Interview

Tomas Maronesi: Brazilian life in Hong Kong

At the end of every Hong Kong Premier League season, foreign players usually return to their home country for a prolonged vacation to recharge their batteries before they have to get ready for the next year. This was also the plan of current Yuen Long defender Tomas Maronesi, except that he was not sure if he would come back to Hong Kong again. 

As usual, he made his trip back to Erechim, a city in the north of Brazil, which he has called home over the last decade. But this year, the preparation was not routine. Maronesi previously played for Southern District. During the 2016-17 pre-season camp in Thailand he injured his knee, which forced him to undergo surgery that required two months of recovery time. He only played in 10 games before another surgery for the same injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. Ultimately, Southern decided not to re-sign him.

Therefore, the central defender left Hong Kong with an uncertain future. If he wouldn’t get another assignment in Hong Kong, his plan B was to look for other opportunities in Brazil. However, this also meant that his professional football career was at risk.

For any professional athlete, being injured for an extended period of time can turn into a huge burden. Even more so, foreign players often face the difficulty to secure stable contracts, putting pressure on their family lives.

But this time the luck was on Maronesi’s side. In August, two months after the potential final farewell, his smartphone rang, displaying an incoming call from Hong Kong. Few minutes into the conversation, he said, “Yes” to the other end of the line. His football career was saved, as Yuen Long offered him a brand new contract for a season.

Measured at six-foot tall, Tomas Maronesi may not be the tallest defender, but his robust body and hard-working mentality make him a respected player in the circuit. At Yuen Long, he was paired with his experienced countryman Fábio Lopes, to become a cornerstone of the team.

As a matter of fact, his current club has already showed interest in Maronesi during previous seasons, but it was bad timing to pursue him, as he had already decided to join Southern back then.

At 32 years, he now wears the number “3” for the Tangerines and has appeared in over 180 football games at the professional level. His career started with Juventude RS in Brazil. Other clubs he played for include Ypiranga Erechim RS, Marcílio Dias SC, Concórdia, and Gloria de Vacaria. Prior to the 2013-14 season, he played for Rangers, followed by a short stint with Wong Tai Sin before joining aforementioned Southern District.

Over the years, he has established himself in the local football scene. Once in uniform, he is serious, hardworking, and ready to help his teammates. With his extroverted character, he is also inclined to voice out his opinion on the pitch, especially whenever he disagrees with the referee. Sometimes, he might also take the risk for getting booked, if it would help his team in that situation.

Off the pitch, Maronesi is almost like a different person with a contrary set of character – humorous and easygoing.

In recent years, the clubs in the Hong Kong Premier League have been accommodating quite a large number of Brazilian players. Just to take this season as example, out of the 51 foreign players, 23 are from Brazil, representing 45% of all non-locals.

In the current Yuen Long squad, Tomas Maronesi is joined by fellow countrymen Everton Camargo, Júnior Soares, and midfielder Ticão (the odd man out would be Aleksandar Randelović from Serbia). By adding Fábio Lopes in the mix, who is already counted as a domestic player after spending 13 years in Hong Kong, they often use their mother tongue to communicate with each other on the field, a privilege not all the teams have.

For most Brazilians family is the most important, and that’s also the case for Tomas Maronesi. His wife Liliane and his daughters Sophia and Manu mean everything to him.  They give him strength and are always supportive when he goes through tough situations in his career. During his holidays, they would explore Hong Kong together, go swimming, or organize a Brazilian barbecue.

At the end of the interview, when asked how Hong Kong football could improve, Tomas showed again his on-the-pitch character and wished for better refereeing in the league. Before this happens, you might still be able to see him enthusiastically complaining on a regular Premier League weekend.

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