England were one-nil up against Brazil at Wembley Stadium, thanks to a goal from Lineker 35 minutes in to the first half. But the lead didn’t last long. Two minutes later, Silas passed to Müller in the penalty area. Müller’s shot lacked venom and power but Shilton couldn’t hold on to the ball and Mirandinha followed up on the rebound. He side footed the ball with power in to the roof of the net. The equaliser for Brazil, and the game finished one all.
The fixture, on May, 19th, 1987, was part of the Rous Cup competition, a short-lived tournament, that initially pitted England against Scotland, but in later years featured a guest team from South America. Mirandinha’s goal had made an impact and only a few months later he arrived in Newcastle, snapped up by then manager, Willie McFaul, thus becoming the first Brazilian to play in English football.
Francisco Ernani Lima da Silva, or Mirandinha as he is more commonly known had played for several Brazilian clubs before his 1986 move to Palmeiras. Scoring 21 times in 26 outings for the Green and Whites of São Paulo, he earned is call-up to the Seleção. A player with a lot of pace and physical strength, at 26 years old the striker was in his prime.
30 years on and Mirandinha remembers that time clearly, “I guess the goal was my business card”, it was his first taste of English football and he made an impression on English supporters, and the Brazilian striker was already negotiating a deal with Newcastle United before the game. “I had a friend who supports Palmeiras, Humberto Silva, who went to England as an Exchange student. He stayed with a family who knew the legendary Malcolm Macdonald. They mentioned me to the Newcastle directors.”
Off the field he may have struggled with the weather and acclimatising to his new environment, the different food and English culture, but on the pitch things hadn’t changed, he settled in immediately. With important goals, he was soon one of the favourites of the Toon supporters.
His first season for Newcastle was a success, joint top scorer with 13 goals, the same number as Michael O’Neill. Mirandinha’s first two goals came against Manchester United, in a two all draw in Manchester on September, 12th.
Newcastle finished the 1987-88 season in 8th position, with 14 wins, 14 draws and 12 defeats. With those results, everyone in Newcastle expected more from the 1988-89 season. After spending big in the summer and bolstering the team with F.A. Cup winners Dave Beasant and Andy Thorn, as well as Scotsmen John Robertson and John Hendrie, the foundations were there for a great season. It wasn’t to be.
The team changed manager 2 months into the season. Mirandinha suffered a knee injury half way through the campaign and Newcastle finished rock bottom, relegated to the Football League Second Division. Ending the season with 35 matches and 11 goals, Mirandinha retained the honour of being the top scorer. But it was bitterly disappointing for Newcastle United and the Brazilian – he returned to his home country to recover from the injury he sustained during the season.
Approaching the 1990 World Cup, Mirandinha decided to stay in Brazil, returning for another spell at Palmeiras, thinking he would have a greater chance of making the national squad and going to the competition. “I lost the chance to stay in Newcastle and bounce back with the team. Unfortunately I made a wrong decision and I was not called up for the Brazilian national team. If I had stayed, I would have had a better career in Newcastle. The supporters and directors liked me and didn’t want to release me”.
Mirandinha played 67 times for The Magpies and scored 23 goals. The top scorer in both seasons.
Still to this day Mirandinha remembers England fondly and his time in the north. He still keeps in touch with team mates – David McCreery, Lee Payne and John Anderson. April 2016, Mirandinha was honoured by Newcastle United at St. James’ Park in a game against Manchester City. “I’m very proud to have played in England and opened the gates for Brazilian players there. I’ll always take those memories with me”.
Besides Newcastle, he had a lot of success in Brazil, with Palmeiras, as well as Botafogo, Náutico, Portuguesa, Cruzeiro, Santos, Corinthians and Fortaleza.
Besides England and Brazil, Mirandinha has also played in Japan, between 1992 and 1995, for Shimizu S-Pulse and Fujita (Bellmare), where he won the league and was top scorer again.
After retiring, he became a coach at Palmeiras Futebol Clube, in São João da Boa Vista. Since then he has had roles at several Brazilian clubs, also in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. And now he coaches Gênus.
Mirandinha was also the ambassador of Fortaleza during the 2014 World Cup and responsible for the administration of Arena Castelão, one of the World Cup’s stadiums.