Versatility is a much valued trait in modern football, with players increasingly expected to be able to excel in multiple positions. When it comes to adaptability, however, there are few who can match Mexico’s Morgan Plata.
In 2007, Plata was part of the Mexico side that pulled off a major surprise by reaching the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup final. El Tri were ultimately denied glory after losing to hosts Brazil, but the diminutive forward still managed to take home the adidas Silver Shoe and Bronze Ball awards as the second highest scorer and third-best player of the tournament.
Now, five years on, Plata is hoping to make another strong impression for Mexico – this time for the country’s national futsal team, who are poised to compete in a FIFA Futsal World Cup for the very first time at Thailand 2012.
“It all began when Ramon Raya, who also coaches the national beach soccer team, told me he was going to try me out in the team for the qualifying tournament,” he told FIFA.com. “It seemed very strange to me at first, as I had never played futsal before. But I adapted quickly, we managed to qualify and now here we are, ready for the great challenge ahead of us.”
Plata is, in fact, one of seven players in Mexico’s Thailand 2012 squad with experience of playing in a FIFA Beach Soccer World Club. However, he is the only one to have also played professional 11-a-side football. “That was in 2008 and 2009, when I was with Dorados de Sinaloa,” the 30-year-old explained. “After that experience I decided to go back to the sand, but there’s no way I could have imagined that I would go on to experience a third form of the game.”
For Plata, the main difference between futsal and beach soccer is the speed of play. “Futsal is faster and more dynamic,” said the forward, who found the net three times in the Thailand 2012 qualifying tournament in Guatemala. “Here [in futsal] you receive the ball and pass it; you have it for even less time than you do in beach soccer. And as a striker you have to convert your chances, which is something that doesn’t change. In the end it’s all just football, right?”
From speaking with Plata, it is clear that he has been bitten by the futsal bug. “I did not realise the scale of the game or the World Cup itself, and I’m anxious for it to start,” he said. “It’s true that I’ll be up against players with many more years of experience in the game than me, but I don’t feel inferior. I now have a double challenge: to compete with them and to win.”
Plata is keen to continue playing on both sand and parquet, but for now his sole focus is on Thailand 2012. “We’re in a difficult group: Argentina and Italy are both forces to be reckoned with, and what we’ve seen of Australia suggests that they’re also going to be tough opponents. But we know most of the teams well and have experience of World Cups, and that could work in our favour.”
“We’ve prepared thoroughly and we’re going to fight hard. Our dream is to reach the final, but our goal is to perform well,” he added, concluding the interview on a note of realistic optimism.