No one could ever accuse Feliciano Condesso of sitting around waiting for things to happen. The gifted midfielder, part of coach Jose Couceiro's Portugal squad currently preparing for their first game at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, can already claim to be a man of world.
He has lived in four different countries, is fluent in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese, and yet is still only 20. As natural with his storytelling as he is on the pitch, the roving youngster shares his story with FIFA.com.
"I was born in the Republic of Congo, where my mother came from, but we moved to my father's homeland, Portugal, when I was four. We settled in a town called Setubal (some 40km south of Lisbon), and I began playing football with the local team the following year. At the age of 16, I signed for (English club) Southampton, where I spent three years. Then this year I accepted an offer from Villarreal to play in Spain," the player explains.
The midfielder also played at two UEFA European Championships with Portugal, at U-17 level in 2004, and with the U-19s in 2006, before being named in his country's U-20 squad for Canada 2007.
Growing up fast
Condesso's passion for football has always been his prime motivation, which his why he did not hesitate for a second when the chance arose to move to Southampton in England at just 16. "That opportunity to play abroad was not to be missed, and my family knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to football. Sometimes that involves making sacrifices," says Feliciano.
After three seasons playing regularly for Southampton's youth and reserve sides, things took a turn for the worse when Condesso returned from the European U-19 Championship in Poland last year. "When I got back to England the pre-season was already underway, and I was very tired and so didn't get to play very much. The first-team had their eyes on promotion, and the club changed coaches and signed a lot of new players. This didn't do my chances much good, and I realised that if I wanted to stay in the national team picture, I'd have to get more playing time. Villarreal gave me an opportunity and so I called time on my spell in England and joined them. I will be there for another season," says the player.
Condesso is a defensive midfielder and a big admirer of the playing styles of his compatriot Deco and Claude Makelele. That said, it is another Frenchman who he has the utmost regard for. "I really like Zidane. There has been no one better over the last ten years. I don't play in his position as I'm not the creative type, but just watching him play was a privilege."
A world challenge
Portugal, who kick off their Canada 2007 campaign on 2 July against New Zealand, have been working especially hard in recent days on their fitness and stamina, as their national league finished several weeks ago. Although it is eight years since the country's last appearance at a championship they won back in 1989 and 1991, the players insist there is no additional pressure.
"We've played well in recent games and our aim is to get past the first phase. That said, we're not feeling any pressure. That's for the likes of Brazil, Argentina or the European champions Spain. Of course, we have our own expectations, but we're not stressed. That calmness is a good thing. We know our strengths and we'll use them, but even our coach has been telling us to play in a relaxed way," says the midfielder.
As well as the Oceania champions, the Lusitanians will also have to contend with Mexico and Gambia. "We have three tough games. The African nations always put out physically powerful players, while Mexico like to play a crisp, passing game. We know less about the New Zealanders, but we'll find out about them when we arrive in Canada. However, we don't fear any of our opponents, because we've put in the hard work. We can't let ourselves be intimidated here, but nor must we believe we're superior to anyone. We'll just take it one step at a time."