Language barrier no issue as Hougang's Pedro Bortoluzo does his talking on the pitch
He is deemed the joker of the team because he enjoys cracking jokes with his teammates.
But on the pitch, Brazilian Pedro Bortoluzo has recently shown himself to be an ace in Hougang United's pack.
After a slow start to the season, the 26-year-old forward has racked up five goals in his last four Singapore Premier League games. During Hougang's AFC Cup campaign in June, he netted four times in three games.
But Bortoluzo did not have a smooth start to life in Singapore as he had to cope with a language barrier and an injured thigh.
Speaking through teammate and translator, fellow Brazilian Andre Moritz, Bortoluzo said: "Language was for sure the biggest challenge because I am an active talker but I struggle with English."
Still, he does his best to break the ice with his teammates - his most famous joke is that his English is fantastic although he does not speak much of the language.
"I can understand English well but when I try to speak, sometimes I get stuck," said Bortoluzo, who sparked much laughter among his teammates during training on Thursday (Aug 4), the eve of Hougang's game against title-chasers Albirex Niigata.
"But I like to talk so since I know a little bit of English, I want to break the ice with jokes so people can feel more comfortable with me."
After scoring on his debut, he then injured his thigh in Hougang's second game of the season against Tanjong Pagar that ruled him out for a few weeks.
He said: "For sure, that was my worst moment in Singapore because I had just arrived to play football. But I was injured and couldn't do what I was supposed to do and I didn't know a lot of people here. It was a tough time."
Bortoluzo arrived from U.D. Oliveirense, which is in the Portuguese second division. Before that, he was part of Sao Paulo FC's youth set-up before moving to the senior team and playing for several Brazilian clubs on loan.
Now, the Sao Paulo native is finding his confidence and eager to maintain his form. More important for him, however, is securing wins as fifth-placed Hougang look to finish as the second-best local club - a position that might see them qualify for the AFC Cup again.
To do that, they will likely have to finish third, currently occupied by Tanjong Pagar United who are five points ahead.
Bortoluzo said: "As a striker, it's good to score more goals and have more assists, but the most important thing is the victory and I want to help the best I can.
"If I don't score but we get three points, it doesn't matter (that I didn't score)."
Moritz and Hougang coach Clement Teo hailed Bortoluzo's impact and work ethic.
Moritz, who hangs out with his fellow Brazilian off the pitch once a week, said: "We have a good relationship and he's like a little brother to me. He has big potential and he's a good player.
"It's not easy living abroad and being alone. We go out for food and just have fun together.
"He really funny and I feel sorry because people know he's a nice guy but only when they speak the same language as him or he speaks English can they get to know him better."
Teo knows the match against Albirex at Hougang Stadium will be a tough one but he is counting on Bortoluzo and his teammates to put up a good fight and spring a surprise.
"The boys love him, the local boys have great admiration for him. He helps the team tremendously with his work rate. It took a little while for him to get going but he has helped the rest of the players on the field get on the score sheet," said Teo.
"That's something rare for a main striker, chasing to be back in midfield then defending. He's a team player and he helps a lot in every department.
"Hopefully he will do it all again against Albirex. They're a really tough team to play against right now but the ball is round. It's going to be a tough game, but we will give them a run for their money."