A global music sensation who has been performing for almost half a century, Carlos Santana has travelled the world delighting crowds with his own brand of latin-infused rock and spell-binding guitar solos. Born in Mexico, before spending much of his life in the USA, the man renowned as one of the greatest guitarists ever is preparing to step out on stage in front of millions of football fans across the world ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final. Ahead of his performance, he sat down with FIFA.com to talk football, music and why he admires Lionel Messi. Excerpts:
Carlos, what are your earliest memories of football?
Oh, in Autlan, Jallisco where I was born, there were two things that were very important to me: football and toros – bull fighting. It was the first time I saw so many people in the town, which was four or five hours away from Guadalajara, so football and los toros were the first things I remember as big events when I was a child.
Have you enjoyed the World Cup while you have been here in Brazil?
It’s incredible to see the passion, the focus and determination. Something supernatural happens. It’s wonderful to see a global event with some many people invested emotionally. It’s a beautiful thing to see people sharing and unity. We want unity and harmony in this beautiful game, and a lot of happiness.
Which player has caught your eye?
Right now I think Messi has a mystique about him, he has that street [football] thing. I don’t think he even really looks like a football player – he looks like a plumber to me! It’s a compliment, because when he focuses, I admire the gift he has so much. Because it is a beautiful God-given gift to be in the top echelon of greatest [players].
You were born in Mexico, but have spent much of your life in the USA. Who do you support when the two play?
I support Mexico a lot, while America not as much because it’s a new team and a new thing for them. I grew up mostly with tennis and basketball. Tennis because of Arthur Ash and basketball because of Dr. J (Julius Irving). Now there are five teams that I root for: Mexico, Brazil, Cameroon, Spain and USA.
What does it mean for you to perform at the Final?
It’s a great joy. I’m very grateful. I don’t play soccer myself, but what we bring is very powerful because we bring an energy that we learned a long time ago from Woodstock, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and John Lennon. We represent all that energy. When we play we don’t lip-sync. It’s not plastic or cute. It’s not Hollywood. I’m from the ghetto, so when we play, you feel a different kind of supernatural energy. We represent so many. Not just Mexico, not just America, we represent the complete family of this planet.
With that passion you show, how does playing at the Maracana compare with other venues that you have played?
This is like the Vatican of football. This is my third time playing here and something happens in here where it seems like heaven and earth [come together] with the energy in there.
Finally, who do you think will win the Final?
I think Germany are going to win. I’d like to see Argentina win because I live in America, but it’s not going to happen. It’s not impossible, but it’s not probable. It’s not impossible because I love Messi, however my German brothers – because we’re all family – have an extra element of clarity and concentration. For example, musicians, when they play really fast, you have to think slower, but when you play slower, you have to think really fast. They understand this. Also, the way they breathe is not controlled by terror, it’s not fear, it’s not paralysing or stiff. Like when a woman has a baby, they change their breath and relax. At an event like the World Cup, you have to learn to breathe correctly or else you get tired really quickly. I think my German brothers understand this. When I saw what they did to Brazil, [I saw that] they were a team and they are not depending on one superstar to win. They are a collective. It’s very difficult to beat a
team with superstars – the team will always win. That’s my perception.