Like any doting father, Portugal keeper Bebe wants only the best for his children and would do anything to see them happy. This week, his four-year-old son will play his first futsal match, an event that will rightly fill the custodian with pride, even if he is anxious for him not to follow in his footsteps: “The only thing I’ll tell him is not to be a goalkeeper.”
Given Bebe’s status as Portugal’s first choice between the posts and the central role he has had in his side’s run to the semi-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 – the first time they have reached the last four of the world finals in 16 years – that piece of paternal advice comes as something of a surprise.
“Playing up front is more fun,” joked the 33-year-old, in conversation with FIFA.com. “The keeper has a big responsibility to shoulder, and as they say round here, you need to be mad to play there. And I want my son to be sane.”
Bebe’s sensational performance in the 3-2 quarter-final win over Azerbaijan came close to being remembered for a mistake he made in the closing stages. In looking to launch a rapid counter, he struck the ball against team-mate Joao Matos and looked on as it fell invitingly for an opposing player, whose subsequent shot on goal came back off the crossbar.
“There you go,” said Bebe, who has won nearly 100 caps since making his international debut in 2006. “The problem is that if you make a mistake there’s usually no one behind you to cover you. That happens to keepers in every sport, but more so in futsal, where things tend to happen very quickly.”
Discussing his status in a side where the spotlight is invariably on other players, despite the fact he has conceded only four goals in five matches at Colombia 2016 – fewer than any other keeper – he said: “I’m not bothered about not getting any attention. All that concerns me is doing my bit to help the team win. The rest is immaterial.”
Save by save, match by match
Standing 5’9 (1.74m) tall, Bebe may find that his son will end up taking the same path as he. He only started out as a futsal keeper at the age of 17, when he realised that he was “not tall enough or good enough” for the 11-a-side game. Two years later, he signed his first professional contract.
His team-mates have been grateful for his career choice, not least in the Azerbaijan match, a game in which he knew he had been at his very best: “You do realise when you’ve played well and the match the other day was one to remember.” What was the hardest of the saves he had to make? “I couldn’t say, but I did have a few tough ones in the second half.”
As he went on to explain, keepers also need some good fortune, the kind he got when his failed clearance went unpunished: “We were a bit lucky, but I believe that if you work hard enough, you can get the rub of the green. And Portugal have done pretty well up to now.”
So well have they performed, in fact, that they are just one game away from the first final in their history. To get there, they will have to beat Argentina, a team Bebe says they know “inside out”.
“Fernando (Wilhelm) is a friend and a team-mate at mine at Benfica. And Alan Brandi was there too. He’s sent me a message saying we should have a bet, though we still haven’t decided what the stakes are,” said Portugal’s No1, who switches off from the game by going to the cinema with his wife to watch action movies and by taking his son to watch Benfica.
A winner of the UEFA Futsal Cup, four league titles, two cups and a Portuguese Super Cup with his club, Bebe is now looking to add a Futsal World Cup to his list of career honours. The question is, can his team do it? “First of all, we want to reach the final,” he replied. “After that anything can happen. It goes without saying that we want the title, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”