“If you’re old enough, you’re good enough”, or so goes the saying, and Diego Ramirez is living proof. The 17-year-old Cuban showed a level of confidence that belied his young age in his FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 debut against Egypt in Medellin, in spite of his team being comprehensively outshone in a 7-1 defeat. “I try to give off an air of confidence to our opponents; it helps if you want to gain the upper hand,” he explained.

Whether the pressure got to Cuba, or whether it was simply a one-off disappointing performance, Ramirez is not one for dwelling upon setbacks and prefers to talk about mental fortitude and focus. “I was also the youngest player to take part in the CONCACAF qualifiers; I’ve got used to the attention, it doesn’t affect me much,” he said. “I’m able to step back from all that, and just concentrate on playing well.”

Despite only switching from the football pitch to the futsal court two years ago, when he fell in love with the fast-growing sport, he has taken to his new surroundings like a duck to water. A veritable revelation during the CONCACAF qualifying campaign, the adolescent is keen to continue making leaps and bounds in Colombia. 

Against Egypt, his coach, Clemente Reinoso, did not hesitate to throw him on early in the match and leave him out there for longer periods than usual. “The coach asked me to use my initiative during the game, and to try to liven things up a bit,” he said.

Hurried start
Ramirez’s first few touches were rushed, doubtless due to his desire to make an immediate impression. “I’m aware of my own potential, and I’m happy to have my team-mates around me,” he said. “They told me to hang in there. Things could only get better in the second half.”

Although there was no great change in fortune for Cuba versus the North Africans after the break, Ramirez did gradually began to exert an influence on the encounter. The FC Ciudad de la Habana player is anxious to showcase his skills and speed at Colombia 2016, especially when he can combine both of those attributes to extricate himself from tricky situations.

“I’ll do better; I know that I can play much better,” he said with typical self-assurance, as Cuba’s second match - against Thailand on Tuesday – begins to loom large. Ramirez is a raw talent, full of confidence and the swagger of youth and he is backed by his whole team, so all of the ingredients are there for those words to be turned into action.

Ramirez’s own objectives are quite straightforward. “I would love to show what I can really do and score two or three goals during our time here,” he concluded. Cuba’s fans will be hoping that he can achieve those aims in the two games that remain in Group B.