Football: Rivaldo a closed book to Page

Stephen Brenkley talks to a Welshman whose travels took in Brasilia and Barnet

WITHOUT wishing to cast aspersions in any direction, from Brazil to Barnet is about as far a journey it is possible to make in professional football in one week. Brazil, home to some of the most gloriously gifted footballers on the planet, are world champions and Barnet... well, Barnet aren't.

It is a trip that Robert Page has now made. No sooner had he marked Rivaldo in Brasilia for Wales on Tuesday night than he was contemplating Kenny Charlery at Underhill stadium for his club, Watford, in the FA Cup first round yesterday. If the central defender sensed he was passing between the sublime and the ridiculous, he refused to let on. "Kenny's got a wonderful record against us and he's always a handful," he said. But though the veteran striker scored the opening goal it was Watford who prevailed.

And for all Charlery's keen lower division wiles, which have seen him change hands seven times for a total not much above pounds 500,000, it is the pounds 12m Barcelona forward Rivaldo, not to mention his equally exotic colleagues, whom Page will remember forever.

There was the swerving, dipping, cunningly accurate 30-yard free-kick in the 37th minute from which he scored Brazil's second goal and five minutes before that there was the marvellously weighted, deceptively angled, impeccably timed little through ball which allowed Zinho to score their first.

"The pace of the game was a lot slower than in the Second Division," said Page. "International football is like that where they let you dwell on the ball. Brazil had other qualities too. They let you keep the ball in your half as though they're saying 'right let's see what you can do with it, let's see how good you are' and then you get to the halfway line. That's where they pounce on you in numbers. In the Second Division you don't have time to put your foot on the ball before some big centre forward's breathing down your collar in your own box. You don't have time to pass."

But there was more, of course there was more. "Brazil did things that you could only stand back and admire," said Page. "There are the set-pieces, the free-kicks which we knew about and now know a bit more about, but there was a period in the first half when they increased the tempo. Their running off the ball was just fabulous and some of their passing... well to be honest they could have given me a book to read all about it and I still wouldn't have been any the wiser."

Page flew out with Wales after a goalless draw with Walsall last Saturday. He and Karl Ready of Queen's Park Rangers partnered each other in central defence for the second time. Apart from a general agreement about being cautious in giving away free-kicks, they discussed how they would divide the labour. Ready would man-mark Muller and Page would keep a watchful eye on Rivaldo darting daintily about behind the the two main forwards.

"I think we did pretty well really," he said. "We were both disappointed with the first goal because it was from open play and I just didn't quite to get to Rivaldo in time. But apart from not conceding them, I don't think we could have done anything about the free-kicks. You can only learn by playing the world champions and be glad it's not like that in the Second Division every week.

"Towards the end, Rivaldo was in a bit of space well out. I was worried about his passing to the left but then he looked up and chipped the goalkeeper. Now, that doesn't happen too often in the Second Division. You just have to think 'good luck to you, mate'."

Page, aged 23, is now in his second season as captain at Watford and has won seven caps (he is a genuine Welshman from Llwynpia). He shared a room with Ready and they could also share the heart of the Wales central defence for a while yet. "The phone went while we were there and it was for Karl to say that Stewart Houston was leaving Queen's Park Rangers. It was a long way to go to hear that." And a long way back to Barnet. In every sense.

peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions