He was famously labelled by one club official as “the only Brazilian who couldn’t play football,” but that didn’t stop Jose Ricardo Rodrigues Ferreira, or Junior as he was known, from making headlines across the country back in October 1998 when swapped the Brazilian third division to sign for Rhayader Town, a side struggling at the bottom of the then-named League of Wales. Could this continental addition reverse the fortunes of the Mid-Wales side? Absolutely not.

Junior’s arrival at the humble surroundings of the Weirglodd ground attracted national attention, and even made a few headlines back in Brazil. What started as a speculative email to the club resulted in a transatlantic flight into the unknown. Sadly, the weather and a delay in his international clearance limited his opportunities during his stay, and his November debut from the substitute bench resulted in a 5-0 defeat against Inter CableTel. Although he scored a hat-trick for the reserves in a cup tie against Llandrindod Wells, it didn’t quite represent the heights he may have dreamt of achieving.

“It rains a lot and is very muddy here in Wales but the people have been very friendly to me,” explained Junior to The Brecon & Radnor Express. “I’ve had a roast beef dinner, which was nice, but I don’t like Brussel sprouts.” Of course, this was a very new-age in terms of appreciating the issues surrounding approaches from players to clubs from other countries, including the legitimacy of their credentials, but more would follow in the coming months as Rhyl followed Rhayader’s lead in January 1999 by signing another Brazilian in Rodrigo Maltarollo from CFZ do Rio.

"He's very keen on the internet,” explained Rhyl Treasurer David Hughes to BBC news at the time. “He had an account in Rio and we need to make a pc available for him here now. But he is finding it hard at the moment. He said it was 37 degrees in Rio when he left and it's more like zero degrees here. It seems to be part of a trend of foreign players wanting to come over here - we got a fax from two Dutch lads last week interested in doing the same thing.”

Neither Brazilian made any particularly memorable impression on the field during their respective brief stays in Wales, but both signings raised the profile of the domestic game with the national attention they attracted. The story of São Paulo native Junior is remembered more than that of his fellow countryman. “It was a big thing, a Brazilian coming to mid Wales to play football,” said Emrys Morgan, the club Vice-Chairman who let the Brazilian stay at his family home. “It was good publicity for the club and something out of the ordinary, especially for Rhayader of all places.”

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