Raves / Union

Raves: Fabinho, the one who won us over

Photo: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: In Philadelphia, we’re all familiar with rants about sports. So once a year, PSP’s writers take several days to just flat out rave about players. They may not be the best players, but they’re players we like. Here’s the final entry in our Raves series for 2018.

There’s no player in Union history that I’ve changed my opinion about more completely than Fabinho.

(I can say that definitively.)

Fabinho arrived at the club all the way back in 2013, a mid-season signing from Australia’s A-League intended as a permanent replacement at left back.

That never quite worked out. After all, the only current Union player who was on the roster when Fabi arrived, Ray Gaddis, is now the full-time left back.

Fabinho’s form has always been inconsistent at best. At heart, he’s a left winger employed as a left back, fueled more by his desire to bomb down the flanks than to lock down an opposing attacker.

His first few maddening years with the team drove me absolutely nuts. In fact, his play so appalled me that it led to the only Union-related meme that I’ve ever coined: the Sun Rocket.

“The money could better have been spent building a rocket with which Fabinho could be fired into the sun.” – Peter Andrews, November 25, 2014

And yet.

Here we are, four years later. Fabinho is still on the Union, and he’s one of my favorite players.

Why?

A person you can admire

We sometimes take for granted the insane demands that soccer, as a global sport, can place on its players.

The whims of the international transfer market mean that you can end up getting a new job around the world on just a couple days’ notice. There might be no one who speaks your native language there. Oh, and your every move will be publicly judged by thousands of people who might look nothing like you.

That process can and does break players. It’s clear that Rais Mbolhi couldn’t handle it, and he’s just one example of the hundreds of players per year chewed up and spit out by a transfer move that just doesn’t work out.

Fabinho is a glorious exception.

After a difficult period of adjustment, the Brazilian is thriving in Philadelphia — maybe not on the pitch, but undoubtedly off it.

If you talk to Union players and staff, on and off the record, they will tell you that Fabinho is always the funniest guy in the room — despite operating in a second language.

Earlier this year, Dave Zeitlin’s must-read story in The Athletic about the Union’s language classes for foreign players shed some insight into Fabinho’s work ethic. Over his time in Philadelphia, Fabinho has gone from barely understanding English to one of the locker room’s irrepressible fixtures. Union head coach Jim Curtin put it well: “Now, you can’t get Fabi to stop talking.”

He’s the club’s second-longest-tenured player, with over five years of service to the Union. His family, including young children, has settled here, growing up as Philadelphians.

Relative to the average, Fabinho is a very good soccer player. But anyone you ask will tell you that he’s an even better person.

That’s why, for me, the fact that Fabinho’s positive contributions on the pitch have become few and far between don’t make me like him any less.

Being the very best at everything is not the good life. We can’t control the actions of others, and we can’t control our own inherent skills and abilities. If the only person in soccer worth celebrating was Lionel Messi, it would be a dour world indeed.

But just being the very best version of yourself that you can be?

That’s worth celebrating.

That’s what Fabinho represents to me.

(We can keep the Sun Rocket on the launchpad. Someone else will need it.)

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. It’s little things like this about our players that always seems to pull be back in when arbitrary things like “results on the field” and such try to find ways to push me away. Win lose or draw, these team has always found a way to have players you genuinely want to succeed and like for being good people.

  2. The Zogwarg says:

    Whenever we watch and Fabinho plays, of course we want him to succeed, as it helps the boys in Blue. We always hope for “Good Fabinho” and not “Evil Fabinho!”

    The Zog

  3. I said it elsewhere recently, but this is a good place to repeat it.
    .
    I would love to see Curtin employ Fabinho as a defense replacement on the wing when we’re protecting a lead. Probably not every time, but there are certainly times it would be a better move than swapping like-for-like.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    I think that after the season you should update the rankings of every Union player. I’m thinking Austin Trusty might just move up from 52.

  5. Fabinho himself deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the transforming of opinions.
    .
    But the technical staff gets some, too.

  6. Not that the U would ever change their formation, but still think he could have done really well as a wing in a 3-5-2.

  7. My son always refers to Fabinho as the “One Man Circus.” It is both praise and criticism.

    That said, he is routinely among the nicest and most engaging players on the Club.

  8. My favorite union player of all time. Hands down.
    I’ll always forgive defensive errors from an outside back when the player contributes offensively, especially when the team suffers from lack of creativity in open play.
    Plus Fabinho always, ALWAYS makes the rounds after the match to thank the fans in every section of the stadium.
    Starting Gaddis over Fabinho at LB is a tragedy and a sin and a big reason why I am a luke warm Union supporter.

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