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A TASTE OF BRAZIL; ELITE PLAYS `BEAUTIFUL GAME'.

Byline: Ramona Shelburne Special to the Daily News

In the world of soccer, the name Brazil is synonomous with success. It means more World Cup titles (four) than any other country, countless international stars with names such as Pele, Ronaldo or Bebeto, and a style of play known by aficionados as ``the beautiful game.''

Now that same rich soccer tradition has come to Calabasas in the forms of former Brazilian professional player Luis Dos Santos, who trains the 15-under California Stars Elite soccer club, and manager Caesar Silva.

Formed only one year ago, Elite has quickly risen through the ranks of the tough El Camino Real League and captured three of its last four tournaments. This September, Elite will make the jump from the Bronze division to the Gold division.

``It's a big step to skip the Silver division,'' said Elite captain Aaron Nadel, who also plays for Agoura High. ``It shows that people recognize the talent this team has shown and the hard work we've put in over the last two months.''

And what a two-months period it has been for the team made up of players from El Camino Real, Westlake, Agoura and Crespi highs. This May, Elite won the first of its three tournament titles with a victory over the San Diego Pumas at the Lancaster Ambush Premier Cup. Since that victory, Elite has gone 12-1-1 while outscoring its opponents 41-9 and winning the Camarillo Cool Classic and Anaheim Classic tournaments.

``To see a random bunch of guys come together so quickly and just win is amazing,'' Nadel said.

The secret behind Elite's seemingly overnight success? Word of mouth. According to Silva, every victory brought new players, and soon Elite had a full, talented squad.

That, and a little Brazilian savvy.

``We like to play simply,'' Dos Santos said. ``Not too fancy. Just put the ball down, look up and pass.''

In Brazilian soccer parlance, this style is known as jogo bonito and it has frustrated Brazil's opponents for years. Now the same thing is happening to teams that play against Elite.

``Brazil's style comes over in our training,'' Nadel said. ``It's a fluid motion from back to front. There's a lot of passing which makes it fun to watch.

``Playing in Las Virgenes before, it was just kick and run. Now you actually see people running around in circles. You have to anticipate what people are going to do and that comes from team chemistry.''

Besides the Brazilian influence of Dos Santos and Silva, Elite's top scorer, Leandro Martins, was born in Brazil and lived there until last year. The Agoura High striker came to America on vacation and Silva, his uncle, asked him to stay.

``It's a lot different in Brazil. There's a lot more skill,'' said Martins, who played for the 15-under team of Palmeiras - a top professional team - in Brazil. ``They practice every day because everyone enjoys the game and takes it seriously.''

With 81 goals in just 70 games this season, Martins has emerged as one of the top players in the area.

``Leandro is amazing. He's definitely the best player I've ever seen,'' Nadel said. ``I think that he'll be one of the top players in the world someday.''

High praise indeed, but according to most, well-deserved. So will Martins soon drop his surname and go simply by `Leandro' as is custom with Brazilian soccer stars?

Not likely.

Because Silva is applying to become Martins' legal guardian, his future in international competition lies in America. Maybe someday, Martins' Brazilian influence can help the American national team (last place in World Cup '98) as much as he has the Elite.

AT A GLANCE

The Calabasas-based California Stars Elite has had a good summer. Here's a look at some of their highlights:

Coach: Caesar Silva

Trainer: Luiz Dos Santos. An accomplished player in his own right, played professionally for Sao Paolo in Brazil. Studying to be a doctor at UCLA.

Future Star: Leandro Martins. The Brazil native has scored 78 goals in 66 games this season.

Top finishes: 1999 Northridge Arena Soccer League (indoor) Champions; 1999 Ambush Premier Cup Champions; 1999 Anaheim Classic Champions; 1999 Camarillo Cool Classic Champions.

To Find Out More: All of Elite's results are immediately posted on the internet at www.caesarphoto.com/elite. For tryouts, call Silva at (818) 718-0878

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Box

PHOTO (Color) Felipe Silva is a member of the 15-under California Stars Elite soccer club in Calabasas. Elite has won three of its last four tournaments.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer

BOX: AT A GLANCE (see text)
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 6, 1999
Words:762
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