Júlio Baptista is giving back to his new home in the City Beautiful.
Through the Orlando City Foundation’s Soccer for Success initiative, which is a free after-school program that uses soccer to teach children in under-served communities about health issues and promote healthy lifestyles, Baptista spoke to a group of elementary school students on Tuesday at Dover Shore Community Center about chasing their dreams and the importance of proper nutrition.
He used his own story as an example. Baptista grew up dreaming of playing professional soccer, and eventually earned his way to Sevilla, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Roma, Málaga and Cruzeiro before joining Orlando City. When he achieved his first goal, he reached higher.
“My dream became to play for the Brazilian National Team,” he said.
Baptista would go on to earn 47 caps for the Seleção and scored the game-winning goal at the 2007 Copa América Final against archrival Argentina.
The youngsters were fascinated with his tales – as well as the many languages he speaks. They were happy to share their own multicultural backgrounds and assure Baptista that they understood him as he spoke to them in Spanish.
Baptista, nicknamed “The Beast” for his formidable physique, emphasized the importance of proper nutrition.
“They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day because your body has gone eight hours without nourishment,” Baptista explained. “After, we have lunch, which is also very important. And it’s good to eat fruits and other healthy snacks between lunch and dinner, too.”
And it seems his lessons made an impact.
“Amazing,” said Anthony, a nine-year-old third grader about Baptista’s speech. “[It was] important because we’re the kids of the future. One day we may take his place in the soccer team while he is retired.”
It’s true, Baptista did tell them that one day, some of them may go on to become great athletes. But he reminded them of the importance of doing well in school, too, because not all of them will become athletes. He encouraged them to follow their dreams and passions, whether they are art or medicine and anything in between.
He’s set quite the example for them to look up to.