Known by the nickname Cerca-Frango (Bag the Chicken), the goalie Bilô-Bolô was a total disaster between the posts. He played for a peg-leg team, and from the very beginning of his career accumulated the most mortifying nicknames: Butter-fingers, the Sieve, King of the Howlers. The ball Fura-Redes (Burst-the-Net), on the other hand, was the striker’s delight, full of all sorts of goals - Olympic, banana-kick, bicycle-kick, slalom – earning her the most prestigious aliases: Magic Orb, Genius Goal-getter, Invincible Cannonball, Infernal Inflatable. She was at her peak, even tipped to be the official ball at the next World Cup. It so happens that Fura-Redes fell for the hapless Bilô-Bilô and started doing everything she could to fall into the arms of her beloved, giving the disastrous goalie a taste of stadium glory as the famous Pega-Tudo (Glue Fingers). On the day the King of Football himself is set to score his one-thousandth goal, Fura-Redes finds herself in a dilemma: the love of her life, Pega-Tudo, is standing in the goalmouth. Could she really thwart the King’s thousandth goal just to snuggle up in her beloved’s arms? In this children’s narrative, the impartial Fura-Redes – arch-enemy of the nil-all draw – ends up besotted by none other than Bilô-Bilô, a goalie at odds with balls, but who nonetheless succumbs to the generous cannonball. With romanticism and good humour, The Ball and the Goalie shows how two figures with such opposing vocations can recognise the beauty in difference – and even let themselves be wooed by it.
The Ball and the Goalie was written in Salvador in January 1984. The author’s son João Jorge, recalls that whenever his father spoke about football “he used an old kind of language, full of English words, such as goalie instead of goleiro and corner instead of escanteio”. So to write this book, Jorge Amado had to update his footballing vocabulary. João Jorge also remembers that the Portuguese edition of The Ball and the Goalie came with a glossary, as many of the Lusitanian terms are different to those used in Brazil. In addition to publication in Portugal, the book was also translated into German, French, Italian and Spanish. The cover and illustrations for the first edition were by Aldemir Martins, though in 2000 the book received new embroidered images by Antônia Diniz Dumont, Ângela, Martha, Marilu and Sávia Dumont over drawings by Demóstenes Vargas. Jorge Amado’s favourite teams were Ipiranga, in Bahia, and Bangu, in Rio de Janeiro – both originally working men’s teams.
Burst-the-Net had reached the top of a most brilliant career; there was even talk of her being the official ball at the next World Cup. The best forwards at all the biggest clubs, the greatest strikers in the country, were all head-over-heels for her, they all wanted to be her favourite so they could break the world scoring record. But the heroine of the pitch showed no favour for any of them. She went straight for goal no matter whether it was from the foot of the best of the best himself, the King of Football, or from the boot of the biggest unknown peg-leg around. They were all the same to her, just a means toward the back of the net and the roar of the crowd with each goal she racked up – all worthy of a commemorative plaque. Burst-the-Net had never fallen for anyone. And then one day, as befalls all creatures, Burst-the-Net found herself besotted, but with who! Instead of falling for a striker, an attacking midfielder, a winger, she gave her heart to a goalie, and not just any goalie, but Rotten-hands himself, Bilô-Bilô, the King of the Howlers.