Anyone who saw Stefano Mammarella and Marcio Forte celebrating after Italy’s 9-1 opening victory against Australia at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012 could see that more than just a common desire for success with the Squadra Azzurra connects the Italian duo.
“We’ve known each other for years and have been friends ever since we played together for Montesilvano at club level,” goalkeeper Mammarella told FIFA.com in a joint interview with his team-mate.
The bond between the pair, who are also room-mates, is evident both on and off the futsal court. “I know him very well. He’s a very quiet room-mate and he’s always extremely focused,” Forte said of the custodian, who is no less effusive in praise of his captain. “Marcio is a very honest guy and always speaks his mind. Sometimes he makes fun of me because I’m a little bit bigger than he is, but we’re very good friends nonetheless,” said the 28-year-old keeper.
Forte’s sense of humour became increasingly evident over the course of the interview. When Mammarella, who describes himself as “a different person” during a game, was asked about his vocal style of play, where he constantly barks instructions at his team-mates, Forte interrupted with a smile: “Well, he even talks in his sleep too!”
The pair’s on-court chemistry clearly benefits the team as well. During the comfortable victory over the Futsalroos, their inherent understanding of each other’s game was clear to see. Mammarella’s dangerous throws to swiftly launch attacks found Forte more often than not. The captain subsequently scored a goal himself, set up another and had several other dangerous chances.
“I know that Marcio gets into position as soon as I have the ball. That’s why the first thing I do is always to see where he is and if he’s free,” said the Italy No1. The admiration is mutual, with Forte describing the shot-stopper as “one of the best in the world in his position. He has a great future ahead of him. Stefano is a very focused person and works hard at improving every day. He never gives up. He’s a real leader.”
At 35, Forte is the oldest member of Roberto Menichelli’s squad. The veteran has been part of the national team set-up since 2008 and was crucial to Italy’s third-placed finish at the global tournament four years ago.
“He is a very good captain,” said Mammarella. “Marcio always finds a way to motivate the side and get the best out of us. He’s one of the best defenders in the world and I’m very happy he’s in my team.”
Coach Menichelli himself is also delighted with the pair’s understanding. “I think Stefano and Marcio play especially well together not only because they train a lot, but also because they’ve known each other so long,” the coach told FIFA.com.
It will be interesting to see how far their friendship will take them in Thailand, where it will next be put to the test on Monday against Argentina. Yet as amicable as Mammarella and Forte are off the court, they share the same steely motto on it: “We’ll do anything to win the title.”