28 years old Brazilian Diogo Portela is the first Brazilian ever on the PDC Circuit. Since 2014 he lives most of the time in England and plays at the moment on the PDC Challenge Tour. Till now he didn't manage to win himself a Tour Card, but it was very close this year. In March 2017 he managed to qualify by the UK Qualifier for the German Darts Championship, an event of the European Tour. He won his first round match against the young German player Martin Schindler with an impressive 91 average but lost second round to Kim Huybrechts.
Since the New Forrest Masters 2014 Diogo works together with the Darts Performance Centre and its chief Paul Gillings. By now the DPC brought Diogo Portela Signature Darts on the market. It was Paul Gillings who enabled me to do the following interview with Diogo.
My congratulations for being invited to the PDC World Cup to represent your country!!! Did you ever take part in such a kind of tournament?
Thank you very much! I've played the WDF World Cup, America's Cup and Caribbean's Cup representing my country but nothing like PDC World Cup. That's definitely the biggest tournament of my life.
Do you already know who your partner will be?
No, I don't know yet. There will be a tournament to qualify the second player.
So a qualifier will decide who'll join you?
Yes, Brazil will take the winner of Brazilian Cup (a major tournament that happens on the 6th and 7th of May) as my partner in the world cup.
Will you prepare specially for the event?
That is the plan. I've been practicing with James Wade and hopefully I can make the most of it in the next month. Also will take some time off from work to be able to practice more hours per week.
Do you look forward to be part of a team? Or do you prefer to play all alone?
I look forward to play in the PDC World Cup. I never been a team player to be fair as it changes a little bit my rhythm, but I've been getting good results recently in some local pair tournaments that helps the confidence.
How popular is the sport of darts in Brazil?
It's a minor sport to be honest. We used to be bigger but lost our main sponsors in 2005 due to legislation changes. Now, new federations have been created and people are working hard to get back to old times. I strongly believe it will be back!
Does there exist some kind of national organization? And might be a national championship or other big tournaments?
Yes, it does. There is a Brazilian Federation of darts which is WDF associated. However, new people founded a new organization - a more professional (JDB) organisation. These people already got some good sponsors and have been running great competition over the last 3 years.
You did take part in a few WDF tournaments?
Yes, I went to 2005 WDF World Cup of darts in Perth, Australia and also in 2013, Canada. I also played the Winmau youth in 2004 in the UK, some America's Cups and a few other BDO events last year. But not many.
Have you got some kind of league system in Brazil?
Yes. There are state leagues. There are federations in 4 states/cities: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Goiânia and Brasília. Each of these federations runs their own leagues throughout the year. We also have 3 national tournaments.
Where exactly from Brazil do you come from?
I'm from Rio de Janeiro. Lived most of my life 15 min away from the Copacabana ??
Did you play in a team there?
I used to represent Rio in the national tournaments which includes team games, yes.
And where do you play darts in Brazil - in pubs, clubs, might be private homes?
There are some pubs I used to play. The Lord Jim Pub in Ipanema and the Big Ben Pub in Botafogo (which is my favorite) were the closest from me. But I played in many others as well. I also practiced alone at home.
Is there some interest in the sport in Brazil? Or perhaps darts on TV?
We used to have our Brazilian Championship streamed on TV. But the lack of sponsors and people willing to work for darts let us down. Now we are getting back into the media again. Hopefully we can get back to TV.
Where did you buy your equipment when you still lived in Brazil - are there dart shops or have you to order everything on internet?
We used to have people bringing equipment from US but recently it's all online. There are many options online so the players are more comfortable to buy their own equipment.
How did you come into contact with the sport?
My dad used to play and he always been one of he top 5 players in Brazil. He split with my mom when I was 2 and moved to a city 500 km away from where I lived. I never had proper time with my dad when I was young. Then I realized if I started playing darts I could meet him at least once a month so I did. And that was the best thing I've ever done!
Did you have a role model or an idol when you started to play?
Yes. I've got 2 national players and 3 international. My dad and Mauricio Maia as nationals. Dad always got good results in national tournaments and Mauricio reached the semifinals at the WDF World Cup in 2005. International players I can say Tony David, Barney and John Part. There were the first from their countries and something I want to copy.
Is being a dart player something exotic in your home country?
Oh yes, definitely!
Is more steel-darts played or more soft-darts in Brazil?
I've seen people playing soft tip but have no idea how big it is to be fair. I know only steel tip players.
Why did you decide to make the move to England?
I have in my mind that dart has brought my dad back to me so I own darts something as special as this. I want to make darts big in Brazil and south America so I'll do all I can to make it happen.
And why did you decide to give the PDC a try?
I actually never thought about BDO. I've played a few events only. But my efforts were always into the PDC circuit. I've played 2 years in the challenge tour. PDC is more organized and it is where the best players in the world are. It is where I want to be.
Do you have supporters and fans back home?
Yes, everyone that knows me support me back home. It's impressive!
Where do you now live in England?
In Barnes, London.
Is your family with you in England?
There are two brothers and their wives living with me in London. The rest of the family is in Brazil.
Have you ever before been in Europe?
Yes, I've been to England for the Winmau youth in 2004.
Do you have any sponsors?
Yes, Darts Performance Centre gives me the equipment I need.
What is your profession?
I've got a degree in Economic and a Master in Business Management and Marketing. Not common in the darts world though. In England I have already worked as waiter, VBA programmer and most recently Math teacher in a school.
Can you work in your profession in England?
Yes I can. But I've been working as teacher assistant for the last 4 months. Math subject mostly.
Do you like England? ?
Yes I love it! It's impossible to play darts at the beach in Rio de Janeiro ?
How hard is the competition in the PDC?
Very hard. Anyone can beat anyone. I am still getting experience and hopefully I can be ready for next year.
What is you plan relating the Pro Tour - to play the Challenge Tour events or to take part only in the European Tour qualifiers and in the Players Championships when you are invited as an Associate member?
Unfortunately I missed the first 2 Challenge Tour weekends but I'll be back in the next one. I'm currently on holidays in Brazil visiting family and helping the Brazilian Federation to run the qualifying. When I come back I intent to play as many tournaments as I can.
What are you long time goals?
I don't set targets anymore. But would be lovely be an established PDC player and if I get some luck maybe become the first Brazilian world champion. Can you imagine?
Would you say you already improved since playing in the PDC?
Yes a lot! Mainly mentally. I'm really strong mentally now and I've never been before. It really helped me.
Are you now member of an English team and play league somewhere?
I play London superleague and county every time I can.
Do you practice alone or do you have practice partners here in England?
I love practice alone but I also been practicing with James Wade recently. To be fair, doesn't matter for me as long as I'm playing darts.
What do you practice? Have you got special routines?
I've got a book from the Darts Performance Centre with some games but I also have loads of variants in a notebook. So I pick and choose - what I do depends on what I want to improve.
And how much do you practice?
It's been difficult recently with work to be honest. I usually practice about 4 hours with James once a week. Then a few more hours at home once or twice a week. And weekends I'm always in tournaments including local Opens.
How did you come in contact with the Darts Performance Centre?
Through the tournament they hold in November. There was when I got in touch with Paul Gillings.
Did it help you with your practice?
Yes, a lot! The book and the tips he's giving to me helped me a lot.
What do you think about video analysis? Did it help you?
When I started doing the videos I had lost my last superleague game with 21 average per dart. It was in May, 2016. In January 2017 I almost got my tour card. I think that explain a lot what I think about the video analysis lol.
Are you interested in topics like sports psychology and coaching?
Yes I always read. I've read a few different books about darts and many articles about psychology. I'm also enjoying James Wade as my mentor. I can say I'm a very dedicated and passionate student and always willing to improve.
The DPC produced you signature darts - which darts did you use before?
Loads lol. Since I moved from Brazil I had been trying different sets as Harrows didn't produced the darts I used any more (Atlantis, 21g). Then I tried about 10 different sets. Andy Hamilton's was the one I played longer, but never felt as comfortable as I am with my own set.
And what now is special with you signature darts?
I think the shape of the darts is something I had never tried before. Apart from that the it's quite smooth with the Brazilian colours on it ;)
Are you one of those players who play a lot around with their set-up?
Not really. That's funny as I use exactly the same flight since 2012 and the length of the steam is the same since 2009 (I've changed only the colours). What I used to change was actually the barrel itself. Not anymore.
Are you interested in other sports as well? Or did you any other sport before?
As a proper Brazilian I almost made it into the professional football but had an injury in a crucial moment that put me off the field for 1 year. Never managed to get back. I still play every now and then in England but I'm not interested as I used to be although I love it every time I play. It's funny as well because I don't follow football on TV. Only darts.
You already qualified for an European Tour event of the PDC - did you enjoy the experience?
Was lovely. I want to come back. Never felt more comfortable in my life as on that stage!
Do you like playing on stage?
Was lovely. Really enjoyed the experience and I want to come back again and again.
Was the European Tour event the first time for you on stage?
Not really. Some of the local tournaments in England have their own stage, including the tournament Paul runs in November. I also represented London County and all matches for county are on stage. Of course no one was as big as the European Tour, but you can get a bit of experience.
Is it difficult for you to play against all those big names of the sport?
Yes mainly for me that was born away from this world. I used to watch them all on TV. They were my heroes, TV stars and suddenly I'm facing them at the oche. But it's something you get used to. I have a huge respect for every single dart player and I can say I get on with everyone I get to know.
What fascinates you most in darts?
It depends only on you to do well. No one else to blame in case of mistakes. It helped myself a lot. I'm more mature with different problems I have in my life and I face it differently. I can say darts has changed my personality a little bit and I got to know myself better because it's the only person you need to deal with when you are playing darts.
Have you got any interests or hobbies outside darts?
I like watch some series and movies. Barbecue it's something that I'm always up to as well mainly if it's the Brazilian barbecue ;)Thank you very much for the opportunity!