All throughout the next two weeks I will be interviewing players who will be participating in Brazil’s female Superliga this season. Today, we start with Sesi‘s Daniele Cristine Marcelo de Oliveira, or “Dani Suco” for short. Dani Suco is a 6’2″ lefty middle blocker who is about to start her 14th Superliga season. In her career, she has played for all of Brazil’s super-teams and won many titles, including Superliga itself and FIVB’s coveted World Club Championship.
For this season, Dani Suco accepted a big challenge, as recently relegated Sesi went out all out in trying to secure a spot in Superliga A in the CBV’s Gold Cup, in which they were successful. We talked to her about this chapter of her volleyball career, and much more. Enjoy.
Dani, you are now in your 14th Superliga season. In this time, you have amassed a lot of experience, playing in Brazil’s biggest clubs and stages. However, you are now in a role that is very new to you. How was it to play in the Gold Cup, where teams build their rosters from scratch and players know that if their team don’t get promoted to the top division, they would probably be out of a job?
When I signed my contract with Sesi, I already knew what the team expected from all players: Superliga A promotion. We knew we had a very big challenge in front of us, as all other Gold Cup teams organized very competent rosters as well. Playing in the Gold Cup was the biggest challenge of my career so far. For the first time ever, I had to play for my job, so it was a very stressful, yet challenging experience.
I had to make use of all my experience in volleyball in only two games. It was a mixture of physical and emotional preparation, and of course, faith. Everything assumed even a bigger connotation to me, as I was coming out a very bad season, where I barely saw any playing time, as I was recovering from my second Achilles tendon injury. I had no playing rhythm, my confidence was shook, and I was in bad shape physically as well. The biggest challenge was believing in myself, that I could once again play volleyball at a high professional level, just like SESI thought I could by investing so much confidence in me. It was a little bit scary, but everything worked out for the best in the end. I was able to give my 100% effort on the court, as well as make my experience play in favor of the team. My teammates helped me greatly. Everybody did their best, in an all out effort, that is why we won the tournament and the promotion to Superliga A. We had very difficult games, but together we were able to make things work for our side.
What does Sesi hope to accomplish as a team this season? What is the team playing for?
We as a team, of course, wish to go as far as possible in Superliga. We need to be realistic, practical and keep our feet firmly in the ground. The Superliga is more and more balanced as each year goes by. Brazil’s top teams are even stronger this year, also. So naturally, our first goal is to play well. We want to continue our successful trajectory from the Gold Cup and Paulista Championship, keeping our identity as a tight, fighting team. That is the culture we are hoping to establish at Sesi for the season. We know that Superliga is going to very hard, each game will be very difficult and different, but if we can make it to the playoffs as one of the top 8 teams, we would be very satisfied.
What are you personal goals for this season?
We won the Gold Cup because we were able to organize, in only two months, a very tight, fighting roster. In this short amount of time, we were able to develop a “never give up” team culture. I plan to contribute the most I can to that culture, with a lot of work, helping my with my experience, patience, and vision in every way possible.
Dani, your boyfriend Leandro Possadagua is an active historian and great friend of I mine, so I happen to know that you are both very active in your community when it comes to discussing important social questions. Do you also see in sport possibilities for social change? Do you believe volleyball offers you an opportunity to discuss with your community issues relating to society?
I believe that sport has a bigger role than just honing athletes. Sport can be an important ally in society, be it in schools or clubs, when it relates to education, respect, behavior, citizenship, and different world views. At least, I’ve always perceived volleyball like that.
Besides trying to evolve as an athlete, as a black woman, I’ve always tried to improve my capacity for critical thinking on questions related to society, politics, feminism, and social and racial prejudice. This has always been a priority of mine, as well as being able to effectively share my opinions, as I believe it is extremely important for players to build and think themselves beyond volleyball. I try to read a lot on issues I care about, as well as watch documentaries, and talk to knowledgeable people.
Lately, I have been really trying to educate myself more on politics, talking to people who know more about it than you do can greatly help you to understand the many nuances of the world, if you know how to critically assess their opinions/teachings. Leandro and I are always discussing important political issues, which greatly captivates my curiosity and motivates me to have my own point of view on things.
As one of the oldest players in Sesi, I am always open to talk to my younger teammates, or even when I go talk at the elementary school where I began playing, about how sport goes beyond being an athlete, even because our careers are so short, and therefore, we should all worry about our future and try to improve ourselves as better, thinking people, and citizens.