Before Fifa changed its eligibility regulations in early 1998, Clayton became the first foreign player in Tunisian history to be given citizenship to represent the national team.
While many African sport stars seek greener pasture in other parts of the world and never minding dumping their countries for ‘better advanced countries, Jose Clayton Menezes Ribeiro stayed in Tunisia for the love of the country and accepted Tunisian citizenship and played soccer for Tunisia instead of Brazil.
Though Clayton started his football career at his hometown club in Brazil but fell in with Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.
He was born in Sao Luis a city on the coast of northern Brazil on 21 March 1974 and lived there for 20 years before he ended up in Tunisia.
Clayton’s soccer career shone in Africa plus an opportunity to play international football for Tunisia.
He said: “People in Brazil who are close to me know that I want to spend the rest of my life in Tunisia. The good thing is that everyone was very understanding, and that I was happy doing what I love with people that I love, participating in great competitions”.
The footballer is now engaged to a Tunisian woman, speaks French fluently and does his very best with his Arabic too.
He said proudly: “C’est l’amour – I stayed for love. I stayed for the love of a country that took me in as one of their own. I spend most of my time here in Tunisia and I enjoy every moment of it.
Instead of regretting his move, he’s rather proud to have Tunisian nationality, as he claimed to feel – a place that became hot for him.
Clayton became eligible to play for the Carthage Eagles at the World Cup in France that year in 1998 and he never hesitated when he received the offer to get Tunisian nationality and play for the national team.
He revealed that he felt more at home in Tunisia than he did in Brazil, as the chance to play for the Carthage Eagles was a ‘no-brainer’ for him.
CLAYTON’S LOVE FOR TUNISIS IS REAL
“This might seem odd to some people but it’s the truth. I received a call from the coach asking me if I was interested in the idea. It was a no brainer to me.
“I was made very welcome by the team. Despite the rivalry between our clubs, it was a different story with the national team, right from day one when I arrived at camp in 1998. Many people thought that I was just taking the opportunity to play in the 1998 World Cup, but it was more than that for me. I was determined to stay and represent Tunisia for as many years as I could”.
Clayton went on to play for Tunisia at the World Cup four years later and won the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil.
He ended his international career in 2006 after earning 39 caps and scoring 4 goals.
At club level, he Clayton played in France, Qatar and Turkey and three other Tunisian sides apart from Etoile, with two seasons at Stade Tunisien, a further four with Esperance before ending his career in 2008 after two years at Stade Gabesien.