Brazilian footballer Denilson has linked up with Kent County League side Gillingham Town.
The 32-year-old former Arsenal player has agreed to become an ambassador for the Division 3 Central & East side.
Gillingham, who play at Sittingbourne’s old Bourne Park ground, are well represented with Brazilian players, thanks to the involvement at the club of Alex Bernardes, who has links with several former Arsenal players.
Denilson, who played for the Gunners between 2006 and 2013, isn’t the only well-known player associated with the club. The son of Gilberton Silva appeared for them during the past season and one of Denilson’s former Sao Paulo team-mates is also on their books.
Bernardes is delighted to have his friend on board.
He said: “We’ve been talking about the club and the vision we have for the future and this period has given us the chance to restructure with new board members. We’re implementing some things we never got chance to during the last season.
“Denilson is launching his own academy in Brazil in 2021 and with him coming onboard as an ambassador we now hope to be able to send some of our coaches over there and to welcome their teams to play over here and experience English football.”
Denilson commented: “I am delighted to be part of this amazing project.”
He is currently keeping fit in Brazil and still has ambitions to return to England to see out his career. At 32, there are still a few years left.
Bernardes said: “He is training hard and is hoping to get an offer.”
Gillingham Town’s own season was disrupted early on as some of their star players left, one returned to Brazil and another was too good for the level and was offered money to play elsewhere.
By the time they got settled coronavirus struck.
The team has an approximate 50-50 split between Brazilians and other areas around the world. The rock at the back, Steve Talbot, remains the captain, however.
The club had considered a name change, in view of their move from Gillingham to Sittingbourne. Swale United was on the table but they’ve since decided to keep their identity, one that means a lot to them.
“We didn’t want to lose the legacy behind the name,” Bernardes said.
Town were originally a team formed to give homeless people from hostels around Medway a focus and somewhere to play. The move to Sittingbourne has now given them a base and somewhere they can grow.
Bernardes, along with secretary Paul Pickford, were backing the club with sponsorship from their online property company Glow Move.
A slow-down in the housing market, however, let to Bernardes teaming up with another former Arsenal player Eduardo to set up a company called Planet Moso. Their ambition is to introduce alternatives to plastic. Bamboo toothbrushes are their main item of interest at present.
“Four billion of them get thrown away every year,” Bernardes said.
“We hope to make those small changes and when someone is spending four minutes brushing their teeth in the morning with a bamboo toothbrush they then might consider what else they can do to stop using plastic.”