Staying up late, binging on Netflix and staying indoors isn’t the expected behavior of anyone starting out in a new job in a new country. But understandably, the “early to bed, put yourself out there and make friends” advice that we’ve all heard, hasn’t applied for the past 18 months.
Bruno Guimarães found himself in this strange scenario in January of 2020 after joining Olympic Lyon and moving from Brazil to France.
The 23-year-old grins when he thinks back on those early months of living in a new country, having moved from Atletico Paranaense as the global coronavirus pandemic started to take hold.
“At the start, I lived in France but on Brazilian time. Everyone I knew in the world was back in Brazil. I would go to bed at 5am in the morning as it was 12 midnight in Brazil, and I would get up at 3pm. For a while it was madness.”
His grin fades as he explains how he felt when the reality of the situation started to hit home:
“It’s been a very tough time for the world, for every country, and particularly for both Brazil and my new home France. Nobody expected it to get so bad and difficult. In the beginning everything just stopped, I spent my first four or five months in Lyon inside, unable to go out, I tried to train, but it wasn’t the same as being at the club. It was tough.”
Adjusting to a new life
“In the beginning it was hard to stay positive, every time I turned on the television the news was worse than the day before. It was strange to be unable to help when everything was so bad. The only thing I could do to help was to stay at home. I only went out get my groceries or to the pharmacy. During the second wave, I looked at how I could help my compatriots back in Brazil by getting them the essentials. I was worried about my family and my girlfriend back in Brazil.
“The only upside for me was that I had plenty of time to learn French. I did online courses, I watched a lot of local TV, Netflix series like Lupin, films in French, and all that paid off. I can now speak the language after 18 months. My next goal is to learn English.”
Growing friendships online
So how do you try to make connections and build fruitful relationships with a team you have never met?
Bruno explains the scenario at Olympic Lyon: “We trained online together as a team with a program made by our physical trainer. Then every Friday we would have a group chat and get together to talk about what was working, what was difficult, and look at the training routine for the upcoming week. But we also used the time to check in with each other, learn about each other’s lives. It was a strange way to make friends, but it worked. Now I have my group of mates, a mix of Brazilians and also French friends and now it feels like home.”
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A captain that leaves it all on the pitch
Despite his unconventional start with Olympic Lyon, Bruno has become a trusted member of the team. It’s not surprising given his outlook on the game and the guiding role he has taken on at international level as captain of the Brazil U23 taking part in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play at the Olympics. The last Games were in Brazil, and we won. It was the first Brazilian gold medal in football. For me it’s the most important competition, along with the World Cup. I’ll do everything to win in Tokyo.”
Delayed dreams to become a reality
“I’m going to really enjoy every moment in Tokyo. I recognize that things go by too quickly, so I’m going to savor the moment. The pandemic has made me appreciate everything more. I’m really going to use this time to give everything on the pitch. It’s not every day you can take part in an Olympic Games and not everyone makes the team, so I know how lucky I am to get this opportunity.
Bruno Guimarães is also thinking beyond Japan and what will hopefully be an uninterrupted Ligue 1 season in France.
“I have high hopes with Olympic Lyon for next season. We will play in the Europa League. It was hard to miss out on a Champions League spot in the last game of the season, but we came together as a team and discussed how to move forward. The president recognized we needed a change, we changed our coach, some players too and now we have a new focus for the next season to bring home some trophies and delight our fans.”