Alan Brandi’s wide smile is more one of relief than joy, as he strolled through the bowels of Bucaramanga’s Coliseo Bicentenario, reverberating to the celebratory sound of dressing room reggaeton. No surprise, too, as his side had done just enough to achieve their goal of topping FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 Group E, coming from 2-0 down to draw with Costa Rica.
Brandi isn’t your typical Argentinian futsal player, for a number of reasons. For one, he is relatively new to the sport, having only taken it up less than a decade ago. That, by his own admission, has given him something of an unusual style. “My futsal is a little anarchico, because I only started playing futsal while at university,” he explained to FIFA.com. “So it is perhaps a little crazy – certainly not perfect! No better, no worse, but unpredictable.”
At his first ever World Cup, and first finals tournament with La Albiceleste, the other key difference the 27-year-old brings is his Spanish upbringing. Born in Las Palmas, among the Canary Islands, to an Argentinian mother and father, he may own a European passport but his childhood gave him the opportunity to forge a strong bond with the birthplace of his parents.
“When I was a young I used to visit Argentina once a year, because all my family – my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles – were back there,” he recalled of trips to Buenos Aires. “In Argentina the passion for football is incredible and I loved it so much as a child – I would always watch games from there when I was little. Even now my football idol is Lionel Messi and Argentina is just a country that loves football.”
Having moved to mainland Spain aged ten – to Alicante – those same family members can now be found huddled around the television taking in his World Cup exploits. “They are all watching back in Spain, where the games are being shown at 3am!” he exclaimed with a mixture of pride and dismay.
“My mum and dad are going to bed at 5am and then getting up two hours later. They can’t sleep, but they’re happy because I’m playing at my first World Cup! Even my wife and five-month-old daughter are watching them all in Portugal too.”
This is the same new daughter he dedicated the opening strike against Solomon Islands to, his first at a World Cup. “All day I’m thinking about her. It’s difficult to be far away from her, but when she grows up she’ll be able to see her dad has played at a World Cup,” the Benfica forward beamed.
The slight irony of their night’s comeback is that it denied Argentina a meeting with Spain – while had their plight got as bad as 3-0, they would have met Portugal. But swerving the two-time champions is for the best, he feels. “It would have been special, but it would have been a lot more difficult than we would have liked for the round of 16,” he laughed.
And reflecting on the comeback that saw them set a course for Ukraine, once again in Bucaramanga, on Thursday, Brandi knows what Argentina are best at and when they found that spark it brought about results.
“When we play with intensity I think we are a great team, but in the first half, and parts of the second, we weren’t playing to our potential,” he summed up. “But we had ten good minutes and that was enough.”
They begin on Monday trying to ensure they get four times that much when they step out in the last 16.