Douglas Junior has been one of the most outstanding players at Lithuania 2021
He discusses Kazakhstan’s quarter-final against IR Iran and title hopes
The defender rates the sport’s best players
Iron Man was the lead character in an earth-shaking 2019 movie. Avengers: Endgame, indeed, smashed multiple box-office records and eclipsed Titanic to become the highest-grossing film in history. ‘Iron Man’ is again the lead character in 2021, script threatening to shake planet blue. This time, though, the Junior is not Robert Downey but Douglas; the setting is not Pinewood Atlanta Studios but Lithuanian courts; the prize is not theatrical box-office earnings but the FIFA Futsal World Cup™ trophy.
Douglas Junior, one of the outstanding performers at Lithuania 2021, chats to FIFA.com about Kazakhstan’s upcoming quarter-final with IR Iran, a potential final against his nation of birth, the forerunners for the adidas Golden Ball and comments from Captain America Kazakhstan, AKA, Leo Higuita, that Douglas is the best player in the world. FIFA.com: To win 7-0 in a knockout-phase game, you must be very happy? Douglas Junior: We’re delighted. Every game in the knockout phase is really, really difficult. We watched Japan give Brazil a really difficult game, Vietnam give Russia a really difficult game. We’d played Thailand twice and came out victorious, but the World Cup is different. Our aim was simply to win, so to play like we did, win 7-0 was amazing for us. We reached the Round of 16 in Colombia. Our pre-tournament target was to surpass that, so we’ve realised that goal. Now we’ll set ourselves a new one.
What do you think of IR Iran? Iran have proven for a long time that they are one of the best national teams in the world. They are a really tough side and they have brilliant players. Moreover, they’ve played together for a long time. We’ve played them a few times and unfortunately haven’t been able to win. We know it will be very difficult. Can Kazakhstan win Lithuania 2021? That’s the dream. It would be one of the biggest shocks in futsal history. But we have produced some superb results, we got to the EURO semi-finals. We know what we’re capable of. It would be a big surprise for the futsal world, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for us. We’d love to do it for the Kazakh people because they’re incredible.
Can you tell us about their passion for futsal? You heard them, right? (laughs) Futsal has grown like you wouldn’t believe in Kazakhstan. When Kairat play at home, the arena is always packed out. 13,000, 15,000 fans. The Kazakh people are perhaps even more passionate about futsal than football. The Kazakh fans here have been fantastic. We hear them screaming and it really motivates us. The noise they make is something else! Who do you think are the forerunners for the adidas Golden Ball? Pito. He’s so complete. He can dribble, mark, score goals. He has incredible quality. But I think he’s only just in front. Higuita is having a magnificent World Cup, he’s been flawless. Then you have Ferrao. He’s already scored seven goals. I think these three are the forerunners.
Ferrao continues dazzling, but for me Douglas is the best player in the world. He is the best defender and the most complete player in the world without doubt. He has absolutely everything.
Higuita told us he believes you are the best player in the world… Higuita’s pushed me on so much. We’ve been through so much together, good and bad. Higuita is a brother for me who I’ll know for the rest of my life. I was very grateful for his words, I’m very happy with my level of play, but I prefer to leave these debates to the media. I think the best player in the world is between Ferrao, who’s won the award the last two years, Pito and Higuita’s up there. I don’t think I’m up there. Right now, I think Pito is the best player in the world. I consider myself a simple player who gives his all for the team. How do you mark Ferrao? I’ve played against him a few times. I’ve come out on top a couple of times, we’ve ended up winning, but we lost the last match in the semi-finals of the Champions League. He’s so strong physically. But I love coming up against pivots like Ferrao. I get stuck in, he gets stuck in, and I think playing against this standard and type of player brings out the best in me. What do you think of Higuita? Sensational, professional, an example. I’ve been with him for eight years. You won’t find anyone who works harder. His mindset is, ‘You don’t conquer anything without working hard’. For me, without a shadow of a doubt, he’s the best goalkeeper in history.
What do you think of your nickname? (laughs) Higuita started calling me ‘Iron Man’. It caught on. All my friends from Brazil and the whole world starting calling me it. I think it’s funny, I like it. When I go home it’s ‘Iron Man’ this, ‘Iron Man’ that. Who would people from Guamare support if Kazakhstan play Brazil? I say this with absolutely no doubt: my city, Guamare, would support Kazakhstan. I have no doubt about this (laughs). Everybody is sending me messages: ‘It’s going to be a Kazakhstan-Brazil’ final. Everyone is saying this. Guamare would become Kazakh for a day if this happens! Do you think about specifically playing Brazil in the final? It’s my ultimate dream. To play against the Brazilian national team in a World Cup final… wow, it would be the greatest moment of my career. It’s the dream of all Kazakhs. Everyone knows what Brazil mean to this sport. For me even more so. Of course I’m fully focused on our quarter-final, but I can’t hide that a Kazakhstan-Brazil final is something I dream about.