Sometimes in life it is the smallest things that have the biggest consequences. In the case of Russia forward Eder Lima, it was a simple red card that led to him preparing to face Iran in the semi-final of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 on Tuesday. For the full story we need to rewind a few years to when Lima was a young boy playing in a football tournament on grass, the Copa Sao Paulo, in his hometown. He was on the way to becoming a professional footballer, before his career took a 90-degree turn.
“I was playing in this tournament and I got sent off,” explained the 32-year-old to FIFA.com. “Afterwards I just decided that I no longed enjoyed normal football.”
He hung up his boots and immediately switched his focus to indoor football. “My dad tried to get me to change my mind a few times, but my decision was made.” A few months later, the coaches at Gazprom-Ugra Yugorsk received a DVD showcasing Lima’s abilities and they made the decision to sign the highly talented player. With a new employer found, the 1.80m (5'9) tall youngster then made the long journey to Russia, pitching up some 13,000 km away from his homeland.
A new home
It is now over a decade since Lima made the move to Russia, and as of four years ago, he now enjoys Russian citizenship. However, being granted a passport in his adopted country was not a straightforward process. One of the conditions stipulated that he had to learn Russian – a huge challenge for someone born and raised in Sao Paulo. “I went to school every day for three months to cram in some more study. It wasn’t easy but I now feel sure [of speaking the language].”
He amuses himself with his team-mates and gives instructions in Russian on the pitch and even conducted this interview in his newly-mastered language, and it is clear Russia is now home for him. “My wife has been with me here for almost 11 years now and my six-year-old son goes to a Russian school. We all really feel at home here.”
The only question remaining is how a native of a country famous for its sun, sea and sand manages living in a region where temperatures of minus 40°C are the norm. “I like the snow,” Lima said with a slightly mischievous grin, before adding: “It really is pretty when everything is white.”
He has never regretted his decision to move to and represent Russia, even rejecting an approach from the Brazilian Futsal Federation to play for his home country. Choosing to play for Russia is a decision that has proved fruitful. In 2012 his nine goals at the World Cup in Thailand fired Russia to the quarter-finals and earned him the top goalscorer award. Now, four years later, he has six goals to his name and his team have progressed a step further to the semi-finals, eliminating Spain, their conquerors at Thailand 2012 and also in the final of the UEFA Futsal EURO in February this year, along the way.
The burning ambition: to reach the final
“The win against Spain was an important step for us, not just because of the result itself, but because of how we performed mentally,” said Russia’s No8. Now his side face Iran, a team “we know very well as we’ve played a lot of friendlies against them”. That is not the only reason Lima is treating the opposition with respect.
“If they’re strong enough to stop Brazil, then they’ll definitely cause us a few problems,” continued Lima, whose excitement ahead of the big game is palpable but whose nerves are very much in check. “We’re calm and we need to stay that way. That’s the only way we can play our best,” he said with self-assurance.
Lima missed out on the final of the UEFA Futsal EURO in February because of suspension – once again it was a red card that had a major impact on his career – and so his motivation to take that next step and reach the final in Colombia is massive. “It’s a double incentive for me,” he said confidently as the interview drew to a conclusion.
To do so, he and his team must find a way past the champions of Asia, with the finer details likely to make the difference. It is encouraging, then, that Lima knows exactly what that means.