There are few things seasoned beach soccer followers do not know about the incombustible Bruno. For those less well-acquainted with the Brazilian legend, FIFA.com has the inside view.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, the 33-year-old Bruno Malias Mendes is the only player to have appeared in every FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup to date. A four-time world champion with Brazil, he is the competition’s all-time second-highest scorer with 38 goals and is just one match away from knocking his compatriot Benjamin from the top of the list of world finals appearances with 35. And for good measure he has also just scored the 1,600th goal in the history of the Beach Soccer World Cup.
A diehard Flamengo fan, self-admitted admirer of Zico and a qualified physical education teacher, Bruno spoke to FIFA.com ahead of Brazil’s upcoming quarter-final against Japan.
FIFA.com: What do those statistics mean to you?
Bruno: They tell the story of a career that began 13 years ago. It makes me happy to move past Benjamin, the greatest beach soccer player I’ve ever seen and an idol and role model for me. There’s a whole lot of desire, determination and motivation that’s gone into those statistics though. There’s more to a sport than what people see. Behind it all is the work that you do and the support you get from others in doing it.
Is there any game in particular that stands out for you?
Yes, against Japan at the 2006 Beach Soccer World Cup. It was our second group match and I scored three quick goals. The fans started to get behind me and that was the day I began to make my way in the sport that I love and which has given me almost everything.
Japan are your next opponents in Tahiti. What do you think of them as a team?
I like the way they play and I know them well. I’ve got friends there and I keep in touch with them on the social networks. They have a very strong beach soccer set-up that's grown a lot in recent years. They’re a rapid, strong side, though they’re technically gifted too and very tactically aware. We need to give them a lot of respect.
Brazil are always under the obligation to win, but it seems from the way you’re playing that you don’t feel the pressure.
I used to feel the pressure before. I’d get all nervous before games and my legs would really shake. But now when I go out there and hear the Brazilian national anthem I feel honoured and happy. I don’t feel pressure anymore. I train and I work hard, but then you go out and play and it just happens. You can win or lose but as long as you know what you’re doing, that pressure just goes.
Who or what has surprised you about the World Cup up to now?
Tahiti! They play an entertaining game that’s nice to watch. And you can’t argue about their technical skills – the ball’s in the air the whole time. They play a very attack-minded game and that’s all part of the work they’re doing here and the experience they’re getting. They want to get better at this sport, and to my mind no one’s played more entertainingly than they have.
What do you think of the standard of play?
I think it’s all become a bit physical. I’ve noticed lately that it’s not as technical as it used to be and that it’s more physical, which worries me a bit. People want fireworks. They want to be entertained. They don’t want to see the keeper have so many touches and they want to see the ball moving around more. Maybe the time has come to change one or two of the rules to make the game better to watch.
Can you see yourself retiring soon?
I don’t want to stop here! I want to carry on beating records. I’m going for eight World Cups now and I’m not going to settle for 35 games. I want to play 70! I feel I can do it too. After all, I’ve only just turned 33.