When Marcos Senna sustained a fractured fibula in April this year it did not seem a serious enough injury to rule him out of the FIFA Confederations Cup, but there were subsequent complications and the Spanish midfielder had to stay at home. “It’s much harder to watch than to play,” a downcast Senna told FIFA.com. “Watching the tournament at home has been really hard because footballers always want to be playing, and for the past two months I haven’t been able to. But my injury is gradually improving and I hope to be back in time for pre-season.”
The midfielder, who grew up in Brazil but is a naturalised Spaniard, was one of the key figures in Spain’s successful UEFA EURO 2008 campaign. Naturally, Senna has been keeping in constant telephone contact with his team-mates and will be there to support them in person when they play in tonight’s third place match in Rustenburg.
Senna's other motive for being in South Africa is the work he is doing there with his Foundation, under the auspices of which he has just launched a project to build a school for underprivileged children in the city of Gansbaai. He readily acknowledges that, despite having experienced poverty first hand, the situation in parts of South Africa, such as Soweto, have left a deep impression on him.
“I was expecting to see poverty, as I knew it was a very deprived area, but I never thought it was this bad," said Senna. "I feel that people here have no opportunities in life, and that's why I want to give back to society a small part of what it has given to me, and give these children a start in life.”
Solidarity and a little football
Senna was confident that his visit would coincide with a Spain-Brazil final in the Festival of Champions, but the USA had other ideas about that. “I don’t think La Roja missed me as they have excellent players, so things would have worked out the same with or without Marcos Senna,” he said.
“The Americans defended very well and from the two or three goalscoring opportunities they had, they scored twice. It’s true that we didn’t have a huge number of clear chances either, but I think La Selección deserved at least a draw. But that’s football," said Senna. "Right now the most important thing is that the boys stay calm and recover for the upcoming matches.
"We’ve got to make sure we qualify for the [FIFA] World Cup,” he said, the ‘we’ reflecting how, even in his absence, he still very much feels that he is part of the squad.
“With the way we’re playing, Spain should make it to the World Cup, but we’ve still got to secure qualification. Vicente [del Bosque] needs to continue in the same vein, as one defeat doesn’t justify changing how we play,” insisted the Villarreal midfielder.
One country that has definitely lived up to expectations in South Africa is his native Brazil, and Senna revealed that he is a fan of their coach, Dunga. “I believe in him, despite all the criticism he receives. He has achieved very good results, won the Copa America, and has guided Brazil to the top of the South American qualifying zone and the [FIFA] Confederations Cup final," said the Sao Paulo-born player. "He was a great player and knows a lot about football.”
It is clear that he still has a soft spot for the Auriverde and has no doubt followed their matches with the same passion as when La Roja are playing. “Brazil have improved a lot. Their semi-final with South Africa was a very close game and could have gone either way," he said.
"In the end though, they were deserving winners, even if they lacked the flair they displayed against Italy. But they’ll have to be careful in the final, as the USA are high on confidence and can beat anyone.”