- The Portugal goalkeeper had spells at major football clubs before taking to the sand
- He tells FIFA.com why he switched to beach soccer and chose to represent Portugal
- He faces Brazil, the nation of his birth, on Sunday
If one were to Google 'Elinton Andrade', images of the goalkeeper at heavyweight outfits such as Flamengo and Marseille might appear, as might some video clips of the latter club’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich.
However, other photos would show the athletic goalkeeper rolling in the sand – or lifting trophies – in a Portugal jersey. Because Andrade, as he is simply known now, is one of beach soccer’s greatest shot-stoppers.
"It all started in 2015, when I hadn’t yet decided if I was going to retire, and I trained with Flamengo’s beach soccer team,” the 40-year-old told FIFA.com prior to Portugal’s second match of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Paraguay 2019.
"I liked it a lot, and although I’d played 11-a-side football on grass for 21 years, because I had grown up in Rio de Janeiro and had always played beach volleyball and footvolley, I quickly adapted to the sport. On top of that, I’d always received great coaching. And so everything happened really fast."
So fast that, after winning the award for best goalkeeper in his first beach soccer tournament, he was contacted by representatives of the Brazilian and Portuguese national teams. “They wanted to know if it was just a fleeting thing, but I had already decided to pursue a career in beach soccer.”
And that is where the other part of the story emerges: why he chose Portugal. “There wasn’t a single factor; there were many reasons, and none of them involved anything negative as far as Brazil was concerned,” said Andrade.
“From a footballing point of view, Brazil already had Mao, as well as other ‘keepers, and while I could have competed with them for the spot, things were different in Portugal. It seemed like I could play more with them, and help them more. They also had more games lined up, and they were on the verge of hosting the World Cup.”
He added: “On a personal level, in 2006 I didn’t play and lived with a family in Braga who 'adopted' me while I was training and waiting for my Portuguese passport. In return, I helped them work their land. So Portugal gave me so much more than football, and that definitely played a key role in my decision.”
What followed in 2015 ended up sealing his love affair with beach soccer: with the Santa Maria-born custodian between the sticks, Portugal won the World Cup and the Euro Beach Soccer League. In addition, he was named Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016 and 2018 at the Beach Soccer Stars award ceremony.
“I’m grateful for my football career, but on the beach I’ve enjoyed the greatest individual and team triumphs of my life – things that I never expected,” he said.
Andrade is therefore a crucial component in a Portugal side regarded as one of the favourites to lift the trophy at Paraguay 2019, especially after their resounding 10-1 win over Nigeria in their opening match in Group D.
“It makes sense that people fancy us on paper, but sport is not played on paper,” he noted. “Versus Nigeria, we made it look easy, but it wasn’t easy. And it won’t be easy against Brazil, of course, or against Oman.”
The Flamengo ’keeper was keen to stress that there will be no split loyalties when he takes to the sand against Brazil on Sunday. “I was born there, I live there, and I play there, but it’s the Portuguese national anthem that I was born to sing,” he said. “I’ve got the same desire to beat Brazil as any other team. They have their objectives and we have ours.”