Jose De Sousa created history at the Grand Slam of Darts, claiming glory on his tournament debut to become the first Portuguese player to lift a major televised PDC title.
The man nicknamed ‘The Special One’ defeated James Wade in Tuesday’s showpiece, crashing in fifteen maximums to scoop the £125,000 top prize and become the sixth different winner of the Eric Bristow Trophy.
However, following his historic triumph at the Ricoh Arena, De Sousa revealed that a meeting with ‘The Crafty Cockney’ back in 1997 gave him the belief that he could compete alongside the sport’s elite.
“Winning the Grand Slam is not only special to me because it is a big tournament, but also because I have the Eric Bristow Trophy in my hands,” said De Sousa.
“I played against Eric in Spain in 1997 at an exhibition. He was the first PDC player I beat. He was my hero in darts, he won so many things. When I found out I was going to play against him I couldn’t believe it.
“We continued to speak for many years after this. He was a friend and a great man. When I played in the World Championship in 2011 he supported me.
“I dedicate this trophy to all the people who support me and to Eric. To have my name on this trophy with the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld is unbelievable. It feels like a dream I will wake up from.”
The 46-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable rise since claiming a PDC Tour Card at Qualifying School in January 2019, and his maiden televised triumph parachutes him to a career high of 15th on the Order of Merit.
The mercurial ‘Man O’Scores’ is no newcomer however – he began playing in soft-tip competitions in 1993 and only sporadically tried his hand in the steel-tip arena, losing out to Devon Petersen in the preliminary round of the 2011 PDC World Championship.
He narrowly missed out on a Tour Card in 2017, but returned to the Alexandra Palace later this year before losing to Michael Barnard in the opening round, but since then he’s not looked back.
De Sousa took the plunge and gave up his job as a carpenter and kitchen fitter last year to focus his efforts on his darting career and he’s certainly reaping the rewards.
His first appearance in a PDC ranking final in June 2019 ironically saw him take on James Wade, and although he suffered defeat, he claimed a brace of Players Championship titles towards the end of last year to underline his credentials.
De Sousa added to his title haul in October with victory over world No 1 Michael van Gerwen in the European Darts Grand Prix – his first success on the big-stage. Nevertheless, his Grand Slam exploits are vindication for the sacrifices he’s made over so many years.
“This is a dream come true, I can’t explain my feelings in this moment,” De Sousa said following his victory. “This is the greatest day of my life. When I hit the 158 finish I knew I was going to cry straight away.
“There is so much work behind me to get to this position. I am so thankful to everyone. Five years ago I was on my sofa at home watching the guys play on TV and I wished that maybe some day I can play against these wonderful players.
“It was a big change I made to my life in turning professional but look at me now. It’s amazing and I’m very proud of myself.”