Roberto ‘Pico’ Lopes, an Irish-born centre-back, has become a key player for the Cape Verde national team in recent years. The 31-year-old helped the team secure a famous 2-1 victory over Ghana in their opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) this year. Lopes, whose father is Cape Verdean and mother is Irish, made his debut for the team in 2019 after being contacted via LinkedIn.
Lopes was also part of the Cape Verde team that reached the last 16 in the AFCON two years ago but lost to Senegal, led by Sadio Mane. Despite not being considered good enough for the Ireland Under-19 team, Lopes managed to get a cap at that level and played alongside players like Jeff Hendrick. However, it was through a college module that required him to set up a LinkedIn account that Lopes caught the attention of the Cape Verde national team manager, Rui Aguias.
Initially skeptical of the LinkedIn message, as it was in Portuguese, which he didn’t understand at the time, Lopes eventually responded and expressed his interest in joining the team. He made his debut against Togo in a friendly in France. Lopes reflects on his father’s journey from Cape Verde to Lisbon, where he trained as a chef and worked on ships around the world. He believes his own football career is a result of hard work and merit.
Looking ahead, Lopes is focused on the upcoming matches against Mozambique and Egypt in the AFCON. He is not fazed by the prospect of facing top players like Mohamed Salah, as he has already faced talented opponents like Mane, Victor Osimhen, Achraf Hakimi, and Riyad Mahrez at the international level.
In conclusion, Lopes’ journey from Ireland to playing for Cape Verde is a testament to his determination and the opportunities that can arise through unexpected channels like LinkedIn. He is proud to represent Cape Verde and is eager to continue learning and contributing to the team’s success.