faced LDU and faced many difficulties in Ecuador, losing the first game 2-1, interestingly the versatile Gabiru did not play in that game, in the return game Beira-Rio was full, with the fervent fans helping Clube do Povo looking for the result, which worked, with goals from Rafael Sobis and Rentería, a curious fact about this game was that the Colombian in his celebration dressed up as Saci, to the madness of the fans.
In the semi-final, Inter faced Libertad, the first game in Paraguay was extremely truncated and ended 0-0, in Beir-Rio things were different and with goals from Alex and Fernandão, both beautiful shots from outside the area, Colorado After 26 years, he returned to the Libertadores final, which would be against the feared São Paulo.
The first game took place at Morumbi, but Inter played as if they were at home and beat Tricolor 2-1 with two goals from Rafgael Sóbis. The game in Beira-Rio was dramatic, but nothing would stop America from being painted red, and with goals from Tinga and Eterno Capitão Fernandão the game ended in a 2-2 draw, making Porto Alegre shake like never before, Internacional champion of the Libertadores 2006.
Gabiru was very important in the victory, especially for his “dirty work” and the determination he left on the field, but even so, due to some mistakes made and because he didn’t have such a keen technical skill, the Colorada fans seemed to recognize his value, but still took his foot.
With the victory, Inter qualified to compete in the Club World Cup, where they competed with the continental champions, Barcelona (Spain), Al-Ahly (Egypt), América de México, Auckland City (New Zealand) and Jeonbuk Motors (South Korea). ).
However, Colorado still had 6 months to go before reaching the continental dispute, and continued to play the Brasileirão, making good and bad performances. Abel Braga, continued using Gabiru, but the fans asked him not to use it, the pressure was so great to discredit the fierce Alagoan native, even more so as part of the fans understood that the young Alexandre Pato, recently promoted from the youth categories, should have more time inside field.
Time passed, criticism of Gabiru did not cease, but he continued to work and be an option for Abelão, who was very confident in his potential.
Furthermore, Inter had suffered some performances in its squad, lost important players such as Rafael Sobis and Rentería, but brought Iarley to take over the number 10 colorada shirt and added young Pato and Luiz Adriano.
The Club World Cup arrived and a red wave took over the streets of Japan, such was the support of several Coloradoans who left Brazil towards the land of the rising sun to support the People’s CLube, which would not have an easy life if it made it to the finals, as that whoever would be there would probably be Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s masterful Barcelona, who won the Champions League with a goal from another Unlikely hero, right-back Beletti.
Internacional’s first game in the World Cup was against the Egyptian Al-Ahly, and anyone who thought Colorado would have an easy time was wrong, it was a beautiful World Cup semi-final game, Inter started better and suffocated the Egyptians, even opening the score with young Alexandre Pato at 23 in the first half, but the African team did not want to fall behind and started to play well, including forcing good saves from goalkeeper Clemer, Flávio, a Brazilian who played for Al-Ahly, equalized with a header.
The game became more and more open but the teams ended up failing in their finishing, until in the 27th minute of the second half, after a corner kick, another boy, this time Luiz Adriano anticipated the first stick and swept the ball with his head with precision towards it. die in the corner of the Egyptian goalkeeper, thus qualifying Inter for the final against Barcelona.
The highly anticipated day had arrived. On one side, there was the star-studded team, the talk of Europe and the world, boasting players like Deco, Beletti, Puyol, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Iniesta, Giuly, among others. On the other side, there was the passionate and determined team with blood running red, featuring Pato, Fernandão, Iarley, Alex, Índio, Ceará, and others. However, none of these players would be the main attraction of the game, as that honor was reserved for the quiet Alagoano who began the match on the bench.
The referee blew the whistle, and the game kicked off. In the early stages, both teams sought to take the initiative. Barcelona looked for Ronaldinho, while Inter relied on quick ball recovery and swift transitions with rapid passing. For the first 20 minutes, Inter had the upper hand but lacked significant goal-scoring opportunities, just as Barcelona did in the following minutes of the first half, apart from a powerful long-range shot that Von Bronckhorst attempted, but Clemer saved almost instinctively after a sudden change in the ball’s trajectory.
Despite Barcelona’s improvement, Inter continued to find spaces behind their defense. In one such instance, after a well-placed through ball, the towering Índio received the ball in the area on the right and unleashed a shot that narrowly missed the target, brushing the goalpost defended by Valdés. It was a close call for Colorado.
The second half began with Inter clearly more fervent, seeking to cut off Barcelona’s plays with speed and creating numerous chances to take the lead. However, they struggled with their finishing, and the shots that reached the goal were easy pickings for the excellent Spanish goalkeeper Valdés. As Inter couldn’t find the back of the net and maintained a high tempo, fatigue naturally set in around the 30-minute mark, and they started to give Barcelona more space to play, which was a dangerous proposition.
Xavi came off the bench and had a significant impact, controlling the ball in the attacking third and making it difficult for the Colorados to mark him. Seeing the challenges Inter was facing, Abelão made a quick decision to substitute the Eternal Captain Fernandão, who was not in the best physical condition, with the inspired Gabiru. Gabiru’s clear objective was to assist in defensive efforts and maintain intensity on the left flank for Inter.
Barcelona was superior at this point in the game but left too much space between the midfield and defense for Inter to exploit when they won the ball back. The one who exploited this space brilliantly was the diminutive Iarley. In the 32nd minute, he picked up the ball in the middle, behind the Catalan midfielders, and carried it into the box. However, he faltered at the moment of shooting, with an opportunity right in front of him.
Then, in the 35th minute of the second half, Índio cleared the ball from the back, Adriano Gabiru headed it, Luiz Adriano redirected it once more, and it reached the star, Iarley. Puyol leaped to intercept the ball, but Iarley performed a beautiful dribble through the legs of the Spanish defender. Gabiru was running alongside, Iarley spotted him, and the Alagoano deftly controlled the ball, played it forward, and, when Valdés came out, Gabiru delicately chipped the ball with the outside of his right foot, perfectly lobbing the goalkeeper. What a goal! What joy! What perfection! It was his goal, demonstrating that he indeed possessed the technique the fans had always called for.
The emotion from the goal was immense, but Inter had to hold off Barcelona for at least another 10 minutes, and they succeeded, with significant contributions from the tireless Gabiru, who had become one of the greatest unlikely heroes in the history of football. First, because he lacked media attention and was not in the spotlight, and second, because he faced the skepticism of the fans, only to deliver the greatest joy in the world right in front of them.
In an interview alongside his faithful companion Perdigão, Gabiru fondly recalled the decisive goal with humor and humility: “In football, everyone is equal; no one is different.” He continued, “Índio kicked it, I got a touch with my head, Luiz Adriano touched it again, and it fell to Iarley, who was up against that ‘head of hair’ Puyol. He kept going, kept going, and I came from behind, running, thank God. He saw me, passed it to me, and I shot at the goal.” Finally, with a smile, he added, “When the ball went in, I thought, ‘My God, Perdigão, we’re going to have so much beer tonight.'”
And that’s Adriano Gabiru, an unlikely hero, irreverent, a friend, tenacious, and, above all, human, just like any of us.
Written By João Felipe Miller