The first thing Jorginho did after arriving at the Stadio del Mare for Brazil’s first training session was walk over to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Ravenna/Italy 2011 banner by the side of the pitch and ask a team-mate to take a photo of him.
Nothing unusual about that you might think, but when you consider that the wing man is 36, has been voted the best player in the world on three occasions and took up the sport in 1994 alongside the likes of Zico, Junior, Edinho and Claudio Adao, his enduring enthusiasm for the big stage is remarkable to say the least.
As he posed for the camera, Jorginho was teased by his giggling colleagues, who joked that he looked like a new boy getting his first taste of international competition. The old hand was oblivious to it all, however, as happy to be in the limelight today as he was when he started out all those years ago.
“People laugh, but right now I feel like a 19-year-old kid. I’m so excited to be here,” the Brazil No 6 told FIFA.com, before adding, not for the last time: “I’m absolutely thrilled, and that’s the truth.”
Yet perhaps it is little wonder that his team-mates should be poking fun at him for being so excited to be at Ravenna/Italy 2011. Jorginho is, after all, one of the biggest names in the history of Brazilian beach soccer and the country’s third-highest scorer in the discipline. For all that, though, he has never won the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, a trophy collected by A Seleção on four out of five occasions.
Eight times a winner of the old World Beach Soccer Championships and three times voted the player of the tournament (in 1999, 2000 and 2004), Jorginho played at the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005, the one world finals the Brazilians failed to win.
The following year he appeared at the South American qualifying tournament, where he was once again named best player, only to fall out with the coaching staff shortly afterwards, failing to make the squad for the finals in Rio. That marked the beginning of a long period in the wilderness for the player, who sat at home as his compatriots racked up four consecutive world titles.
“I’m not going to lie about it: I didn’t watch the games, although I never wanted Brazil to lose because most of the players in the Seleção since then have been friends of mine,” he explained. “The only thing I could think, though, was: ‘Gosh, I could be there’. I wasn’t comfortable with the situation.”
Jorginho’s luck finally changed at the first Mundialito de Clubes, held this April in Sao Paulo, where he helped Vasco da Gama conquer the world.
“I won the title and I played for the team too,” he said, looking back on a notable triumph. “People have always marked me down as someone short on skill who doesn’t run a lot and just puts chances away.”
Asked if he considers himself to be that kind of player, he had this to say: “No, I don’t think I am. I’ve always been very keen and committed, but ... Well, perhaps I am. Sometimes when you’re on the pitch you’ve got no real idea of the impression you’re giving off it. In some way or other I know everything that happened before has been positive for me. It made me look at things in a different light. These days I’m not bothered about what I do as an individual player, and the only title I want is the one I don’t have: the World Cup.”
As he went on to explain, the frustrations of the past have helped him mature: “I’m might be 36 but I’ve never been fitter. I’m eating better than I did before, I train for longer and I’ve got stability in my personal life. That’s all down to my wife Juliana.
Pointing to a tattoo on his forearm that reads “Giovanna, minha vida” (“Giovanna, my life”), he added: “There’s more to it than that, though. My daughter was born in 2004, when we won the world championship, and all she’s heard people saying up to now is, ‘Your dad played in A Seleção. He was really good.’ And she says to me ‘That’s cool, but when are you going to play, Daddy?’
“She’s seven now, she understands things, and she’s going to see me play,” he continued. “I couldn’t ask for anything more than to be going back to the World Cup and to have Giovanna watching me. It’s all happened in a roundabout way, but things have worked out perfectly.”