“Some of them would be singers if it weren’t for their voices,” said Spain’s Miguelin,whiletrying in vain to establish some kind of order on the national team bus, where he was in conversation with FIFA.com. The songs kept coming, however. “They’re all so funny with their singing, but when it’s their turn to be interviewed I’ll be doing it to them.”
Miguelin and his team-mates have been finalising their preparations for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, which runs from 10 September to 1 October. As part of their fine-tuning, they travelled across the border to Portugal for warm-up games against the Portuguese and Uzbekistan, bringing them respective 1-0 and 4-0 wins. As well as sharpening up their skills on the court, the Spain squad have also been clearing their throats with their impromptu sing-alongs. “We always do it, before and after games. We have a laugh and a dance,” added the player.
Singing is an integral part of Spain’s preparations for every major tournament, as Miguelin explained: “When we arrive for competitions, every player chooses a fun song and we pass them on to Jesus Herrero (the goalkeeper), who’s the team DJ. He does remixes and adds samples of the coaches talking and a few other things so we can all have a good laugh on our way to the arena.”
Judging by recent results, the pre-match ritual is continuing to pay dividends, with the Spanish winning their seventh European title in February, courtesy of a 7-3 defeat of Russia in the final.
So who is the best singer of them all? “Alex has a good voice,” said Miguelin with a smile. Alex Yepes, the “Alex” in question, was Spain’s second-highest goalscorer at the UEFA Futsal EURO 2016, behind his El Pozo Murcia club-mate Miguelin. Discussing the special relationship he enjoys with his “brother”, Miguelin said: “We’ve been together now for the best part of five years. We spend virtually the whole day together and we understand each other to perfection, which ultimately means we have a good connection on the court too. That’s good for us, our club and the national team. I hope we can cause some mischief at the World Cup too, though we’ve got a tough assignment ahead of us.”
Miguelin has some unfinished business to attend to in Colombia. Four years ago, on his World Cup debut, he came within an inch of lifting the trophy, a near-miss that still hurts. “The final in Thailand is the only match I’ve never watched again,” he said. “It was tough to take. To my mind, we outplayed Brazil that day, but that’s sport and the better side doesn’t always win.”
Brazil have always been there or thereabouts, having won the World Cup on five out of seven occasions, with the spoils going to Spain on the other two, in 2000 and 2004. Over the years the two sides have met four times in the final. “I can understand why people are talking about another Spain-Brazil final,” said Miguelin. “They’re saying that because of what’s happened in the past, which is obviously important, but the likes of Russia, Portugal, Italy and Argentina are very strong and have come on a lot, which is really going to add a lot to the World Cup.”
Regardless of the challenge those teams pose, Miguelin said he and his team-mates are determined to land a third world title in Colombia: “I’ll be so happy if we win this World Cup that I’m prepared to do any kind of dare, even if it means getting all my hair shaved off or dying it black, though it’s barely blond these days. It’s almost turned white!” There is no question of him getting too carried away, however: “There are a lot of different phases you have to go through if you want to win a World Cup, and you have to be in good physical and mental shape and be aware that you’re going to have to sweat for it, because nothing comes for free. That’s where you have to show your character and show what the national team is all about.”
For the first time, Spain will arrive at the World Cup without any of the players who won those back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2004. “They’re the ones who showed everyone else the way, the ones who made us believe in this national team, and we owe them a lot,” said Miguelin. “It’s thanks to them that Spain is so respected in Europe and around the world, and we need to work hard to keep earning that respect.”
A mere “youngster” at Thailand 2012, where he had the likes of Kike Boned and Luis Amado to pull him along, the 31-year-old Miguelin has a different role to fulfil this time around: “Now I’m the one who has to help the rest and support the youngsters, who are really determined to do well. We’re a very close-knit group, though, and they also do their bit to protect the older guys.”
When he took up futsal at the rather late age of 17, Miguelin never imagined what lay ahead of him, as he explained: “A two-time European champion and a World Cup runner-up! I’m very lucky and I give thanks to God every day.”
The singing on the team bus showed no sign of abating, prompting one last, and obvious, question: “Which song am I going to choose? I’m still thinking about it. Maybe a remix of the theme tune of Captain Tsubasa (the well-known Japanese cartoon series). That’s a scoop for you.” Having honed their finishing and their singing, Spain are ready to take on the world in Colombia.