Adriano Moraes had to no choice but to learn English when he first came to the United States, because there were no other Brazilian riders competing here at the time.
Paulo Crimber and Guilherme Marchi picked up a few words behind the chutes. Robson Palermo got help from his wife Priscila, who studied at The Ohio State University. Renato Nunes once said he learned the language by watching episodes of "Seinfeld," and Valdiron de Oliveira has come a long way with the help of a neighbor.
Silvano Alves, who made his Built Ford Tough Series debut last year by riding all eight bulls at his first two events, has been studying English as a second language at a local church in Decatur, Texas.
Still, the 23-year-old Alves is a little apprehensive when it comes to speaking English, and often relies on friends like Crimber and Oliveira to translate for him.
“He’s kind of shy,” Oliveira said.
“That’s the way we all were,” Crimber explained. “When you’re trying to learn and you’re around somebody that speaks better than you, you’re kind of shy about it. That’s how it was, for me, around Adriano too.”
Alves was born and raised outside of Pilar do Sul, a city of 26,411 in the state of Sao Paulo. His father Silvano Goes worked a modest ranch. Nine years after he was born, his mother Angela gave birth to his younger sister Antonielle, who is now 14 years old.
In many ways, life for Alves was not unlike that of American bull riders in Texas or Oklahoma. He grew up around bulls, and as a young boy he liked to ride calves. Both his grandfather and his father also used to ride bulls.
When asked if his father was as good as his son, the younger Alves simply laughed. “No,” he said.
“He was mediocre,” said Crimber, who helped translate for Alves. “He said he just rode, but never traveled away from the house. He always just did the little, small amateur deals.”
It wasn’t until his teenage years that the young Silvano saw Fabricio Alves, who made his PBR debut in 1999 and last rode at a BFTS event in 2007.
That’s when he knew he wanted to be a professional bull rider.
Getting to the show
There’s never been a time in Alves’ career when he wasn’t considered among the best.
From the time he got on his first bull to his most recent BFTS event win in Anaheim, Calif. – his fourth in less than 12 months – he’s dominated the competition. In fact, some of the stats from his last year in Brazil mirror those of Jim Sharp in the late 1980’s. He rode well over 90 percent of his bulls.
Before switching from the Crystal Cup series to PBR Brazil, Alves won six cars, 23 motorcycles and more than R$800,000, half of which was for being the top Crystal Cup rider in 2009. It was then that Alves met and befriended Fabiano Vieira.
Unlike the PBR, the Crystal Cup was disorganized. Typically, after one event, promoters from the next event would contact Alves and Vieira – who finished first and second more often than not – and would buy their motorcycles for R$6,000.
“Someone from the next committee would be there looking for good riders, and you could sell the motorcycle,” said Crimber, who explained that it was cheaper for the promoters to buy back the prizes than to deal with the government title regulations. “You would go the following week and win the same motorcycle again – same way with the cars too.”
Some of those promoters wanted to pay for Alves and Vieira to ride bulls in the U.S., but only in exchange for a percentage of their earnings.
By then, Flavio Junqueira had organized PBR Brazil, and grown the Brahma Super Bull into a series of BFTS-like events. Moraes explained to them that if their goal was to compete in the U.S., the most money would be available in the PBR.
But to make the transition, a rider must be ranked in the Top 20 of the Brahma tour. Only then are Brazilian riders allowed to come up and either work their way to the BFTS from the Touring Pro Division or wait until the PBR World Finals, and then begin riding at BFTS events the following year.
Alves and Vieira went to an event in Barretos, where Vieira took first and Alves was second. A short time later Moraes brought Alves to the U.S. as part of the World Cup for 2010.
“That’s how that all started,” Alves said.
Alves came to the U.S. expecting to do well.
Looking back on his first year, he’s done better than he expected.
He won his first BFTS event in Nampa, Idaho, and then two more. He rode 62.26 percent of his bulls, won more than $321,000, and was named the 2010 PBR Rookie of the Year.
But at season’s end little was known about the emerging star. Interviews were limited because of the language barrier.
However, after watching Oliveira and the others – namely Marchi and Palermo – Alves said that not having cameras and recorders pointed in his direction before and after every ride actually allowed him to focus on making the transition to the more athletic bulls used here in the U.S.
Eventually his wife Evelin came to Texas with their daughter Hanyelle after Alves bought a home in Decatur. Evelin is expecting their first son in July.
Vieira lives with them in a spare room.
“Now he has everything here,” Crimber said, “and it feels like home.”
“It could change,” said Alves, of his new life in America, “but I want to retire here.”
— by Keith Ryan Cartwright
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