A now-familiar face occupied seat 51A on Lufthansa flight 0739 for the 12-hour trek from Hong Kong to Frankfurt. Falcao was heading home to Brazil from the FIFA Futsal World Championship 2004 Chinese Taipei with two major awards stowed away in his bags: the Golden Ball for the best player and the Golden Shoe as leading scorer at the tournament. FIFA.com approached the Brazilian superstar at a lofty 11,600 metre cruising altitude and found him in excellent spirits, happy to chat about awards, goals and the future of futsal.
Falcao, you're on your way home with a bronze medal and two individual awards.
Obviously we'd rather have won the championship trophy, and Brazil against Spain would have made the best Final. I reckon Spain were the only team ever likely to beat us. We played too defensively against them, and we simply should have marked them tighter. Brazilians aren't used to that job. If we'd piled on the pressure from the start the Spanish would never have got going. We have to attack, that's the Brazilian way. If we try to defend we hand the initiative to our opponents. We're the only team who remained undefeated at the tournament. Spain and Italy both lost once. I'm delighted at the double award; it's recognition of what I achieved personally. I've been in the national team for three years and everyone keeps saying I'm the best player. This has kind of confirmed it. I want to keep on promoting futsal with help from FIFA and the Brazilian association.
You scored 13 times at the tournament. Which of those was the best goal?
I was very pleased with my first against Australia. I carried the ball a couple of metres with my shoulder, then it came back to me from Euler and Pablo's back-heel. But obviously the best was the "Lambreta", what we call a "Carretilha" in Brazil, against Thailand [Falcao bursts into laughter]. Would you believe it, I scored an exact replica of the goal against the same team and the same goalkeeper (Somkid Chuenta) just before the World Championship in a friendly in Brazil. As I shaped to shoot at him this time, he looked me in the eyes as if to say: 'Why is this happening to me again? Please don't do it.'
Which other players impressed you at the world championship?
Egypt's number 10 Abdel Hakim Mohamed really impressed me. He's very spectacular and I've kept an eye on him plenty of times in the past. Unfortunately he and his team were knocked out in the first round. Javi Rodriguez is a magnificent player, but looking at the other teams I'd say I was more impressed by them as teams rather than by individuals. Argentina and Italy were both very strong teams.
One or two players and teams were complaining the playing surface was too slow and prevented more attractive matches.
Sometimes it was a bit slippery and sometimes exactly the opposite. But I enjoyed playing on it. A faster surface would have suited the higher quality teams, but this one meant everyone had a chance.
Your coach Ferretti quit after the tournament. Were you surprised?
Brazil coaches have to get results, and Ferretti was no exception. If I don't win I have to quit, that's our philosophy. So I'm not totally surprised, it wasn't an easy situation. It's possible Ferretti made mistakes in the Spain game in terms of substitutions. But personally I valued him as coach.
Who might be the surprise teams in the next few years?
Colombia have a very powerful team, although they missed out on the World Championship. It was a tough group including ourselves, with only the group winner making the Copa America finals. I reckon they're better than Paraguay. We had plenty of problems when we played them. It was only 3-2 ten minutes from the end, although we went on to win 5-3. They could be good for a surprise in the future.
What do you rate as your personal strong points?
I reckon my individual technical ability is my biggest strength, because it's not something you can learn. You either have natural ability or you don't. I guess I inherited the talent from my father, who passed away this year. When I get on the ball I don't have to think, things just happen. Some players train, train again, train some more and still don't get better. I think I've shown I have enormous talent and ability, and that's why I was voted best player. At the start of my career I was too obsessed with myself and just wanted to score, but nowadays I try and work for the team. Perfection is when I score and help the team as well.
We've heard your two-year-old son is pretty tasty on the ball.
He's unbelievable, a real talent. He's only two but fantastic with a ball. The clubs should be queuing up to offer him a contract, because it will only get more expensive later (laughs).
Is there a patented Falcao trick?
Yes, I call it Falcao dribbling. It's something I invented, I play the ball with one heel against the other leg. Every kid playing futsal and football, and not just Brazilians, kids in Japan too, they all try it nowadays. A few newspapers even published frame by frame picture explanations.
What are your plans for the future?
I'm going to play in Spain for Playas de Castellón. We have to tie up a few details so I can't say exactly when it will start. I can imagine a number of things I'd like to do when I stop playing, but I'm only 27 so I have a few years ahead of me yet and I want to focus 100 percent on futsal. Futsal is a growth sport, and I'm hoping it might make Olympic status while I'm still playing. Futsal will be played at the Pan-American Games in 2007, so why shouldn't it be at the 2012 Olympics?