Love in the time of FRED

l him yes. Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no.” - Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Converting was easy. It took me all of 90 seconds.

That’s how long I needed to find a new saviour in Frederico Chaves Guedes, or Fred as he’s come to be known on a soccer pitch. Or rather, FRED. Because that’s what it says on the back of his jersey. 

But before the name, there was the goal. I tuned in for the 2013 Confederations Cup final between Spain and the motherland (read: Brazil. I’m Canadian, but my uncle married a Brazilian woman once upon a time. They’ve had two children, giving me two Brazilian cousins and a perfect reason to join the biggest bandwagon in the world. You know, as if you needed a reason to join a bandwagon.).

Within 90 seconds of play, Brazil was up on the mighty Spaniards, of whom we can now say with the benefit of hindsight really weren’t all that mighty anymore. But then, it was still a little incredible when, within 90 seconds of play, Hulk crossed a ball toward keeper Iker Casillas’s cage, Spanish defenders Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba collided with Brazil’s Neymar Jr. and an unnamed Brazilian striker, and Casillas sort of just stood there. No one got the ball, the unnamed Brazilian striker fell, but somehow the ball stayed with him. The striker, who just about face-planted, saw the ball right there at his feet. He couldn’t have been more than a yard away from the goal, so he did the only thing he could have. He flicked the ball in.

That Brazilian striker, of course, was FRED—but that’s not what I called him then. “That man is a poet,” I said, because surely that goal was an alexandrine. In the year since, I’ve come to realize now that it’s not exact to call him a poet. Because he’s so much more—he’s a deity. You don’t need to see him, you only need faith. And after that goal, boy did I believe in FRED. I didn’t know at the time, but I was the first convert of the Church of FRED. (For all I know, I’m probably still the lone convert. I’d ask him to score a goal, but I said you only need faith, not tangible proof.)

I’ve come to realize, too, that this goal against Spain was the perfect FRED goal. The one to end all FRED goals—and judging by what’s unfolded at this World Cup, he basically never scored again, despite what the score sheet of the match against Cameroon says. Aged 30, FRED is the latest iteration in Brazil’s ongoing quest for a striker worthy of the lofty heights reached by Ronaldo. (At this point, the Seleção would be content with a striker, or at least a forward, who can reach the much less lofty heights of fat Ronaldo.) For the most part, FRED has been just as (un)successful as the ones who came before him. He’s failed where Robinho, Adriano (he really took to heart that part about fat Ronaldo), Jô (who’s still here), and Luis Fabiano (I mean, two names for a Brazilian striker? Rookie mistake) have. Where all other sorry excuses for a goal scorer that the country has rolled out since the glory days of Ronaldo’s soul patch in South Korea have failed, so has FRED. No shame in that.

But why is FRED different? Well for one thing, he may really not be all that different. FRED has the hairdo of the people, the game of the people, and the same influence on the World Cup 2014 results as that of the people. He appears to be just bad as any of the players who have come before him, prompting me to tweet earlier in the tournament that Brazil was trying to win the World Cup with as little help as possible from its group of strikers.

But could FRED be different? If he were, it would all start with his name—and really, what’s in a name? Wikipedia explains that a given name “identifies a specific person, and differentiates that person from other members of a group, such as a family or clan, with whom that person shares a common surname.” Well, sure. Okay. That’s fine, but could we get a little more specific? Sure we can. And for that, we turn to the great tool that is Behind the Name.

Sometimes in life, the road to one place ends up somewhere else, and this is the case here. FRED’s given name is Frederico… which, according to Behind the Name, is little more than the Spanish and Italian form of Frederick. Fine, then, let’s visit Frederick. Behind the Name writes that it is the “English form of a Germanic name meaning “peaceful ruler”, derived from frid “peace” and ric “ruler, power”.

Well then, I think we’ve arrived at what was our destination all along. FRED is the ruler. The savior. That’s it. Asking him to fill the void created by Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or Ronaldo, is looking at it all wrong. FRED plays soccer, but FRED is not a soccer player. He’s not soccer, Neymar Jr. is soccer. FRED is our savior. He’s my savior. He’s the heartbeat at the Church of FRED.

I present to you, now, the edicts of the Church of FRED. How I’ve come across these, I can’t say. The only thing I can concede is that they were passed on from generation to generation, or at the very least from Oct. 3, 1983, the day that the savior arrived, onward.

1-Thou shall be given a monosyllabic, ‘r v’ry simple, given nameth.

2-Thy stache game shall be the stuffeth of fables and legends.

3-Thy hair game shall be second to only thy stache game [see: edict 2].

4-Thy futebol game shall pale in comparison to thy stache game and thy hair game.

5-Thou shall playeth futebol the same way thou liveth thy life. To inspireth yourself, but mostly oth’rs.

6-Thou shall playeth f’r the v’ry greatest futebol nation on earth. And though thy futebol game shall be mediocre [see: edict 4], thou shall still don the numb’reth 9 j’rsey of this great nation.

7-Thou shall playeth, because the only oth’r option shouldst be the one they calleth Jô. And nay maneth call’d Jô couldst approach the anoint’d one call’d FRED.

8-Though ’tis gl’rious [see: edict 2], one day thou’ll shaveth thy stache. Not because it will maketh thou playeth bett’r futebol, but because a maneth wilt shaveth his stache ev’ry so oft.

9-FRED is life. FRED is loveth. FRED is hith’r to stayeth. FRED is f’rev’r.