It’s been a long, difficult and hard journey to the Euro semi-finals for Portugal’s defender Jose Fonte.
Back in 2012, when Portugal had reached the semis, the defender was instrumental in winning promotion for Southampton to the English Premier League and representing the country back then was just a distant dream.
The last time around when Portugal lost on penalties to Spain, Fonte said he was probably back home in Portugal with his family. But this time around, the defender is all set to play for the country against Wales in the semis for a place in the finals of the European Championships.
“It’s a story of work and sacrifice but also a great deal of pride,” the 32-year-old told reporters on Tuesday.
Fonte’s boyhood club was Sporting Lisbon, the same one as Cristiano Ronaldo but their careers have gone on contrasting paths.
While Ronaldo has enjoyed fame and fortune at Real Madrid, Fonte has travelled from Felgueiras in the Portuguese second tier to Vitoria Setubal and then to Pacos de Ferreira, followed by three seasons in the English second division with Crystal Palace.
He dropped down to the third tier to join Southampton and has been with them through their rise to the top flight.
Fonte said, “I had to work very hard and I was loaned from club to club, always trying to improve in different clubs, and getting to England was the best thing that happened to me. A�”I learned a lot as a person and player.A�I reached higher levels, I had more success, promotions, then got to the Premier League which helped me fulfil the biggest dream of all.”
With Southampton doing well in the top division, he eventually got his chance with Portugal and made his debut two years ago.A�”Playing for Portugal means the world to me,” said Fonte. “I’ve always had the ambition and desire and belief I could get there.A�When I got to the Premier League I thought I would be closer to my dream…fortunately we have been able to progress at Southampton and that gave me the opportunity to be selected. It’s something I am proud of and will always cherish.”
Fonte said that Portugal have the belief that they could will make the cut to the final,A�”The coach (Fernando Santos) said it from the first day.”