This is the utility forward's fantastic story

Two years ago, Martim Roquette Bello was lying in the tatami, focused on earning another victory in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Euro Championships. He seemed happy in the world of combat sports, but something was missing from his life.

Until 2019, he was full-on dedicated to rugby and even took part in Portugal’s stellar U20 campaign in that year’s Rugby Europe Championship and World Rugby Trophy, of which Portugal finished in second place. Bello was one of the most promising units in that squad alongside Rodrigo Marta, Raffaele Storti, and David Costa, and was seemingly on the road to becoming a senior “Lobos” player in no time.

But then fatigue settled in and after enjoying the spoils of an early success, he retired. Just like that, the lock decided to pull down the curtain and move on, something not uncommon in Portuguese rugby.

Let’s backtrack for a bit and explain Martim Bello’s origin story. His journey started at a young age and thanks to his older brother, Manuel, who was already playing for GDS Cascais, he would try out and enlist soon after. Due to his height, he made an instant impact and bulldozed every youth category. When he got to the age of 15, he was called into Portugal’s U16 squad.

Now fast forward to 2019, more precisely to Bello’s retirement.

He was exhausted from years of giving up his time after school, and ultimately made the hard decision to step down. He would move on o his second love, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and funnily enough, made a name for himself there too. Over the course of 2019, 2020, and 2021, Martim Bello established himself as a force to be reckoned with in this martial art, becoming a European runner-up champion in the white belt ultra-heavyweight class in 2020.

Under the spotlight once again, there’s no doubt that rugby helped him to ascend to that level, as his resilience and wrestling skills were instrumental to his rise. Two years went through, and no rugby comeback, which would mean the end for most… But Martim Bello is different.

Martim Bello

National anthem time (Luís Cabelo Fotografia)

As the rugby gods wanted, in the dying embers of the Summer of 2021, the former lock felt an increasing desire to hold the oval ball again and go back to Cascais. What came after was a Cinderella story, as he would earn his place in the starting lineup in his club to get a call to the National team, now under Patrice Lagisquet. The lock excelled in the 2021-2022 season, recognised as one of the top utility forwards in the Portuguese Premiership, rocking a high rate of lineout steals and turnovers which caught the National staff’s attention.

On the 7th of July of 2022, Martim Bello would play his first 40 minutes as a Portuguese international, in a game against Argentina “A”. Zoom on one more year, and his name was in the final 33 of the Portugal Rugby World Cup squad, which felt an impossible task when he restarted playing in 2021.

When asked how this was possible, Bello shared a few words: “In 2019 I thought it was over that chapter of my life. When in 2021 I came back, I just said to myself ‘No expectations, just have fun’, and that pressure that followed me since I started playing in the youth national teams disappeared. It just flew normally and well, here I am. I think by rebooting my mindset, everything changed.”

Martim Bello is one of Portugal’s utility forwards at Patrice Lagisquet’s disposal, and he can earn his first minutes in the World Cup next Saturday when Portugal meets Wales in Nice.

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