The FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup is a statistician’s delight. Records and milestones are accumulated with regularity but a pair of Netherlands’ players competing at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 are involved in an unlikely scenario for the game at the elite level. The duo in question - Roel and Diego Liefden - are not brothers or even cousins, but in fact father and son.
Roel took the field in Thursday’s encounter with Solomon Islands at the improbable age of 46 years and seven months. 23-year-old son Diego did not get on the pitch in the opener, but should he do so at Tahiti 2013, the Liefden family will claim a record unmatched in the history of FIFA tournaments as the first father and son to compete together on the world stage.
Only as old as you feel
The Surinam-born Rotterdam-raised Roel does not look like someone who is claiming a new landmark atop an oldest player list, and nor does he play like it. “It's very cool to be the oldest player ever in a Beach Soccer World Cup,” the personable Roel told FIFA.com smiling at the idea of his unique status.
To stand together for the national anthem is pretty special.
The engaging smile becomes even broader when the subject of playing alongside Diego is raised. “I'm very proud,” he says of his son’s rapidly improving status on the Dutch beach soccer scene. “When he started to play football he was like eight or nine years old, and then I thought it would be nice to play together. Now we play here in Tahiti at the Beach Soccer World Cup and to stand together for the national anthem is pretty special.”
Diego, for his part, is similarly left in wonder by the unlikely overlapping careers. “I didn't imagine one day to play with my dad in the national team and even less to be with him for a World Cup and it's pretty special. Unfortunately I didn't play against the Solomon Islands. I hope to be on the field for the next game.”
No margin for error
With their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup debut out of the way Netherlands should feel more comfortable taking the field against El Salvador on Saturday, and then in the final group match against Argentina two days later. The opening defeat means they can ill-afford another slip-up, but Roel believes the dream is very much still alive.
“Now we have to win and the team know exactly what we have to do and we are focussed on the next game against El Salvador,” he said. “It's going to be difficult but we have to win.”
Roel’s long career with a variety of clubs in the Dutch Eredivisie was followed by a late move to the sand-based discipline. “I stopped playing 11-a-side football two years ago, but one player got injured and the team needed a defender. To play at this level you have to be well prepared especially for an older player.”
Roel says it will definitely be his last FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup but given his implausible late-blossoming career, you wouldn’t bet against this seemingly ageless player from returning.