Football's world governing body has presented the inaugural FIFA Futsal World Player award to Brazilian Alessandro Rosa Vieira, better known as Falcao. "I'm incredibly happy about the award, because it is the ultimate confirmation of what I've achieved," the 27-year-old declared on learning he was the first winner of the prestigious accolade. There can be little doubt the honour has been bestowed on the right player following Falcao's breathtaking displays at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. A string of acrobatic manoeuvres and finely-honed party-pieces drew gasps and applause from the crowd, although the icing on the cake was the player's willingness to contribute to the team effort.
The A.D. Jaragua striker claimed the honour by an overwhelming majority as the experts fell into line with the fans' judgement. Falcao scored 13 goals during the tournament, giving a hint of the fireworks which lay in store with his very first strike in Brazil's opener against Australia. The player initiated the move, carrying the ball forward with his shoulder before accepting the return from Euler via Pablo's back-heel and blasting home into the corner. As the player himself acknowledged, even that piece of brilliance was put in the shade by a stunning piece of individual skill in the 9-1 victory over Thailand. Falcao deployed a double back-heel manoeuvre, known in Brazil as the 'Carretilha' (so-called because the flight of the ball resembles an angler casting his line) to tee himself up for an unstoppable volleyed goal. However, even his prodigious goalscoring exploits could not prevent Brazil falling short of the world crown as they exited in a shoot-out against Spain at the semi-final stage. Throughout the tournament, the likeable Brazilian proved one of the more approachable stars, patiently and professionally dealing with interviews, autograph hunters and the like.
The striker, who stands 1.76 metres tall and weighs in at 75 kilos, displays a range of technical ability rarely seen in one player. "You either have natural ability or you don't," he reflects. The father of a two-year-old son has increasingly sacrificed individual glory for the good of the team, a quality he freely admits he lacked as a younger man. "At the start of my career I was very focused on myself. All I wanted to do was score goals. But the ideal situation is if I'm scoring and contributing on behalf of the team," he explained on the way home from the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004.
Falcao took up the game at the age of 12 with Corinthians in Sao Paulo. From the outset he was a futsal enthusiast, never showing much interest in the outdoor variant with teams of 11, although he admits he considered a move away from the indoor game a few years ago. "But you spend your time standing around and nothing happens. I want the ball, I want to play, otherwise everything takes too long," he declares with a mischievous grin.
When he is not playing futsal, Falcao likes to spend his free time with wife Tatiana and their son or with friends. The player is already astounded by Falcao Junior's early promise. "He's unbelievable, a real talent. He's only two but fantastic with a ball. The clubs should be queuing up to offer him a contract, because it will only get more expensive later," he quips.
The next step in the gifted player's career takes him to Spain, where he is set to play professionally for Playa de Castellón next year alongside local hero Javi Rodriguez, named second best player in Chinese Taipei behind Falcao. The South American is looking forward to the new challenge. "I've heard they play in a very Brazilian way," he smiles, looking forward to meeting up with old friends such as Euler, Pablo, Seco and Nando Grana. One or two final contractual points remain to be sorted out before a firm start date in Southern Europe.
Falcao's personal dream is to see futsal achieve Olympic status while he is still in a position to take part. "Futsal will be played at the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro. Why shouldn't it be an Olympic discipline in 2012?" he remarks.