Plata handed golden ticket
© Action Images

Winner of the adidas Bronze Ball and Silver Shoe at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2007, Morgan Plata took the Copacabana by storm. Blessed with searing pace and an unerring eye for goal, the Mexico forward wowed the watching global audience and quickly established himself as one of the sport's up-and-coming stars.

A matter of months later the diminutive attacker was at it again. He scored twice as his country emerged victorious at the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone qualifying tournament, the Tricolor safely booking their place at this July's showpiece event in Marseille.

Suited and booted
But with the beach soccer world waiting anxiously for Plata to appear on French sands, the player himself had other plans. Having long yearned for an opportunity to prove himself in the professional game, the 27-year-old's stellar displays in Rio have brought him a step closer to that objective.

After a lengthy search for a club, Plata has finally signed on the dotted line with Culiacan-based side Dorados, a genuine force in the second tier of the Mexican game. "I'm really grateful to the sport of beach soccer, because it gave me the chance to get where I am now," says Plata. "I feel pleased, but I also feel obliged to prove that I can be a winner in 11-a-side football too."

"When they told me the news I felt so happy and pleased to be involved with [eleven-a-side] football. I'll be doing my bit to try and help Dorados get promoted," said the player, who went on to outline the qualities the Dorados faithful have to look forward to: "I'd describe myself as a fast and elusive runner, who uses the ball well and can score goals."

Indeed, Plata is set to carry out a different role to the one he plays in beach soccer. Instead of a penalty-area poacher, he should now be employed out wide, thus taking full advantage of his speed and sweet left foot.

Success story
But the player's feet remain firmly on the ground, and he has not forgotten the contribution of his beach soccer coach Ramon Raya, the man who guided Mexico to the final of Rio de Janeiro 2007. "Ramon was also really cool about my decision. He told me to put plenty of effort in and not to waste the opportunity football had given me."

And though this development means that Raya will be without a key squad member in Marseille, the coach would not dream of standing in his way. "Yes, of course it's going to affect us because he's a great player," said Raya. "But on the other hand it's very pleasing to see Morgan make that leap, and I'd feel the same if the other players looking for clubs were to find a team."

"When I spoke to the players for the first time, I told them that this [beach soccer] could give them a platform to further their careers, to get themselves noticed," continues Raya, who is full of praise for his former front-runner. "Besides, Morgan is one of those players who made the most sacrifices. Not that the others haven't made them too, but he was one of those who trained the hardest and who put in the most effort in the build up to the World Cup. Even though he has had his reward in the trophies he's won, going back to eleven-a-side football has always been his intention."

For now though, Morgan must put all thoughts of missing out on Marseille 2008 to one side, and concentrate on seizing his chance with the Dorados. "I've joined an excellent team, one that is always in the hunt for promotion, and I'll be doing my bit to help them succeed," says the man of the moment. "All I need to do is settle in, have a good season and give everything for the team that is giving me this opportunity."