Raí: A Gentleman of the Game
Raí Souza Vieira de Oliveira, famously known as Raí, is a name that resonates deeply within the realm of football, a true TENLEGEND whose journey from the streets of Ribeirão Preto to the pinnacle of the sport is a testament to his talent, dedication, and resilience. Born on May 15, 1965, in São Paulo, Brazil, Raí's remarkable career unfolded under the banner of iconic clubs such as São Paulo and Paris Saint-Germain, leaving an indelible mark on the beautiful game.
Early Beginnings: The Making of a TENLEGEND
Raí's early life was marked by the ordinary, far from the glamorous world he would later conquer. Raised in a middle-class family, he initially indulged in street football and basketball with his friends. At the age of 15, destiny beckoned, prompting Raí to take football seriously. Encouraged by a friend, he embarked on his journey, signing up with Botafogo Futebol Clube as a scholar.
Two years later, at just 17 years old, Raí encountered a pivotal life moment when he became a father to Emanuella. This added responsibility fueled his determination to succeed in football, ultimately laying the foundation for his ascent.
Rising Through the Ranks:
Raí's official debut for Botafogo arrived in 1984, unveiling glimpses of the prodigious talent that would later captivate football aficionados worldwide. Following a brief stint with Ponte Preta, he returned to Botafogo, where the guidance of Uruguayan coach Pedro Rocha ignited his development.
In 1987, Raí embarked on a transformative phase by signing with São Paulo FC, a pivotal moment in his journey. While his initial struggles and stylistic criticisms persisted, fate intervened in the form of Telê Santana, who assumed the role of head coach. Under Santana's tutelage, Raí evolved into a prolific scorer, amassing 28 goals during the 1991 campaign and playing an instrumental role in São Paulo's conquest of the Campeonato Paulista and National Championship titles.
Continental Glory with São Paulo: A Triumph
A defining chapter in Raí's career unfolded in 1992 when São Paulo clinched their inaugural Copa Libertadores title. Raí's pivotal contributions, including the decisive goal in the final's second-leg match against Newell's Old Boys, which led to a penalty shootout triumph, were emblematic of his status. Later that year, he showcased his brilliance on the international stage by playing an essential part in defeating FC Barcelona in the 1992 Intercontinental Cup, netting both goals in a memorable 2–1 victory in Tokyo. This stellar form earned him the prestigious title of South American Footballer of the Year for 1992.
In 1993, São Paulo successfully defended their Copa Libertadores title, with Raí once again making a mark by finding the back of the net in the final. His contributions solidified his status as one of South America's premier football talents.
Paris Saint-Germain Adventure:
In June 1993, Raí embarked on a new chapter in his career, joining the ranks of Paris Saint-Germain F.C. in France for a then-substantial fee of US$4.6 million. Though he initially faced challenges in meeting European expectations, Raí's performances in Brazil had already earned him the honor of captaining the Brazilian national team.
Raí's journey with PSG, which began with a remarkable debut goal against Montpellier, gradually saw him establish himself as a key figure. Under the stewardship of new manager Luis Fernández, Raí's form soared, propelling PSG to an unbeaten streak of ten games. His pivotal role in memorable victories against Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League underscored his status as a TENLEGEND.
During his tenure with PSG, Raí played a significant role in the club's success, securing domestic cup doubles and leading the team to their first-ever Coupe de la Ligue and Coupe de France titles. However, the pinnacle of his European club career arrived with the triumph in the Cup Winners' Cup, further enhancing his legacy.
Return to São Paulo and Retirement: Homecoming
At the age of 33, Raí decided to return to São Paulo, concluding his European adventure and bringing his illustrious career full circle. His return was marked by a sensational start, highlighted by a title-winning header against arch-rivals Corinthians in the state championship final. Raí continued to shine, securing another state championship in 2000 before bidding farewell to professional football as a revered São Paulo legend.
International Career and the 1994 World Cup:
Raí's international journey with Brazil began in 1987 while representing São Paulo. He was a vital part of the 1994 FIFA World Cup squad, where he assumed the captaincy during the group stage and notably scored a crucial penalty in the opening match against Russia. However, Raí was later sidelined from the starting lineup in the knockout stages, with Dunga taking over the captain's armband. Brazil went on to clinch the tournament, but Raí watched their triumph from the sidelines.
Legacy Beyond the Pitch: A TENLEGEND's Impact
Raí's impact extends beyond the football pitch. His commitment to social causes and his work to improve the lives of underprivileged children are an inspiration to us all.
After retiring from professional football, he channeled his energy into social activism and justice campaigns. He played a pivotal role in founding two philanthropic organizations: the Gol de Letra Foundation and Athletes for Citizenship. These organizations work tirelessly to provide education and promote social change, particularly for underprivileged children.
In recognition of his contributions, Raí was awarded the Legion D'Honneur by François Hollande in December 2013, highlighting his enduring influence and unwavering commitment to making the world a better place.
Today, Raí dedicates his time to his foundations, his family, and his grandchildren, leaving an indelible legacy as a natural leader who brought glittering trophies and sparkling memories to the footballing world. While his older brother, Sócrates, may be a legend, Raí will forever remain the hero of both PSG and São Paulo, remembered for his extraordinary skills, unwavering determination, and his enduring commitment to social causes—a true TENLEGEND in every sense of the word.
Raí embodies the core principles of TENLEGEND: conviction, sincerity, and elegance. He was a gifted footballer who played with passion and determination, and he always carried himself with class and dignity.
Raí's legacy is one of grace, elegance, and commitment to making the world a better place. He is a true gentleman of the game, and his impact will continue to be felt for generations to come.
Raí is a true gentleman of the game, and he is a perfect fit for the TENLEGEND brand. He is a role model for all of us, and we are proud to celebrate his legacy.
Join us in celebrating Raí ,
be a TENLEGEND