Editor’s note: This is one in a series of features on the Latter-day Saint keynote speakers at upcoming RootsTech Connect 2021. Read more on the virtual family history celebration.
As a youth in Brazil, Milton Queiroz da Paixão — also known as Tita — and his family took three buses to get to the local Latter-day Saint meetinghouse.
In those days, they went to Church meetings in the morning and the afternoon. Three buses there, three buses back — 12 buses. Every Sunday.
“The testimony of my mother, this faith of my mother, served me a lot, to always go to church, to always participate in the sacrament,” the 62-year-old widely admired “futebol” star said in a recent interview originating in Portuguese.
He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at age 11 — the same year he began to play soccer. For Paixão, the gospel principles he learned in his youth kept him grounded throughout his career.
“All the things I learned in Primary, I learned in seminary, I learned in institute, I took to my soccer life,” Paixão said.
Paixão will be one of 13 keynote speakers at RootsTech Connect Feb. 25-27. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he entered the professional league at age 18 with Flamengo, perhaps the most popular team in the country at the time. Two years later, Paixão was named Brazil’s Soccer Selection while playing for Brazil’s national team and later participated in the 1990 World Cup.
He played in 32 international matches for the national Brazil team between 1979 and 1990, and in club play, he scored over 135 goals. Since his 21-years professional career, Paixão has managed and coached various clubs.
As a father of five, Paixão said: “Family, for me, is the most important thing I have in my life, my wife, my kids. I have learned the importance of my ancestors. I have researched a lot about them, gotten to know them. … It’s been a cool experience to learn their personality, character and what they did.”
Paixão’s soccer career took his family around the world — Germany, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Guatemala and the United States. “The opportunity to live in seven different countries gave them a vision, especially the first three children,” he said of his children.
“I think it was the most important tool I could provide for my kids, this knowledge of all these countries.”
On and off the field, Paixão said he strived to be an example and “a light” to his teammates. He remembers the early years when other athletes made fun of and criticized him for living the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom.
“People knew I had principles, that I obeyed certain things. In the beginning, people made fun of me a lot. … but with time, the jokes became respect,” he said.
Paixão offered three pieces of advice to youth hoping to make a professional career as an athlete.
First, as he learned from his mother’s example, “don’t stop attending sacrament meetings,” Paixão said.
Second, always pay tithing — another lesson he learned from his mother. As an athlete who began earning money from soccer at age 14, Paixão said, “Don’t forget to pay tithing first because the heavens will open for you.”
And third, “become familiar with the scriptures” and talks from living prophets. Then apply their teachings.
Sign up for RootsTech Connect to watch Paixão’s keynote address.