Jose De Sousa is one of the sport’s ultimate enigmas. You tend to expect the unexpected when ‘The Special One’ takes to the oche, but his remarkable ascent up the darting ranks is no fluke, reaffirmed by his maiden European Tour triumph last weekend.
The Portuguese arrowsmith was in a class of his own at the European Grand Prix at the Glaspalast, defeating the world’s top two players en route to scooping the biggest title of his career.
De Sousa inflicted Gerwyn Price’s second defeat in 24 matches on Sunday, before following up victories over Darius Labanauskas and second seed Ian White with a resounding success over world No 1 Michael van Gerwen.
The 46-year-old averaged almost 106 to stun ‘The Green Machine’, firing in seven maximums and converting eight of his 13 double attempts to claim the £25,000 top prize, and he was in great spirits when reflecting on his exploits.
“I feel so comfortable with the crowd,” he told the Darts Show podcast. “I start to play better and better match by match, so that’s the reason [for his confidence].
“I think the semi-final against Ian White was very hard. It was a great game and I just enjoyed the final. I felt so confident with my game and I saw Michael van Gerwen was a little bit uncomfortable with my game so I took the moment and I did it again!
“I think my game proves to everybody that I can do this, and I can do whatever I propose to do in the world, so I hope I can continue this. It’s not easy, but I will try.”
De Sousa was almost an unknown quantity prior to securing a PDC Tour Card last year, but he’s wasted little time in making his mark, particularly on the Pro Tour circuit.
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Having claimed two Players Championship titles towards the latter stages of last year, De Sousa’s third ranking title catapults him up to 37th in the world, and when asked whether he expected to make such an impression, he was refreshingly honest.
“Never, never! In my first year I think I just went over there and took some experience. I took my Tour Card and was on the circuit as a professional and it was not so good. It is very hard here if you want to win a game, you to have to push to 100 per cent.
“In July , my new sponsor made a new arrow [dart] for me, and it made a big change in my game. After that I started to play well and I had the luck to find the best management in the world in Mr Mac Elkin.
“He supports us every time, he says if the players are happy I win money, so I’m happy too. I think all of us are very happy and we prove and show to him that we can titles and make a good job here.”
De Sousa is in jovial mood throughout the interview as he playfully insists praise of his manager is not made under duress, with Elkin sat alongside him, but he certainly seems to be profiting from being part of a successful culture.
PDC European Tour 2020
Over recent months, he’s seen stablemates Dimitri Van den Bergh and Glen Durrant claim World Matchplay and Premier League glory respectively, and that’s the next aim for De Sousa – to translate his Pro Tour form to the biggest stages.
“The best thing is now I know I can defeat any player, because I can play face to face, no matter what player I have to play, I don’t care,” he continued.
“I play the board, play my game. I don’t care who I play against, I just want to play the best I can, so I am really happy for all I do at the moment.”
De Sousa’s story is fascinating. Not just because of what he’s accomplished in such a short space of time, but due to his idiosyncratic style that has endeared him to the darting masses.
He is renowned for being one of the most prolific scorers in the game, but it’s his remarkable finishing attempts that have become his trademark, and they were in evidence once again in Germany last weekend.
In his opening-round tie against Ricardo Pietreczko, De Sousa required tops for a whitewash victory, only to inexplicably pin double 18. It mattered not, however, as he then nailed double two with his next dart to prevail.
He even secured the title in unconventional style. Requiring 88, he strayed into treble eight with his first dart, before going double 14, double 18 to triumph.
Discussing his mercurial nature, De Sousa chuckled. “It was funny because I know for example 40 is double 20, but I don’t know what I am thinking in that moment. I see double 18 and I think – over there!
“I don’t know what is happening in my mind but I finished it – a finish is a finish so it’s good. That’s why I am the Special One because I make crazy things,” he quipped.
Nevertheless, behind De Sousa’s amiable persona, there’s a steely determination to succeed. He’s not satisfied with merely competing, he’s desperate to lift major honours.
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Next on the agenda is the International Darts Open in Riesa this weekend, and De Sousa admits he’s been buoyed by last week’s success, plus words of encouragement from newly crowned Premier League champion Durrant.
“I play the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix and I felt so disappointed because I played well but I missed that little bit of luck to make the double or finish the leg.
“Glen Durrant speaks a lot of times with me. He says: ‘Don’t worry, you play so well. You are better than me.’
“I say that I need something more than words, I need to prove to everybody that I can do this, I can do something in my career and this moment comes last weekend and I am really happy. I hope I can do the same [this weekend].”
Darts in back on Sky Sports in November with a double bill, starting with three days of coverage from the World Cup of Darts (Nov 6-8) and continuing with nine days of the Grand Slam of Darts which gets underway on November 16.
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