First things first – how shall football fans call you? Ellinton Antonio Costa Morais sounds kind of long. Is Liliu your footballer’s name?
Yes, it is! that’s how people know me since I started in football.
What’s the story behind this name?
It came from my sister, my uncle used to call her Lili which is a short abbreviation of her name, so when we were kids she couldnt pronounce my name and ended up calling me Liliu, and this stayed forever.
While people may have to get comfortable with your name you’re used to get comfortable with different countries. Estonia is the 8th country you’re playing and live in. Is this getting easier somehow country by country?
At the beginning it was very difficult because of the language barrier, weather, far away from family, but then you start getting used to it and become a bit easier. The key is to learn the local language, I speak Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, English, a bit of Maltese, Estonian and Russian. So now I can really manage.
The first time you left Brazil for playing football was in 2010 when you signed a loan contract with KVC Westerlo in Belgium. Can you describe how this step felt by that time and how the transfer was initiated?
I was playing u19 in Brazil and the scout of Westerlo was in brazil to watch young players and thanks God at that day I made a good match and was invited to join them. It was a huge step in my life and career, all brazilian kids dream to play football in Europe.
Seemed like you’ve convinced Westerlo because they signed you on a fix basis afterwards and you scored nine goals and assisted on two in 40 games. Impressive statistics for a 20 year old so far away from home. What has been the reason that they released you quite short after that?
I remember that I had a great start with Westerlo scoring five goals in my first nine matches. After some time the team ended up in the relegation for the second division, so we decided to finish the contract in commom agreement.
Looking back, maybe it was a mistake to break the contract and I should of stayed in Belgium, but that was the decision back then.
Afterwards you changed clubs quite often playing in Kuwait, Cyprus and Israel. Also, you had longer stay in Malta. Can you describe this phase of your career and how it influenced you as a person and a player?
I think I may have had bad advice and wrong choices at some point of my career but this is past and it helped me to grow as a person. I prefer to take the positive side of all the countries I’ve been before.
A year ago, you changed to Estonia to Tallinn-based club Nomme Kalju FC. How did they get in touch with you and how did all parties realize the deal?
It was thanks to the collaboration between my agent Jorge Garcia and club’s president Kuno Tehva, which I appreciate the opportunity to play in Estonia.
After one year of playing in Estonia – are you feeling like home there already? Despite the nice Estonian summer this year the weather is always a fact, isn’t it?
Since the first day I was warmly welcome by all the players and staff from Kalju, so I can say I do feel like home since the beginning. The weather was not a problem since I’ve been in similar condition in Belgium, I can say I’m really used to it.
Kalju has transferred another Brazilian player [William Gustavo] a short time ago. Is this something you feel like you need to have to feel more comfortable or is it just “another asset”?
Of course is always nice to have another fellow countryman but it wouldn’t be a problem without any other Brazilian around, I think it all depend how people welcome you in the club and to be able to speak their language. Anyway William is a great addition to make our team stronger.
Regarding the quality level of the football – where would you rank Estonia and Premium Liiga especially compared to the countries you played before?
I think today I put just behind Belgium, all the other countries I believe Estonian teams are perfectly able to play at the same level, Kalju showed it two years ago beating a Israeli team in Europa League qualifying for example.
Our head coach Sergey Francev have a lot of experience, demands are high, the training sessions are well organized and in good level. Despite not so good results in UEFA Europa League this year, I am sure that Estonian football is on the way up.
This season so far went unbelievably well for you [insert current statistics] and you’re the current leader of the Golden Boot Ranking. Have you ever had such a season yourself? Is this also an outcome of the circumstances at Nomme Kalju FC?
I like to score goals and I did it in other clubs and countries as well, including Malta, but I’m very happy that this season in Kalju I’m having a good sequence and I hope to keep it going till the end of the season. The Golden Boot is nice to have but to me is more important that our team wins and finish with the title.
Do you now aim to score a special number of goals? There are a couple of games left to play…
I don’t have a special number, so far I scored 22 goals in 19 league matches and I just want to score as much as possible to help my team to be champion. If it ends up as being also the top scorer of the league, it will be a perfect season for me. But if I think about it, I believe 35 goals would be a great number.
You have a valid contract with Nomme Kalju FC until the end of 2018 while the club has an option to go for another season. It seems kind of sure they are going to take it. What are your plans with Kalju?
Right now my only thoughts are to be champion, afterwards we will decide what is the best for all of us.
Looking at the midterm situation – do you have plans to make a move to a stronger European league?
Every player aim to play for a big European league, and I’m not different of them, I’ve been there in the beginning of my career and I believe I can be there again. My job is to keep working, help the team and to score goals, the rest will come after.
The question regarding a stronger league also refers to the current results of the Estonian clubs in the European cups. Unfortunately, each of the teams [Kalju, Levadia, Narva – waiting for Flora vs APOEL] lost. This is not unknown to Estonian football fans. Do you have an explanation for that?
True, the Europa League results this year where not as good as expected. I am sure that the main reason behind this was the one month break in the domestic league due to the world cup, we just lost the game rhythm.
But in the end of the day what really matters are the results we had in the past years, Kalju is the most successful club in Estonia when it comes to European games and I am sure that the years to come will prove the same.
Usually we have reached to the second and third qr in Europa League, but maybe this year we will have more energy now to fight for the title.
Regarding the Premium Liiga, there is big competition between the three Tallinn-based clubs Kalju, Levadia and Flora. The gap to rest of the league is indeed really big. Often, the last placed teams earn only single points on several occasions. Would you consider this a problem for the league or is it enough competition?
For the level of the league it might be a problem since some teams cannot really compete on the required level, but every game we need to play with full concentration to not give them any chances and get every single point.
I hope our FA will split the league in the years to come, it would make sense and give both groups more competitive games.
Estonia has one of the lowest age averages in 1st division football in Europe. For the youngsters this situation is surely positive. How do you feel does it influence international competitiveness?
For International level sometimes is a bit harder for them, specially when they have the first big matches but mixing with some experience players we can have the balance that we need to become a solid team work.
Regarding low averages – not many people come to attend football matches in the stadiums in Estonia? Where are the reasons for that in your opinion? Infrastructure? Interest?
It could be infrastructure since the stadiums are not so big and comfortable (except A le Coq Arena and Kadriorg stadium ) or perhaps the fact that all the matches are broadcasted live, people probably prefer to watch at home because the TV numbers are growing. It’s a process, Estonia is re-building the whole football culture because it stopped after separating from Russia in 1991. Eventually it will come and the stadiums will be full. Despite lower average in attendance, our home games in Nõmme have great atmosphere and we have amazing support from our fans.
This year, Tallinn hosts the final of the European Supercup between Real Madrid and Áteletico Madrid. Is this a special chance to increase football interest in Estonia? Will you attend the game?
It is a super event, this is something that Estonia really needed! Maybe after that people start to be more interest about football and can attend more matches at the stadiums. I hope I can attend, it’s a unique experience to watch some of the best players in the world.
Regarding the impression you’ve left in Malta – there is a rumour the Maltese FA is interested that you play for their national Team. Is that true and how is it possible?
I am liable for Maltese passport and therefore I was approached by the Malta FA to join the national team. I am happy that I left a good impression to the national team coaches, I was fortunate to score goals in Malta and to be the champion of the FA Cup. I am more then happy and honored to accept the call and I’m looking forward for this international challenge.
What’s the approximate timetable for the next steps then?
I believe after the end of the current season, hopefully with the title of the league and golden boot.
Last question – can you please tell us about the most interesting experience you had considering football.
I believe it was the final of the Belgian Cup in 2011 against the well known Standard de Liege! My father flew for the first time in his life just to attend that match, and although we didn’t win, it was definitely the most beautiful experience of my career. To play in front of 55 thousand people with my father in the stand was a dream come true.