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Send it. Just fucking send it.
The man paced anxiously around the room. He strode towards the mirror and ripped off the light blue cotton shirt that had developed dark stains under the armpits and a long streak down the centre of his back. He strode into the bathroom and doused his head in cold water, rubbing it eagerly into his pores, scrubbing it into his hair to provide momentary relief from the perspiration.
A puff of his cheeks and he returned to his desk to look at the same laptop he’d been watching for the past two hours. The mouse was still there, hovering precariously over the green SUBMIT button. Any minor increase in pressure from his index finger and it would click into action. It would all be over. Out of his hands.
Send it. This is your only chance.
Chances. He used to take those. He’d risen through the youth ranks and eventually signed forms for CD Gouveia. His first season in their youth team he broke the scoring record. The coach said he was the best finisher he’d ever seen. A natural.
Um presente de Deus. A gift from God.
He couldn’t explain how he did it. He’d see other players fluff their chances. Lose their bottle. It never bothered him. Time seemed to stand still. He felt totally at ease in a place of peace and tranquillity. He’d developed a sixth sense for what the goalkeeper was going to do, able to notice any minor transgression – a weight shift in a certain direction, or a momentary hesitation between brain and fingertips – and punish him for it.
Send it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
Regrets. What was that saying about never having any? Bullshit. The words of a man who’d never taken a risk in his whole life. People who don’t have regrets are cowards. Afraid to do anything different. Afraid to go for it, in case they fail.
He’d never been afraid. But then again, he’d never really gone for it either. Maybe that’s what cost him. He didn’t care enough. Football was fun. Scoring goals was easy. In the end though, it was just a game. He’d look at the other lads clawing inch by inch to get their way to the top, chasing a dream that statistically they had no chance of ever achieving, and he’d pity them. He had always intended to study, go to university, to travel the world. Imagine football being the only thing you had to cling on to. There has to be more in life, surely.
Send it. You’ll be a hero.
A hero. Well, you know, that would be nice. When he played in the streets as a kid, he’d pretended to be Paulo Futre. Using bins as goalposts, he’d celebrate each goal like the Portuguese Maradona basking in the acclaim of 50,000 people crammed into Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium.
Fifty thousand people sounded like a lot back then. But today it was nothing. His world was a far bigger place. And what he was about to do would affect far more people. If he did it, then in a split-second he’d be known across the globe. Anywhere they had electricity, a computer, and a hard drive; they’d know his name (or at least his pseudonym) forever.
He laughed to himself. It’s only a game, after all. What are you so worried about? He picked the last cigarette out of the box, lit it and took a deep breath. The nicotine gave him an immediate hit of peace and tranquillity.
Fuck it. He clicked the button.
(Above: This isn't Tó. There are no pictures of Tó, so this is Gary Mason without a face. You'll have to use your imagination.)
Tó Madeira. Was he real or was he fake? More importantly, who fucking cares? He scored goals. Absolutely loads of goals.
The legend of the Portuguese goal poacher supreme has grown since he first appeared on our screens in Championship Manager 01/02.
One of the great joys of that version of the game, and its vast database of players, was finding an unlikely superstar and sharing it with your fellow managers. Internet forums were ablaze with tales of unknown talent from faraway places who would develop into world-beaters.
That’s where the name Tó Madeira first appeared.
He was a young striker at minnows Clube Desportivo de Gouveia. His stats were extraordinary for a man playing at that level. Despite his lack of experience and the fact that nobody had ever fucking heard of him, Madeira was a world-class player in the Portuguese District League. This was the equivalent of walking the dog at Hackney Marshes and discovering Hernán Fucking Crespo playing for The Fox and Hounds.
Tó Madeira seemed too good to be true. Because he was. He didn’t actually exist.
The vast database that made CM01/02 such an extraordinary game was reliant on the blood, sweat and expertise of a legion of researchers from across the globe. These devotees weren’t paid huge sums of money, but their diligence was legendary. They would painstakingly list and rate every single player in their allotted region before submitting them to Champ Man HQ.
One such researcher was António Lopez, tasked with listing and rating a selection of teams in his native Portugal. Apart from his academic pedigree, what made Lopez particularly useful was his past as a youth player at CD Gouveia where he experienced some success before pursuing his studies.
Like his peers, Lopez was thorough and hardworking. Unlike his peers, he was also an absolute wrong ’un.
Lopez realised that the incredible amount of submissions, against a tight deadline, meant the system was ripe for misadventure. There was no way they’d check every single line of data in every single file. It wasn’t possible. So he did what we’d all dreamed of.
The CM01/02 researcher broke the First Rule of Championship Manager: Don’t put yourself on the game. Then he quickly broke the Second Rule too: Don’t make yourself the best player in the world.
Lopez might have got away with it had he not been quite so generous. But then again John Connor didn’t infiltrate Skynet so he could leave a post-it note on the motherboard. You might as well blow the bloody doors off while you’re there.
The pseudonym Tó Madeira soon became known in online message boards across the information superhighway. Have you signed him? He’s amazing! And he’s so cheap!
Lopez had created a forward of Frankensteinian proportions. From the outset, Madeira would score a goal a game in the best leagues in the world. He’d make the likes of Maldini, Stam and Nesta look like pub players. He was unstoppable. And that’s when it started to go wrong.
As his reputation grew, so did the scrutiny upon him. Soon the game was up. Lopez’s little ruse was revealed, and Madeira’s presence was wiped from future patches of the game.
They can take his name, but they can never take our memories. In our hearts and minds, the legend of Tó Madeira lives on to this day.
You were real to us, Tó. You were real to us.
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