by Jeremy Walker
From eating lunch with Patrick Vieira to taking the field with David Beckham – Sky Blues deep-lying playmaker Paulo Retre reflects on his fascinating footballing journey.
Raised in a Portuguese family, the beautiful game comes naturally to Sydney FC’s Paulo Retre – whose parents migrated from Europe to Melbourne in the 1960’s and 70’s.
The 29-year-old midfielder grew up idolising his father, Carlos Retre, who played for Footscray JUST (Jugoslav United Soccer Team) in the old National Soccer League (NSL).
Carlos was a prolific forward – winning the 1993 Victorian Premier League Golden Boot – netting 22 times for Fawkner Blues and finishing as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer with 44 goals.
Like many migrants, Carlos used football as a means to integrate into Australian society.
“Dad came over to Australia when he was roughly 12 years old and they lived in Springvale, Melbourne,” said Retre.
“He’s obviously made friends through football and knows a lot of people around the game as well so at the time it helped him to settle into the country.
“I guess that’s a good thing about football is that it doesn’t matter where you are, it’s the world game, so it brings people together and the good things you have in common with someone which makes it more rewarding.”
Melbourne-born Retre has made 140 appearances for Sydney FC since joining in 2017, but his career took-off at archrivals Melbourne Victory where he made his club debut against David Beckham and the LA Galaxy in the 2011 Hyundai Club Challenge.
“To be honest it’s one of those surreal things,” Retre said. “At the time I kind of felt like Beckham was a cartoon character!
“You kind of don’t think they’re real, just to be on the same pitch as him was a blessing.”
Representing the Young Socceroos in 2011 for the U19 AFC Championship Qualifiers, Retre received more first team minutes at Victorian NPL side Bentleigh Greens in 2012 – going on to earn his first Isuzu UTE A-League appearance at the former Melbourne Heart in 2013.
A part of the fabric when the City Football Group bought Melbourne Heart in 2014, changing the club name to “Melbourne City”as it is known today, Retre experienced the perks of new wealthy ownership.
“I was in that stage which fell in the transition period so they were going above and beyond trying to make Melbourne City feel more part of the City Football Group,” Retre added.
“They flew the boys over for pre-season one year for about a month and we played a few teams around Manchester like Bolton, it was a good experience.
“Just to see the facilities they had, obviously you can see why they’re successful because there’s the resources and the best coaches to build a world where players succeed.”
The City Football Group, who also own Premier League champions Manchester City, helped Retre gain exposure to high-level football from a young age, even affording the midfielder time with one of the Arsenal invincibles.
“A few times we actually got to eat all together with the U21’s and at the time Patrick Vieira was the coach!” said Retre.
“We had lunch with a lot of their players and I also remember Angeliño, one of the RB Leipzig players now, he was there as a young boy and he would have been a massive name around there.
“Training and being in and around those sorts of players was an incredible experience and you can see why their academy has done so well.”
Retre swapped Melbourne City for Sydney FC in 2017, going on to win two A-League Championships, two A-League Premierships and one FFA Cup with the Sky Blues under Graham Arnold and Steve Corica respectively.
Putting in the hard yards over the years to earn Sydney silverware, Retre enjoys time with teammates outside of the game and taking advantage of what the city has to offer.
“My missus doesn’t really like it!” said Retre, “But I play a bit of Call of Duty with a few of the boys in our team, Brattsy [Luke Brattan] and the boys get around it!”
“But I also like going to Bondi to be honest, obviously it’s not too far from me in Zetland so every time I have a spare day I try and get out there and get in the water, have a coffee and swim around so I like going around there and obviously in the city as well to go out and eat.”
After a narrow 3-2 loss to Melbourne Victory to start the Sky Blues’ A-League season back at Allianz Stadium last Saturday, Retre remains positive that the results will come after Corica’s men produced a strong attacking display.
“Running out there for the first time was fantastic,” said Retre. “What an atmosphere, what a stadium, it made me think back a little bit to games at the old Allianz.
“The first reaction everyone had after the match was that we’re really disappointed because we obviously put a good account of ourselves in the game.
“We tried to attack and go on to win the game but at times that meant we left ourselves a bit susceptible to counterattacks … but you have to move forward, I think we played really well and you can only take confidence from that and there’s a lot more games to go.”