For young Brazilians, there are essentially two choices when it comes to sports – racing or soccer. For IZOD IndyCar Series driver Raphael Matos, he knows he made the right decision by focusing on racing after spending some time working out with the Kansas City Wizards soccer club on March 23.
Matos tried soccer when he was a kid, but wasn’t quite fastest enough so his coach put him in goal. Playing goalkeeper wasn’t fastest enough for Matos, so he decided to focus on racing. It appears to have been a good choice as Matos is one of the up-and-coming stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
“Soccer is big everywhere in Brazil, everywhere you go there is a soccer field especially in Rio de Janeiro,” said Matos, who is currently fourth in the point standings. “It’s like basketball here. That’s how you get to be the best.”
Matos did show off some of his soccer skills against Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Neilsen. As Matos, decked out in Wizards gear, got some advice from Wizards captain Jimmy Conrad, he lined up a couple of penalty shots against Neilsen. Neilsen, however, wasn’t in the giving mood with the season opener just days away and stopped all of Matos’ shots.
“I became a Wizards fan today,” said Matos. “These guys were really great to be around.”
Last year at Kansas Speedway, Matos struggled and readily admits he made a rookie mistake.
“I made a few rookie mistakes last year, but I learned from them and learned what not to do,” said Matos. Matos returns to Kansas Speedway on May 1 for his second trip to the facility and is looking for better results this time around.
“Ovals aren’t natural to me and Kansas Speedway will be our first oval of the year,” said Matos. “I’m getting more comfortable on them and we’ve got a young team that is getting better everyday.”