While anything but cold and blank-faced, Rodolfo Fortino of Italy's accurate shooting against Guatemala was certainly one thing that links him to his nickname – Robocop.
“I don’t know exactly where the name came from,” he told FIFA.com after arriving in Bucaramanga ahead of their final group clash with Vietnam, “but I think it came up in an interview when one of my team-mates, Lima, just called me Robocop.”
Not that it’s in any way a drag to be associated with the cinematic cyborg for the Sao Paulo-born pivot. “I’m very happy with it,” he insisted, “I use it on my Facebook page!” That’s as far as the name goes though, with certainly no intention of bringing a passionless streak into his game. That’s even if his third strike against the Central American side, bringing up his first World Cup hat-trick as he surpassed 50 for his country, was laser-guided.
One thing for sure is that Fortino’s style is anything but robotic and predictable, combining pace and athleticism with the ability to score with both feet. Another is his comfort in the side, a factor he puts down to his own personality melding so effortlessly with the Italian mentality, a place that is very much a part of him after relocating back in 2007.
“Now, I consider Italy my first home, not just a second one,” he said, having just spent his first season away from the Mediterranean nation – at Sporting in Portugal – since his initial arrival. “They’re totally different cultures. Brazilian people are very open, always up for a party, whereas in Italy they are more closed off, which might be because of the cold!
“For me the transition was actually quite easy, as I am a little bit shy, with something of a more introverted, reserved character. But I’ve found plenty of people can find this transition a bit more difficult,” he said, pointing to another Azzurri-clad figure across the hotel lobby with a laugh, “like [fellow Paulista Humberto] Honorio, for example.”
Those characteristics manifest themselves in futsal too. “In my eyes, both cultures are reflected on the court. In Italy people are a little more focused, while for Brazil there was always partying with music even before a match.”
Climbing the ladder
Now 33 years old, there was a time when that approach to the game was all he knew. Like so many Sao Paulo boys around him, whenever he wasn’t in school he was investing his time on the pitch. But he had to cut his own path through the competitive world of amateur Brazilian football.
His mother, working in a bank, and father, a dentist, with little time outside their jobs, gave him their blessings to pursue his sporting career – once his studies were wrapped up, of course – and he started out on a road that would eventually see him transported across the Atlantic to Italy.
Getting picked up by a newly-formed Sao Paulo side after showing off his talents on the pitches around his neighbourhood, Fortino rose to represent his state in nation-wide futsal tournaments, before crossing paths with the likes of then-Brazilian internationals Leandrinho and Marinho. “I learned so much, analyzing every movement they made has helped me hugely in arriving at this point in my career.”
Another player he crossed paths with – a goalkeeper named Rogerio Santana while at Sao Paulo’s Santa Fe – was also crucial. Talking up Fortino’s talents at Sicilian side Augusto, Santana helped instigate his move from a futbol-mad country to a calcio-mad one. It was a move that has brought about a third-placed finish, and adidas Silver Boot, at Thailand 2012, as well as the UEFA Futsal EURO title in 2014.
Now, already guaranteed a place in Colombia’s last 16 ahead of facing Vietnam, besides the consistent pressure for results Gli Azzurri have, the chance to ensure they don’t cross swords with the hosts is an added incentive as Fortino sets his sights on bettering their last World Cup outing.
“They’re playing with the crowd behind them,” Fortino concluded, “so we can’t risk facing them purely through taking our foot off the gas.” One thing is for sure in both Italian and Brazilian cultures: playing to win is the only way.