After 14 years defending the colours of Spain, goalkeeper Luis Amado called time on his international career in August, just months before the start of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Thailand 2012. In an exclusive chat with FIFA.com, the veteran custodian explained his decision and looked ahead to the showpiece event in November.
“It was quite a complicated step to take, but I think it was the right time to retire. I wanted to bow out at the very top, which I did as captain of the team that won this year’s Futsal EURO," Amado said. “I didn’t know if I’d still be at the top of my game come the World Cup so I think it was the right decision. It was a tough call to make but one I thought long and hard about.”
While the 36-year-old has called time on his international career, he will continue to play club futsal with Inter Movistar for at least two more seasons. However, with Spain, it is unquestionably a case of mission accomplished, as the player himself explained.
“I’ve competed at seven EUROs and three World Cups, winning five continental titles and two world ones. So I have no unfinished business and have achieved everything I dreamed of," he said.
"When I started out I never even imagined I’d play for Spain, but I was called into the squad in 1998 and remained part of it until this year. I’m very happy with everything I’ve experienced with the national team and would like to take the opportunity to thank the selectors, my team-mates and the fans for such great support.
“You could say that we players have contributed a great deal to Spanish futsal, but the sport has given us back even more,“ added the man who captained La Roja to successive world titles at Guatemala 2000 and Chinese Taipei 2004.
I had planned to just watch it in comfort on TV with my family but now I’m having second thoughts. I think I’m going to suffer a bit more.
Having been his country’s last line of defence for more than a decade, the evergreen shot-stopper is as qualified as anyone to assess Spain’s chances in Thailand. “This is a good team with a fine mix or youth and experience," he said. "They’re also a very well-balanced group and hugely committed. What’s more, we compete in the best league in the world [here in Spain] so that has to work in our favour."
“For all that, it won’t be easy,” he warned. “Other countries are improving year on year and have their sights trained on the top teams, which includes us. They study us and know us very well. In my view, Brazil, Russia and Iran will be our main rivals for the title.”
Iran, as it happens, will be one of La Roja’s opponents in Group B, alongside Morocco and Panama. “Iran will be the toughest,” said Amado. “They may not be that well known to our fans, but they’ve great players and above all a very good keeper, which keeps the team strong. In theory Morocco and Panama should be easier, but Spain have prepared very well.”
Asked if he had as much confidence in his replacement in goal as the rest of the team, Amado was unequivocal. ”Spain have top-class goalkeepers but I’m not going to single out any one person. Of the three that will go to Thailand - Juanjo, Cristian and Rafa, who has a winner’s medal from 2004 - any one of them would be a reliable option.
“All they have to do is follow the coach’s instructions, continue working as they have been and enjoy the tournament. If they do that we’ll surely win this World Cup,” he predicted confidently.
Amado was also generous in his praise of the team’s coach, Venacio Lopez, saying: “He’s brought a lot of professionalism to the Spanish set-up. He’s very meticulous and oversees every aspect of our play and our participation in competitions, from medical matters to our travel plans... everything. Our style of plan has developed under him because he is very methodical in his work. He analyses every player and knows where he can be used most effectively. He gives us a lot of information, things that are very useful to us during competitions.”
But the player also paid tribute to Lopez’s predecessor, Javier Lozano, currently president of the country’s National Futsal League. “I think one of the reasons why Spanish futsal has enjoyed so much success and popularity is the fact that we have a very good and very well-organised league. Lozano is doing great work and has given the league real impetus,” he said. “Furthermore, this is the most-played sport in Spain. We have a very solid infrastructure in place that allows us to get the most out of the players we produce and not waste their talents.”
Although Amado is currently focusing on his club side’s league ambitions, he has not forgotten about Thailand 2012, even if this FIFA Futsal World Cup will very different for him than the previous three. “I’m not sure how or when, but I’ll get to the World Cup,” he told us as our interview drew to a close.
“I’m going to feel a bit envious for sure. I had planned to just watch it in comfort on TV with my family but now I’m having second thoughts. I think I’m going to suffer a bit more. I’ll really be feeling the nerves this time, something that never used to happen when I was playing.”