- Bruno Xavier describes his unusual transition into a beach soccer player
- He reveals who he considers the world’s best players
- Bruno explains why Brazil will be ‘unbeatable’ at Paraguay 2019
The bracket of those extolling Ederson as the best ball-playing goalkeeper on the planet continues to expand. But could you imagine Pep Guardiola suddenly reinventing him as an outfielder, and a few years later the Manchester City No31 seizing The Best FIFA Men’s Player award?
Ludicrous, right? Well, another Brazilian made ludicrous legitimate within football’s sanded sister sport.
Bruno Xavier was a once combining goalkeeping for an 11-a-side amateur team with working in his dad’s candy factory. He’s gone on to become one of beach soccer’s greatest-ever outfield players.
The 34-year-old seized the adidas Golden Ball at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Tahiti 2013 and helped Brazil conquer the competition at Bahamas 2017. He was named the sport’s Best Player in 2014 and has finished runner-up in three of the last four years, to Madjer, Mauricinho and Llorenc Gomez. So, how did he make the transition from using gloved hands to bare feet?
“When I was a kid, there was a beach soccer pitch in front of our home,” Bruno explained to FIFA.com. “Every day, me and my brothers would get up at six o’clock and go and play. I’d play until ten to seven, get a really quick shower, and rush to get to school for seven.
“Because I was the youngest of four brothers, they would say to me, ‘The only way you’re playing with us is if you go in goal’. So, I’d play in goal with my brothers, and then outfield with my friends.
“I began to enjoy playing in goal and I had ability. I would play futsal, football in goal. My dad was the coach of [an 11-a-side] team, and I began to play for them. It was an amateur team, but I started to receive offers from the professional clubs in Espirito Santo. But at 1.79m, I knew I was too small.
“Then I got asked to be the third-choice goalkeeper for a beach soccer team. One day we had only ten players for a training match – seven outfield players and three goalkeepers. I asked the coach if I could play outfield and he said, ‘Bruno, I’m not letting you mess up my work.’ But I pleaded with him and in the end, he gave in.
“Duda, who played for Brazil at the time, was watching and said to me, ‘What on earth are you doing in goal? Next year you’re playing outfield alongside me.’ Before I knew it, I was playing as an outfield player in Italy and for the Seleção.”
Bruno became the ninth player to score 200 goals for Brazil as they rounded off their cruise into November’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup by pummeling Uruguay 10-1 in the CONMEBOL final.
“I’m not the type of guy who’s bothered about landmarks, records,” he explained. “I absolutely love what I do. I love beach soccer. I love playing, inspiring youngsters, bringing happiness to fans. But I really liked the [commemorative] shirt they gave me, because it’s good to be part of beach soccer history."
Brazil will seek more history, in the form of a record-extending 15th global crown, at Paraguay 2019.
“With the utmost humility, our biggest adversary is Brazil,” said Bruno. “We know that whatever crisis we encounter in a game, we are good players, we have trained very hard, and we can overcome it. Nobody trains harder than us. We have a top coach who’s very intelligent. We know that we can beat any team.
“The biggest shock in the beach soccer world right now is that Iran will not play at the World Cup. They have great individuals, they won [the Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup] in Dubai, but I believe they went into the qualifiers thinking they were too good and ended up losing.
“We discuss this a lot. We’re good, but we’re good because we’re humble, we work really hard, and we understand that every one of us will have difficulties on the pitch.
“As long as we put this into practice, Brazil are unbeatable.”
That’s not to say that Bruno Xavier believes there’s a lack of talent outside Brazil.
“There are a lot of incredible players nowadays,” he said. “Ozu [Moreira] of Japan. He’s really strong physically, a great finisher, and decisive. Jordan [Santos] of Portugal, who’s very complete. Be Martins, [Gabriele] Gori, [Dmitrii] Shishin.
“Llorenc [Gomez], the best player in the world. He’s a great finisher, scores spectacular bicycle-kicks. He’s really hard to stop.
“Dejan Stankovic sees the game like only few can. He’s very intelligent, has already won the Golden Ball at the World Cup. He creates a lot of goals and is a finisher. He would fit into any team. Switzerland also have [Noel] Ott, who’s another top player.
“But Brazil have the best team. With the utmost humility, and all the respect to the other national teams, Brazil’s biggest rival is Brazil.”