Last June was a turning point in the career of Brazil’s futsal team skipper Vinicius. After a stellar career in Europe that saw him collect numerous awards and titles, the 35-year-old midfielder picked up an injury that threatened to end his dream of competing in the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012.
Five months ago, Vinicius returned to Brazil after receiving medical advice that his career was coming to an end. However, after speaking to team-mate and futsal legend Falcao, he signed up for local club Intelli Orlandia to begin the long and painful road to recovery.
A dazzling return
Vinicius exhaled deeply when FIFA.com mentioned the doctors who advised him to give up the game: “I thought I’d never play futsal again,” he said, “let alone for the national team. Before signing the contract with Intelli I spoke with Falcao, and he said the club was a big one and it would be a great place to get myself back into shape.”
“I’ve been working hard for the last five months in order to get my strength back and make it to Thailand. I’ve had physiotherapy, trained every day and had to take some really tough fitness programmes. It was hard – I’m 35 after all – but I believe I’m doing well now and can help the team.”
Having recovered his match-fitness, he captained his club to their first ever Brazilian futsal league title, scoring a vital goal in the final against Krona Joinville Dalponte. It was a special moment, as Vinicius explained: “Competing again then playing in the league final was wonderful. But I’ve no idea how I managed to score. I can’t describe it. The goal came in the dying moments of the game, when my body was tired. God alone knows how I got it in!”
His first significant contribution to Brazil’s Thailand 2012 campaign was a goal against Japan in their opening game. Unsurprisingly Vinicius is determined to savour every moment in south-east Asia, saying: “I’m very proud to playing at my third Futsal World Cup, especially at 35. I want to enjoy competing here because this will be my last time.”
A humble leader
Part of the Brazil squad that came third in Chinese Taipei 2004, Vinicius finally lifted the trophy four years later in Brazil, this time wearing the captain’s armband. Speaking of his role as skipper of the four-time world champions, he is typically modest: “To be frank, the captain’s armband doesn’t make that much difference to me. I’m the same guy with or without it. I always try to have my say and guide the team when I spot an error, but personally I don’t make a huge thing of being captain.”
When the talk turned to Wednesday’s game against Portugal, the veteran had this to say: “It’ll be a tricky one because they need to win, and for me it will be a special occasion because I admire Portuguese players like Ricardinho, Cardinal and Joao Matos. It’ll be a pretty evenly balanced game and a close one.”
Although Brazil are the first side to qualify from the group stages, Vinicius refuses to get ahead of himself. “I believe that when the group stage is done and dusted, the slate will be wiped clean and the competition will begin again,” he said.
His words may just be the modesty of a man who knows he is part of a winning side. One thing is for certain, however: Vinicius will doing all he can to crown his impossible comeback with the title of FIFA Futsal World Champion.