BERGISCH GLADBACH: Gilberto Silva certainly looked comfortable while sitting back enjoying a chat on the leafy grounds of the Lerbach castle near Cologne.

He may as well, he earned it.

But like many kids growing up in the poor southeastern Brazilian town of Lagoa da Prata, Gilberto came from a modest background and used his footballskills to make a better life for himself.

``Our hard background built us really strong ... and maybe the easiest way to find something in our life, to survive, was soccer,'' the 29-year-old midfielder said. ``Every boy will tell you he wants to be a footballplayer. When we were kids we thought like that and the difficulty we had made us very strong to achieve this level.''

Football debut

Gilberto, who plays for English Premier League club Arsenal, made his football debut when he was only 12 years old playing for Brazilian club America. But he stopped a few years later when his father retired and he was left to provide for his family.

At 20, he started playing again for Atletico Mineiro and first played for Brazil's national team in November 2001.

Soccer, Gilberto admits, has changed his life. And being at the World Cup for the second time is not something he takes for granted.

``We feel proud to be here. It's a big thing for everybody to be part of this team, to represent millions of people in Brazil and around the world,'' Gilberto said. ``The atmosphere among the players from the start has been fantastic. It's amazing.''

Defensive midfielder

Gilberto has only scored three goals for Brazil in his 38 international appearances, but he is more of a defensive midfielder.

He played for about 20 minutes in Brazil's group game against Australia and was among five reserves fielded in the team's 4-1 victory over Japan.

Although excited to be back at the World Cup, Gilberto admits that it can get stressful especially when you are playing for a team favoured to win the title for a sixth time.

``The pressure on this team is massive, it's more than on any other team here,'' Gilberto said. ``Just because we have won five World Cups and a lot of important tournaments.

``Many people don't accept it if Brazil won the game but didn't play well. They expect us to do a lot of dribbles and fantastic skills and fantastic goals,'' Gilberto added.

To deal with the stress, Gilberto and many of his teammates receive visits from family members. The midfielder also enjoys playing a dice game introduced to him by Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry.

But music is Gilberto's biggest vice.

He used to play the mandolin but gave it up in favour of the guitar, and he said music is essential to his mental well-being. AP

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper