by Marcus Mitchell
For many collegiate athletes, support from family members are a key component to success. This cannot be any more true for Joshua Nascimento, a freshman forward for the Spartans soccer team. Born in São Paulo, Joshua was raised in a Brazilian household where soccer wasn’t just an interest, it was a livelihood. With a soccer ball at his feet by the age of seven, Joshua experienced on a regular basis what many soccer fanatics could only dream to do. He was able to play soccer with Edson Nascimento, known throughout the world as Pele. But Joshua just calls him dad.
“Having Pele as my father is indescribable, I can’t really put it in words. But he is the kindest and most generous person that I know,” said Joshua. “He is an idol to so many in the world, but he is my father first.”
Whereas Pele is recognized universally as the greatest soccer player to ever play, Joshua recognized him with a “Greatest Dad Ever” coffee mug. To the masses, Pele was the man who mastered the difficult “bicycle kick”, but to Joshua, he was the man who helped him master riding a bicycle. And while included in Time’s “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century,” Pele is undoubtedly one of the most influential people in Joshua Nascimento’s life.
Like many children in Brazil, soccer quickly became more than just Joshua’s passion. Wishing to play soccer professionally, Joshua has taken great strides in making his dream become a reality. At age 15, Joshua joined the Florida Rush, a developmental club where he began to hone his skills as a soccer player. But his journey truly took shape two years later.
In 2013, Joshua joined the youth academy of the prestigious Brazilian club, Santos F.C. On those legendary training grounds, he walked on the same fields that his father once did, who joined the club at the age of 15 in 1956, and would go on to score over 1000 goals for them. But with his father’s legacy well in the past, Joshua joined Santos with every intention to begin a career of his own.
“Playing for Santos was a really great experience as it is one of the top youth academies not only in Brazil, but in the world,” said Joshua. “I got to be in the same academy as really good players like Neymar and Robinho. Santos developed me both mentally and physically and the experience I got was invaluable”
Playing for the U-20 team, Joshua helped Santos toward a 2013 São Paulo State Cup. However, his time playing for the historic club was marred with injuries and this past year Joshua decided to return to playing in the United States so he could compete at the collegiate level.
So, how does a high-profile Brazilian forward with tons of upside wind up choosing to attend the University of Tampa? Well, whereas his father was a major influence in his soccer career, his twin sister, Celeste Nascimento, played a huge role in him becoming a Spartan.
“My sister and I are very close and, when I was looking at schools, I already knew she would be coming here, so UT was already on my radar,” said Joshua. “Celeste told me how interesting the school was, but I knew I wanted to be a Spartan when I visited the campus and got to look around.”
Now a Spartan, Joshua is eager to start the next step of his career as a collegiate student-athlete, a term that means a lot to the young forward.
“My goal is to play professional soccer, but that’s not my only goal by any means,” said Joshua. “I want to get a degree, and continuing my play in the United States gives me the best shot at doing that.”
While he has already lived in the United States for several years with his sister and mother, Brazilian psychologist and gospel singer AssÍria Lemos, Joshua can still see the differences between soccer culture in Brazil and the U.S.
“It’s always a little weird going back and forth from the U.S. and Brazil. In São Paulo I am a footballer, but in the U.S. I am a soccer player. It’s an odd feeling,” said Joshua. “In Brazil, every boy wants to grow up and be a footballer, but here in the U.S., soccer is not the forefront and there are a lot of sports that are more popular. But, academics are important here and the U.S. is doing a really good job college-wise.”
While he has not had an immediate impact on the pitch as a Spartan since he is redshirting, Joshua Nascimento plans to help UT in the best way he can. Though not as prestigious as Santos, UT has a strong reputation in getting players to the next level of their professional careers. Just this past year, two former Spartans faced each other in the Haiti vs. Jamaica matchup in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Quarterfinals. And this past July, former Spartan Tyler Blackwood inked a contract with English club Queens Park Rangers.
Whether or not Joshua is able to follow in their success is up to him, but that’s just the way he likes it. Regardless of who his father may be or the comparisons that will inevitably come his way, when he steps onto the pitch, Joshua is a striker. A player who carries the weight of scoring goals on his shoulders. A man who has to stand alone against the defense, but has a whole team backing him up.
He may be the son of one of the greatest athletes to ever grace this earth, but that does not define him. “I am Joshua Nascimento, a freshman forward at the University of Tampa,” said Joshua. “I am a Spartan.”