Brazilian star Lenisio Teixeira Junior, who has topped the goalscoring charts in the five-a-side game on both sides of the Atlantic, will not be at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004.
"If you're going to play for the national side you have to be excited and motivated and right now I don't have the enthusiasm to be there, for several reasons. The main one is that I don't agree with the methods of some of the people who are working with the national squad and a few of them badmouthed me for no reason a few years ago. It's a personal decision, though I hope that when all this is over I can return to defending the national colours," Lenisio told FIFA.com.
Born in Cuiabá, the capital of Brazil's Mato Grosso region in 1976, he began playing futsal at 15. At the age of 17, he packed his bags and left his family to embark on a professional career. In 2000, he started his collection of player-of-the-season titles with Atlético Mineiro and also secured the top scorer's award, with no less than 50 strikes. He repeated the feat in the next two seasons, this time sporting the Ulbra strip, before crossing the Atlantic to touch down at Spain's El Pozo Murcia, "drawn by the quality of the league and the desire to win titles."
How have you managed to be the best player in the league for five consecutive seasons in two different countries? What's the secret?
The secret is to play for a great team. Futsal is a team sport and you don't win anything on your own. In recent years, I've been lucky enough to play alongside some very good people, quality footballers who have helped me to win these titles. It's difficult to get to the top and stay there, but I still have the ambition to achieve more.
And does that entail added pressure?
Yes and no. I know that people look at me differently, that they keep a closer eye on me. But I don't get obsessed about being the best because I know that as soon as I foul up they'll be on my back. They'll only speak well of me while I'm performing. I'm aware that there are a lot of great players out there and I don't believe that I'm the best. There are lots of others who do a fantastic job but their work is not so spectacular and they go largely unnoticed. The worst thing that can happen to you is to start believing what they say about you, so you no longer feel the need to train, to keep on improving. I try not to fall into that trap. I still get a thrill out of futsal and I still have goals to achieve, as well as the enthusiasm to keep on training every day.
What are your goals for this season, which has just got underway?
First and foremost is not to rest on my laurels, I always try to improve. And my main goal now is to win titles for the club (El Pozo Murcia), a very prestigious outfit within Spain, but which is in need of some trophies.
How have you adjusted to life in Spain?
It's been hard. I came with my wife and son, so that helped me a lot. But I always say that it's like being born again because you have to learn to speak and eat differently, adapt to a new culture. There are all kinds of new things. The people from the club have really helped me out. They've been very patient with me.
Have you noticed any differences in the game after making the leap from Brazil to Spain?
There are definitely some differences. Starting with the fact that the Spanish league is a lot longer. In Brazil, the season lasts four months and you have to be at the top of your game every single day. Here you have time to recover from poor spells because the competition lasts longer. It's hard to be in peak form for seven months.
The game is different too. When a Brazilian player, or the pivot at least, gets the ball, his first thought is to go for goal. The Spanish player has more of a collective outlook. It's about holding the ball, putting pressure on your rivals. As far as I'm concerned, the two styles combined make perfect futsal.
You won't be at the World Championship but you are sure to follow it closely from home. Who are your fancied team?
The way I see it, Brazil are the best side in terms of individual ability. But this is a team sport and Spain won the last World Championship thanks to that. They played brilliantly together as a team. If Brazil can go to Chinese Taipei with that collective mentality and combine it with their amazing individual quality, they will be tough to beat. However, there are other nations who are going to field very strong sides, such as Italy or Argentina, who have been playing really well in the run-up to the event.
You play in the Spanish league and know a lot about their players. Do you think that Spain have a good enough squad to retain their title?
I think they do. Javier Lozano, the Spanish coach, has put together a very strong group of players who are very happy with the way he works, and that is hugely important. He's kept a lot of those from the World Championship in Guatemala four years ago and they have a great approach and a very strong team spirit, which makes them strong contenders for the title too. An added factor is that, after winning the title in 2000, this will be the last World Championship for many of the players so they are going to be really fired up for the event. They'll be a match for any side.