As you would expect from a man who has dedicated his life to performing one of football's most thankless tasks,  Internacional de Porto Alegre  goalkeeper Clemer has endured more than his fair share of ups and downs.

Despite his vast experience, even he would have struggled to believe that at the age of 38, and in the twilight of his professional career, he would be travelling to Japan to compete in the  FIFA Club World Cup 2006 .

With the prestigious tournament on Japanese soil drawing ever nearer, Clemer made time in his busy schedule to chat to about the unusual direction his career has taken, his tips for staying at the very top of the game, and Internacional's chances of taking the prestigious trophy.

The imposing shotstopper began his Colorado adventure back in 2002. His mission was to bring much-needed experience to a squad being assembled to compete at the very top of the world game. Even so, the sure-handed custodian has been pleasantly surprised by just how far Abel Braga's team has come.

"If I'm perfectly honest, when I joined the club I couldn't have known that all this was going to happen to me, especially because I was nearly 35 when I signed," he reveals with disarming frankness. "But the club put a structure in place which was geared towards winning major honours, and we managed that when we won the Copa Libertadores. Now we're totally focused on winning the Club World Cup and we know that we've got every chance of taking that title too."

The challenge faced by Clemer and Co is certainly not for the faint of heart, especially when you remember that prior to the Libertadores win Inter had never won a title away from Brazilian shores. "We are really excited and extremely pleased to have an opportunity like this in front of us," he said, undeterred. "To be able to travel to a far-off land to take on the best teams in the world, including Barcelona, is not something that comes around every day. Of course, our goal is to bring the world title back to Brazil." 

Steadying influence
Given the 38-year-old's status as a senior figure in the Internacional camp, he has an important role to play in a squad sprinkled with a number of up-and-coming young stars: "I've always been someone for the other players to look up to, just like Fernandao or Iarley. Us older guys try to be a positive influence on the group and, more than anything else, look to set an example for any new signings or players coming up from the youth system. That's important in any profession."

Not that his heady position in the dressing-room hierarchy is without its inconveniences. "Sometimes the younger lads can be a bit cheeky," he said, laughing, "but the good thing is that it only happens when we're joking around. Once we get down to work, everybody knows that we need to be totally focused. Respect is crucial."

On a similar theme, how does the physically imposing shot-stopper make sure he stays in tip-top condition? "Through hard work. You have to work even harder than the youngsters, you need to be a perfectionist, always look to correct your mistakes and make sure you stay in great technical and mental shape," explains a man who is perfectly placed to analyse his Inter side. "We're very strong going forward, although we don't have any superstars. Here the team as a whole is what matters. If the team is playing well, then everybody shines."

Auriverde pride on the line
A mere five months after Brazil's limp exit from the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, the FIFA Club World Cup is a timely opportunity for Brazilian football to put the Germany disappointment behind them once and for all. Clemer, for one, is determined not to let his country down: "This is our chance to prove to everybody that we're still the best. Of course, we were shocked by the team's performance in Germany, but we'll be doing everything in our power to put things right over in Japan."

Standing in Inter's way are the champions of the world's various continental football federations, including Catalan superpowers FC Barcelona. As far as the keeper is concerned, the Spaniards' favourites' tag is quite justified. "It's quite normal that they are favourites on paper. It makes sense that people are talking about them because of the players they have, everything they've won over the years, even their shirt," the Colorado icon explains.

"Before we get carried away however, remember that we're Brazilians and our players are extremely skilful too. Who knows, maybe we'll beat them in the final and have twice as much to celebrate. Winning the title would be a unique achievement for us and, on a personal note, it would be one of the highlights of my professional life. I've worked incredibly hard for years for an opportunity like this, and I don't intend to waste it."

Between the sticks for Internacional's rivals in Japan will be much younger men like Guillermo Ochoa or Victor Valdes. Does Clemer believe experience will triumph over youth? "I think that both (experience and youth) are important, but everything will come down to how we approach each match. As far as I'm concerned, I'm preparing in the best possible way. Let's hope that it helps us get our hands on another trophy."