This is me: Bruna de Paula
To play handball as a girl in Brazil takes some strength. To become a professional player is even tougher. As an exceptional talent in South America, Bruna De Paula knew she had to spread her wings, leave home and her mom, her inspiration, to follow her dreams of making it to the big time in Europe. Now she's here, she's making it count and with her infectious smile and rocket of a right arm. In our latest This is Me story, Bruna retraces her footsteps from Brazil to the EHF Champions League Women.
You might not know her, but to me, she is everything.
My pillar. My motivation. My inspiration.
She’s my mom.
The reason why I’ve been doing all of this. Why I have been on a mission in Europe.
Handball is my passion. Handball is a huge part of my world. But my mom, she is everything.
Back in Brazil, she did everything for my four sisters and me.
If I barely knew my dad, my mother was always there for me. We may not have had a lot of money, but she made sure we did not miss anything.
She was working all day, but she did everything so we could grow up the right way.
As far as I can recall, I had a very happy childhood, in a small town between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
In my country, everything is a reason to be happy anyway. The sun is out, the weather is warm, we are having fun, and this is what make us Brazilians so strong. We are resilient, and able to move on no matter the conditions.
My first encounter with handball happened after I first started football, which was my childhood love.
To play handball as a girl in Brazil takes some strength. To become a professional player is even tougher.
But one teacher at school noticed I was able to play and asked me to join the club.
Eloy, that was his name.
So, I started handball in Campestre, but at that point, I had no dream of making it big.
Only when I started travelling with my team did handball start to become a serious business. I started to see this whole journey as an adventure.
At that point, I had already chosen to ditch football for handball, but I needed to think bigger than that.
And in order to do so, there was one place I needed to go: Europe.
Duda Amorim, Ana Paula Rodrigues, those were the players I looked up to. Europe helped them build their career, and I had to follow their path.
My mum almost felt relief when I told her I was going to Europe.
When I was still living with her, she would always worry about me finding my way in life. But when Europe called, she knew that it was my destiny.
“Follow your heart, and nothing wrong will happen.”
That’s what she told me when I left. She knew that, if I had decided to leave, I had good reasons to do so.
She was always the one to let myself make my own mistakes anyway. So that experiences would build me up as a person.
The fact that she gave me her blessing was reassurance to me. I felt less bad leaving my family in my country.
My first months in France proved to myself that my choice was the right one.
When I landed at the airport, I was lost. Not speaking a word of French or of English was tough. But I was reckless, as every 18-year-old is, and got over it almost immediately.
I was willing to learn, willing to adapt, very excited to discover a brand-new world.
There were some funny moments, though, like my first winter in Orléans. I had never seen the snow before, as winters in Brazil are usually 25 degrees hot. That was a shock.
I had never seen a tramway either and I remember taking it just for fun when I arrived in France.
I immediately settled in my new environment. To the point where I now consider this country as my second home.
That’s not to say that I don’t miss Brazil. I miss the sun, I miss my family. I still call my mom every single day that God gives us.
But I am happy where I am now.
I even feel like Duda and Ana and all of them, I have to some extent become one of them.
It sometimes feels weird thinking about it, thinking that I have become a model for a little girl back in Brazil.
Even though I tend not to think about it too much, a private message on Instagram will pop up every now and again.
Perhaps, this little girl looks up to me and I do look up to Neymar. He is my complete idol, as I love everything about him.
The way he is, the way he looks, his cocky arrogance on the court, where he is not afraid to try new things, I can get some inspiration from him.
But he will never stand close to my mum, though.
Of all the people that have helped me along the way, who have picked me up when the going was tough, she will stand out.
And if I can pay her back for all the love she gave me with the money I earn playing handball, then I will do it every single day. That’s a tiny reward for what she did for me when I was a kid.
Because I LOVE my mum.
Marinalva, that’s her name. And I owe her everything.
Bruna De Paula