Augusto Lima moved to Kaunas from Spain six months ago and he’s one of the few Brazilians in the city. As the basketball player for “Žalgiris” spends most of his time in training sessions and matches, Augusto only explores his new home skin-deep. We’re talking to him and not any other legionnaire from the team because we wanted to tell him of… the Lima trail.
The latter is a small road in the Brazilka (roughly meaning “small Brazilian”; it's called like that because this is where Lithuanian emigrants settled after they came back from Brazil and other South American countries) neighbourhood in Žaliakalnis. It may be quite a leap from elite basketball, but linguistic games are like that.
After hearing the urban legend, the player was confused yet smiled. It’s not like every city welcomes a legionnaire with a street of his name upon arrival! We also chatted about Brazilian artists Os Gemeos, which have Lithuanian roots and have left a strong imprint on Kaunas before returning to their homeland to paint on planes.
In 2007, a mural by Brazilian artists Os Gemeos was commisioned by the Kaunas Biennial. In 2014, the brothers whose family roots are in Lithuania decorated Brazilian planes for the FIFA World Cup. Augusto was of course aware of the latter but the mural at the Kaunas Picture Gallery was a nice surprise. / Photo by Donatas Stankevičius
- You lived in Brazil until you were 15, right? Did you move to Spain directly or did you have any stops on the way?
- I moved straight to Malaga, Spain. A decade ago the conditions for basketball players back home weren’t great – Brazilians didn’t have the needed infrastructure that the youngsters have today. I was lucky to move from Rio to São Paulo as the latter meant more options. However, I got even luckier when I seized the opportunity to go to Spain: it was probably one shot out of a million. Now, as I’ve mentioned, things are better in Brazil – people can train properly and then continue playing in the US or Europe.
In Spain, I had the chance to become better: I got into a good school with expert coaches and diet specialists. It was everything a teenager could need. When you’re fifteen, money is not your biggest concern – you just try to keep improving.
- You probably don’t go to Brazil that often, but the memories must be colourful, right?
- Yes. I was a happy kid with lots of friends which I can’t see that often today – when I do visit, there’s not enough time for everyone. By the way, I used to play football too. Actually, life was good and I couldn’t complain. I mostly miss… this might sound funny, but I mostly miss grilling. I’m used to grill food – I did that in Spain all the time, yet it’s almost impossible to do that in Kaunas!
- Yes, you’ve moved to Kaunas at the end of summer. Do you find the time to really get to know the city? Maybe your colleagues help you?
- To tell you the truth, all of my free time is spent resting at home. We don’t have much of it as we’re either playing or training. If I go out at times, it’s with the other legionnaires of “Žalgiris” – Isaiah Hartenstein and Kevin Pangos.
I was kind of afraid of the cold weather, but I must admit that there are pros. For example, a winter walk in the forest is a marvellous thing; this was new to me.
- Pancake Tuesday is just round the corner (we spoke with Augusto in February, - editors note). You know this celebration as the Mardi Gras carnival back home. Any mutual things here between Lithuania and Brazil?
- With all due respect, you can’t really compare these celebrations. Also, I will be in Germany at the time. Of course, a carnival is always great – I used to watch it as a child, my friends and family members were taking part. My mom’s cousin is even the head of one of the samba schools. Most Brazilians love Mardi Gras; others don’t deem it interesting.
From luxury apartments to colourful wooden shacks - the Lima trail in Brazilka neighbourhood of Žaliakalnis is full of contrasts. The basketball player could of course pose by the Lima road sign itself but… / Photo by Donatas Stankevičius
- “Žalgiris” is a legendary club, admired not only in Kaunas and not only in Lithuania. Can you feel that on the court? Higher hopes, pressure? You might compare it to the situation in other clubs.
- I researched the club’s history before coming here. I know Arvydas Sabonis’ son Domantas pretty well – he’s now in the NBA, but we played together in Malaga’s “Unicaja”. Mindaugas Kuzminskas is also a good friend of mine. They told me “Žalgiris” is not just a team, it’s way more, though I didn’t realise that fully until playing for it. I was surprised that there are fans of the club in other Lithuanian cities – this wouldn’t be possible in Spain.
It’s fantastic to feel the support of the whole country, not just Kaunas. Basketball is a religion here and that’s obvious. Yes, I come from a country that’s ruled by soccer, yet it’s not that important for me personally. I love basketball and I’m happy that there’s a country devoted for it like Lithuania.
- Upon joining the team, you also joined Euroleague’s social project “OneTeam”, which “Žalgiris” is a part of for a few years. Together with Antanas Kavaliauskas, you’ve visited the juvenile correction facility in Kaunas. What was the goal of the visit and how did you feel?
- When you first hear about it, you start thinking whether it’s a dangerous place, and so on. But actually meeting the children made me understand that they just didn’t have so many options. We talked about everyone deserving a second chance. I enjoyed these meetings, I’ve participated in two so far. The teenagers really want to improve, they want to work, have families and get out of that place. We told them about our lives – this wasn’t motivation to start playing basketball, they should do whatever they think is interesting. Basketball was just as an example. They felt our support and we saw another side to life. “OneTeam” is a great project.
OneTeam ambassadors in the juvenile correction facility in Kaunas
- Have you taken part in similar initiatives in Spain?
- In Spain, many sport clubs are engaged in social projects, but this was the first time for me to visit a correctional facility. I believe I’ll do this in the future as well. There was no discomfort, I really enjoyed it.
- A bit more on Brazil and we’ll let you get back to training. You were part of the Brazilian Olympic team in Rio. What’s your take on this event as a Brazilian, not as an Olympian?
- Obviously, it was one of the most spectacular events I’ve witnessed, and I got to see it from the inside. However, to be honest, I don’t think the country was ready for it. Brazil is the most beautiful country in the world, of course, but… we also held the World Cup in 2014, which cost us a lot. Then came the Olympic Games. More than we need a month-long celebration that improves our image, we need investment in schools and hospitals. That’s my opinion.