Madail: South Africa 2010 could be Portugal's tournament
© AFP

Gilberto Madail, 63, has been president of the Portuguese Football Association for over nine years. On 10 July 2008, he visited the headquarters of FIFA for discussions with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter on the Portuguese FA's statutes, as well as issues affecting European football as a whole. Afterwards, Mr Madail sat down with FIFA.com and spoke about UEFA EURO 2008, the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers and the issue of foreign players in the Portuguese league.

FIFA.com: Mr Madail, what brings you to the Home of FIFA today?
Gilberto Madail: My association has been working on a reform of its statutes for several months and I came here to give a progress update. I also wished to keep President Blatter abreast of the situation with the Portuguese FA and, more generally, to discuss European issues.

What were the subjects you dealt with?
The new Portuguese law on sports regulation, which we're working on with the government. We want to make sure that the law doesn't conflict with the association's statutes or FIFA regulations.

Were you pleased or disappointed with Portugal's performance at EURO 2008?  
I was disappointed with our performance at the finals but pleased with our qualifying campaign, when we came out of a difficult group with eight quality teams. It was a sporting, financial and logistical challenge. Don't forget that even though we're a small country of just nine million people, we're in the top ten and can rival major nations like Spain, France and Germany.  

What was the team lacking would you say?
We were obliged to reach the quarter-finals and we managed to get there from a difficult group. We played better than Germany, but to have to come back from 2-0 down after 22 minutes is too much. I was especially disappointed because I think that if we'd made it past Germany, we'd have got to the final.  

Your team's South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign will soon kick off. What are your feelings going into that?
Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Albania and Malta are our rivals. The team have started to move on after EURO 2008, and we have what you might call an obligation to qualify. Although I've got nothing but respect for our opponents, I think we can cope with any of them.

What will be your aim at the finals if you do qualify?
South Africa 2010 could be Portugal's tournament. We have to go out there with the belief that we can go all the way, which is what we did at EURO 2008. Our aim is to reach the semi-finals at least.  

Portugal's youth teams seem not to be performing as well as before...
We used to be ahead of the game with our training programmes, so we were very successful [at youth level]. But now a lot of teams have made progress in this area. We haven't gone backwards; it's just that the others have been catching us up. Our aim is to qualify for the finals of the youth tournaments. And if we have the chance to win, we won't hold back!

Are there other relevant factors in this debate?
There's a problem with foreign players in the top flight of Portuguese football, without a doubt. If you watch a match between Sporting and Benfica, for example, you'll see 12, 13 or even 14 players on the pitch who aren't eligible for the national side. We have to protect our national teams. I don't know exactly what form this will take, but we have to encourage the clubs who field more eligible players.

What can be done to change this situation do you think?
The idea is to stop clubs going out and finding a Brazilian kid, bringing him and his family over to Portugal and claiming he's one of the club's "home-grown" players. That's too easy. It's a real problem for us: we've got a lot of Brazilians, but also players from the east [of Europe]. The "6+5" proposal could be a solution. Truth be told, I don't think there's an association in the world who doesn't think it's a good system.