If there is one thing that footballers tend to agree on, it is that in order to live out their childhood dreams, they have to make numerous sacrifices and work extremely hard to give themselves the best possible chance of turning their passion into a profession. But for many, two factors other than raw desire can end up shaping a career, namely luck and fate.
And it may well have been fate that propelled Robert Piris Da Motta’s ancestors, who originated from Portugal, to cross the ocean to settle in Paraguay, who the youthful midfielder has been representing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013.
Destiny may also have played a part in Mr and Mrs Piris Da Motta’s decision to choose the first name ‘Robert’ when the little boy was born in July 1994.
On the other hand, it was likely luck – or coincidence, at least – that decided that, on the other side of the Atlantic, a young player was just beginning to enthral French crowds with his skills. His name? Robert Pires – a player of Portuguese descent, as it happens.
Over the next few years, the Frenchman would enjoy a meteoric rise to stardom, becoming a regular in the French national side and lifting the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil around about the same time that his Paraguayan namesake was starting to kick a ball around in his back garden.
It was at this point that the little Robert Piris began to show early signs that a footballing future might await him. “Honestly, for me it’s quite funny; it’s more of an honour than a burden to bear this name,” the 19-year-old Paraguayan told FIFA.com ahead of his country’s crucial Round-of-16 clash with Iraq. “I saw Robert Pires play with Arsenal and France a lot – he was outstanding.”
While Pires with an ‘e’ impressed in the role of attacking midfielder throughout his career, his younger fan performs in a slightly deeper role for Victor Genes’ team. But that has not prevented certain comparisons from being made with the former Metz star’s career.
“We’ve got different strengths, because we play different positions, but I loved his style of play and the way that he used the ball,” explained the Rubio Nu midfield man.
“He worked every day to gradually improve his skills, while I’m still at the bottom of the ladder. If everything works out, I hope to be able to make steady progress and enjoy the same type of career.”
Luck of the draw
He could indeed take another step in that direction should Paraguay continue to excel at Turkey 2013. After beating Mexico, one of the favourites for the tournament, and drawing with Mali and Greece, three games in which Piris Da Motta played from the start, La Albirroja will now take on the Iraqis on 3 July for a place in the quarter-finals. But the identity of their opponents this time around came down to sheer chance, or bad luck, if truth be told.
The reason? Following Paraguay’s 1-1 stalemate with Greece in their final Group D match, the two teams found themselves with identical records at the top of the table, even after all the criteria for separating sides that finish level were taken into account. Consequently, the drawing of lots was required to decide the final placings, and it was the Greeks who proved to have luck on their side.
“We were very annoyed and disappointed at not winning the group, because we knew that we’d given our all on the pitch so that we could be masters of our own destiny,” said Piris Da Motta, who played in goal at youth level before being moved to an outfield position.
“We battled hard for first place. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage it, simply because of the drawing of lots. And so our second place feels a bit like top spot, really,” he added.
Lady Luck may have temporarily turned her back on Los Guaraníes, but it is possible that fate will have the final word. By finishing second, Paraguay now find themselves on the right-hand side of the draw. The left side features both Portugal and France, two countries traditionally associated with Robert Pires.
The only way the Paraguayans could face either of those teams now would be by reaching the final. “Now there are no more lots to deal with and there are no limits to what we achieve. It’s in our own hands,” said Piris Da Motta, hoping that both fate and luck will combine to turn that successful scenario into reality.