Salvador Sobral to RTP: The EBU threatened disqualification if I rehearsed in English

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In May he gave Portugal their first-ever win at Eurovision, topping both the jury vote and the televote before securing an invitation to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

And, in the week after his win, Salvador Sobral and his composer sister Luísa have opened their hearts to the public in a candid interview with the Portuguese broadcaster RTP.

Speaking on ‘Luísa e Salvador: A Entrevista’ (Luísa and Salvador: The Interview), Europe’s favourite siblings discussed every step they took from the moment Luísa was invited to write a song for Festival da Canção — the Portuguese national selection — right through to Portugal’s momentous win.

“The secret of the victory was the fact that the song produced some emotion in people,” the “Amar Pelos Dois” singer says. “No one is indifferent. You also have people that hate it, which is completely legitimate.”

Luísa added her two cents: “Well, the secret was having no secret at all. The fact that it was a genuine song was decisive…”

During his week at Eurovision, the EBU pressured Salvador to stop wearing his “SOS Refugees” sweatshirt. But afterwards the UN praised the singer for speaking out and later invited him to become an ambassador for the cause. He politely declined.

“I don’t want to be an activist,” he said. “I am simply a humanist. I don’t know the politics behind the issues.”

Apparently that wasn’t the only problem the Portuguese star had with the organisers of the event.

Ahead of his last rehearsal before the Grand Final, Salvador and Luísa wrote an English version of “Amar Pelos Dois” and intended to sing it during the dress rehearsal — just to keep things interesting. The EBU threatened to disqualify the country if they did.

When talking to our William Lee Adams, Salvador had already stressed the fact that he was rehearsing too much for his taste, something he is not used to as a jazz musician who focuses on spontaneous feelings and improvisation.

While discussing Festival da Canção, Luísa revealed the emotional pangs she felt after her brother, who has been battling medical issues, won the contest.

“I started crying because I thought I had deceived the Portuguese public that voted for us,” she said. “We won and I immediately thought that my brother wouldn’t be able to leave the country for Eurovision.”

Walking down memory lane, Luísa also revealed that there was another song besides “Amar Pelos Dois” on the table but that she and Salvador ultimately decided to send the jazzy ballad that conquered Europe.

For the siblings, everything felt very strange when the televote came through. “No one understood we had won because the Bulgarians were also celebrating,” Luisa said. “When I entered the car in Portugal I started crying, overwhelmed with everything.”

That got to Salvador: “I can’t see my sister crying, so when she started I also did.”

Do you think the EBU was right to threaten disqualification if Salvador rehearsed in English? Or do you think they should be more permissive when it comes to rehearsals? Tell us in the comments section below!

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