Neymar had to wipe tears away as he spoke with reporters for the first time since being removed from the field on a stretcher during last week’s World Cup quarterfinal against Colombia.
It was a tournament that saw his already-bright public star met by strong on-field play, but instead ended with near paralysis after Colombia’s Juan Zuniga intentionally-fouled the 22-year-old Brazilian with a knee to the lower back.
Just like that, Neymar’s dreams of lifting the World Cup Trophy in his home nation turned to dust.
And the superstar seems to still be reeling from the event.
“If it had been 2 centimeters to the center…,” he said, struggling to stay composed. “I could be in a wheelchair.”
The 22-year-old striker complained about Zuniga’s challenge, although he said the Colombian called to apologize.
“I don’t know if he was trying to hurt me, but if you understand football you know that it was not a normal challenge,” Neymar said. “I can’t protect myself when I’m not facing the play. The only thing that can protect me from someone coming from behind are the rules. I couldn’t protect myself and I ended getting hurt.”
Calling it the “worst week of my life”, Neymar talked about not being able to play in Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals. He said losing would’ve been understandable, but the blowout was unacceptable.
The Barcelona attacked also said he will be rooting for his club teammates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano to win despite Brazil’s rivalry with Argentina.
“I’m not cheering for Argentina, I’m cheering for my teammates,” he said.
Neymar said that it would be good for football to have Messi winning a world title.
“He deserves to be a world champion,” he said. “I’m Messi Football Club.”