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Fast feet stay in the game: Fabio Tambosi ’02

Fabio Tambosi spent his childhood with a soccer ball rolling at his feet. Soccer came naturally to him, and he moved from playing in the streets of Brazil to playing in the youth academy of a professional club in São Paulo.

It was here that Tambosi received his first pair of cleats — two freshly worn Nike Tiempos from Zé Roberto, a living soccer legend. “I was walking out of the locker room after practice and [Zé Roberto] said, ‘Hey shorty, what’re you doing? Do you want some shoes?’” Tambosi said. “That pair lasted me another two years.”

These days, Tambosi isn’t bumming cleats off the most famous players in the world — he’s partnering with world-class athletes to sell them. As the director of global football brand marketing at Nike, Tambosi is a leading voice for an iconic brand.

It’s a dream job, but he took a long journey to attain it. Early on, Tambosi played forward for the men’s soccer team at Clemson where he helped the team to an ACC Tournament championship in 2001. “The atmosphere at this school, it’s contagious,” Tambosi said. “You get there, and on a weekend when there are a lot of sports happening, you get a real sense of the community. You have the sense of being part of a family.”

Tambosi hasn’t left that family behind, despite his success. He stays involved as a board member at the Erwin Center for Brand Communications, where he helps students develop advertising and marketing skills. “There’s nothing better than being recognized by my alma mater and going back and giving back what Clemson has given to me,” Tambosi said.

Tambosi wants students to understand that it isn’t possible to fulfill one’s dreams without risking failure. He knows this to be true because he has risked it all. In 2012 he was working a stable, well-paying job in London for Nokia. But, Tambosi wasn’t satisfied — he had other ideas. “I wanted to go back to sports, and I wanted to have a role in the World Cup in Brazil. And I wanted to work for Nike,” Tambosi said.

So, he quit Nokia, and left for Brazil in January 2013. While he had no job offer on the table, he told everyone he was going to work at Nike. Once in Brazil, he spent his time networking with Nike employees, which eventually helped land him a job as Nike brand manager for the 2014 World Cup. “Growing up playing football at a very high level in Brazil, it was a dream to play in the World Cup,” Tambosi said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to do it as a player. But I had the opportunity to live the World Cup, to impact the World Cup, personally, in Brazil through my job.”

When the World Cup ended, Tambosi stayed on with Nike. Now Tambosi can stay in touch with the game he loves, the game for which he has crossed borders and risked professional failure. That passion, that commitment, is something he wants to impart to Clemson students and young people everywhere. “Know where you want to go,” Tambosi said. “Don’t be afraid to fail, and follow your dream.”

— Glenn Bertram ’18