Leozinho: Barber, baller and the new Falcao

  • Leozinho has illuminated Lithuania 2021

  • He discusses cutting hair, lambretas and being called ‘The New Falcao’

  • The 22-year-old weighs in on Japan and Brazil's trophy hopes

At 3:57pm on Sunday, most inside Klaipeda Arena rose to their feet for the Brazilian national anthem. At 5:18pm, everybody inside Klaipeda Arena sprung to their feet for the Brazilian national flair factory. Leozinho executed a breathtaking lambreta to sneak between two defenders and send the crowd wild. And if it wasn’t for a lambreta, the 22-year-old winger wouldn’t be at this FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™. There’s more on that in this interview, as well as Leozinho discussing cutting hair, being called ‘The New Falcao’ and Brazil’s trophy hopes.

How does it feel to be playing at the FIFA Futsal World Cup? I don’t want to wake up from this dream. My life hasn’t been easy and here I am in a World Cup. To tell you the truth, I struggle to understand it. I don’t want to understand it. I’m just loving every second of being here. Every moment is a dream. The World Cup, man… wow. I keep thinking about what my family are thinking. And to know I’m an inspiration for countless poor kids, it means so much. This is a huge responsibility to have, I know I have to be careful with the way I behave, but I embrace it. Kids from humble backgrounds live through their dreams. I lived dreaming about emulating Ronaldinho Gaucho or Falcao. To know that poor kids are dreaming about becoming the next Leozinho, it makes me so proud and emotional. Did you play futsal or football as kid? I always played both. The city where I’m from, opportunities were scarce. I heard so many promises – one guy was going to take me to this big club in Rio de Janeiro, another guy was going to take me to another big club in Rio. Every time I’d get my hopes up and every time it was always an empty promise. The first genuine opportunity that presented itself was in futsal, so I went with that. I think my style is better suited to futsal. I know every kid dreams of becoming a football player, but futsal Is huge too and I’m really happy to be here.

That first opportunity was almost a nightmare, right? In 2017 I finally got a trial at Magnus. It was supposed to be a trial for 350 kids, which is already a lot. There was a problem in the system and there was over 1,000 kids there. ‘Damn,’ I thought, ‘it’s over’. The first part, you had only 40 seconds to show what you could do or you would be cut. I said to myself, ‘Right, you have to make this happen’. I did a lambreta, impressed them, got through to the next part, and it went from there. Had you thought about becoming a barber before that? My first and only option was to play football. I never had a plan B. But I couldn’t afford to cut my hair all the time, so I started doing my own, trying new things, and I became good at it. It’s funny you ask though because I sometimes think my job here is as a barber (laughs). I’m part player and part barber. Everyone always wants to look nice, so the players, the whole delegation ask me to do their hair. I’m happy to help. If I wasn’t a player, I think I’d be a barber.

Leozinho cuts Marlon's hair  (Thais Magalhães / CBF)

📸 Thais Magalhães / CBF On the subject of hair, we hear you turned up to a game with your hair dyed once… (laughs) That is a day I’d prefer to forget! It was our debut in the national championship, which in my opinion is the best championship in the world. I was really young and I decided to dye my hair, to look different. We won but I was the laughing stock of the entire team! I didn’t pull off the look well. They really, really made fun of me and still do to this day! I dyed my hair black the next morning but they have never let me live it down. Who told you about that? (laughs) ‘Capita’, right? Well, you can tell him this (laughs): I’ve promised myself that if we win the World Cup I’m dyeing my hair again! And ‘Capita’ will have to take a photo with me!

How did it feel to score in the Futsal World Cup and have the crowd on its feet with that lambreta? I dreamed about that moment all my life: scoring a goal in the World Cup. It wasn’t just my dream, but the dream of all my family and friends. It was pure euphoria. Knowing my family were so proud of me made me so happy. It motivates me. The lambreta, it’s obviously really nice to get the crowd on its feet. It gives me positive energy. Is putting on a show for the fans important to you or is winning all that matters? Winning. Just winning. The tricks that I execute, they’re part of my game. Of course I’m happy to see the supporters standing up because of one of my moves, but I can promise you that if I pull off an amazing move but we lose, I’m very, very sad afterwards. How does it feel to be called ‘The new Falcao’? I’m happy and honoured to be compared to the greatest player in futsal history. But I try to be Leozinho, I try to write my own history.

What do you think of Japan? We’re studying them intensely. They’re a really good side. They sit back, they’re very organised and strong defensively, and they have a couple of Brazilians who are excellent players. We know anyone can beat anyone, we’re taking this game very seriously, but at the same time we’re very confident. Will Brazil win Lithuania 2021? Without doubt. Brazil enters every competition to become champions. Anything less is a failure for Brazil. The expectations are as high as possible and we know we have to live up to them. Who do you think are Brazil’s biggest rivals for the title? Argentina. They haven’t got the easiest draw but I’d still say Argentina. They are the defending champions and have a great squad. Brazil-Argentina is the biggest derby in the world, but can you imagine it in a World Cup?