Natalia in action during the Tokyo Olympics

Brazil women’s national team will play without one of their most important players in the last decade going forward after Olympic champion outside hitter Natalia Pereira announced her international retirement at the age of 32. The country's men's team will also have to deal with a significant absence in the future as outside hitter Douglas Souza has also confirmed he will not play internationally anymore either.

Natalia, who currently plays for Savino Del Bene Scandicci in the Lega Pallavolo vivo Serie A1 Femminile, communicated her decision to no longer play for her country’s national team to head coach Jose ‘Ze Roberto’ Guimaraes.

The outside hitter, who had been with the national team since 2005, was part of the Brazilian roster that won gold at the London 2012 Olympics and captained the team for their silver medal campaign at last year’s Tokyo Games. Her last tournament with the team was the South American Championship last September in Colombia, where she helped Brazil win their 22nd continental title.

“I was just waiting for the right moment to announce it,” she said in an interview with Brazilian website GE. “I’m not coming back. It’s a personal decision, I thought the best for me would be to focus on my club career now. I feel tired. Those who follow our careers closely know how demanding it is to play for the national team, and it would be difficult for me to continue.”

Ze Roberto, who first brought Natalia to the national team more than a decade ago, lamented the retirement of his captain and key player. The coach attributed the outside hitter’s decision to step away from international volleyball at such a young age to the numerous injuries she has had.

“We spoke about two months ago,” he told GE. “She told me she was tired, that she needed some time and that she would focus on her club. It’s a shame because she’s still young. Players have been able to play longer, and she could easily stay with the national team for a few more years. But she had a lot of problems with injuries. She’s a player we need to thank for all her dedication and commitment and everything she helped us build.”

Natalia Londres

Natalia stands at the top of the podium in London with her teammates

In 13 years wearing the Brazilian uniform, Natalia won four titles at the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix and a pair of silver medals in the last two editions of the Volleyball Nations League. She also helped Brazil take silver and bronze in the 2010 and 2014 editions of the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship.

Natalia is the third player from the 2020 Brazilian Olympic squad to announce her international retirement. Outside hitter Fernanda Garay and libero Camila Brait were the first, having done so shortly after the Tokyo Games.

Douglas' decision to leave the Brazilian national team came as an even greater shock as the outside hitter decided to end his international career at the age of 26. A Rio 2016 Olympic champion, Douglas also pointed to the massive dedication required to perform at the highest level during both the club and national team seasons as the main reason for his decision.


Douglas' last tournament with the Brazilian national team were the Tokyo Olympics

“I've been a part of the national team for ten years now and it's always been something that made me feel honoured and proud,” he said in an Instagram post. “I felt I needed to break some barriers and I believe I accomplished that. But our routines are really demanding and back in 2016 my body and my mind gave the first signs I had to slow down. We don't have much time off and being away from my family and friends is really difficult for me. I had to get treatment for depression for some time and in 2018 I decided that I would step away after Tokyo. It was a well thought through decision and I'm happy about it. I'll have more time to take care of my health and also to be with my family and friends and to start new projects."

During his time with the Brazilian national team, Douglas also won gold at the 2021 Volleyball Nations League, the 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cup and silver at the 2018 FIVB World Championship, among other important results.

He gained tremendous notoriety during the Tokyo Olympics for the humorous behind-the-scenes videos he posted on Instagram. His followers on the platform grew exponentially in number during the event, going from 260,000 to 2.2 million in the span of five days.