Ferrao: Falcao was my whipping boy at table tennis
Ferrao is the reigning two-time Best Player in the World
The pivot reflects on his electrifying FIFA Futsal World Cup debut
He also discusses Brazil's title hopes and table tennis wars with Falcao
Carlos Vagner Gularte Filho remembers watching a scorching end to Thailand 2012. He whizzed home from training amid arctic, -25°C temperatures in Siberia, threw two layers of clothing on to the couch and watched Falcao’s last-gasp thunderbolt sent a pulsating final to extra-time and Neto’s golazo win it for Brazil. Carlos romanced over how it would feel to be Falcao at that moment. The mega-stardom and mega-bucks? Despite earning barely enough rubles to get by, the 22-year-old pivot was apathetic to it. Holding the FIFA Futsal World Cup™ trophy? He couldn’t shake the fantasy from his head as he attempted to get to sleep that night. “I was a nobody back then,” he told FIFA.com. “I had never played for a big club, won titles. Nobody knew my name. Players with my profile at that age didn’t make it, but I always believed I could make it to the World Cup.” It took Ferrao, which means ’sting’ in Portuguese, until almost the age of 31, but he did make it on Monday – and, boy, did he make up for lost time. An exhilarating debut included setting up the first for Rodrigo – whom he watched help Brazil conquer in Bangkok – and scoring four times himself in a 9-1 win over Vietnam at Lithuania 2021. The Barcelona icon and reigning two-time Best Player in the World chats to us about that performance, A Seleção’s title hopes, wanting to emulate a Ricardinho record, table tennis wars with Falcao and bringing samba to the Brazilian dressing room.
FIFA.com: Can you describe how it felt to finally play in the FIFA Futsal World Cup? Ferrao: It was an incredible sensation. Futsal’s been my life for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been dreaming of this moment, of playing in the World Cup, representing Brazil in it all my life. I was thinking about my family a lot. I’ve heard the national anthem so many times before [at matches], but hearing it at the World Cup was something else. It really made my heart pound. It was an emotional moment. You must be pleased with your own and Brazil’s performances? Debuting in the World Cup is always really difficult. A great side can easily start off with a wobble that affects its whole tournament. Fortunately we got that first goal, which was so important, and played really well thereafter. To start the competition with this victory and a good performance has settled our nerves, given us confidence. Personally, I had those butterflies before the game, so for me, a pivot, to start off with four goals has done the same to me. I am here to help the team win in any way I can, but we all know pivots are expected to score goals, so I’m really happy. What’s additionally pleasing is that a lot of players scored for A Seleção and gained the confidence that brings. But this is just one victory. We have a long way to go and we’re already thinking about Czech Republic, who we know are very strong opponents.
That crucial first goal you mentioned came from a one-two between you and Rodrigo… One-twos are something me and Rodrigo practice a lot. In fact, we were working on this in our final training session before the game – how I like to receive the ball, how he does etc. We link up really well and fortunately today it came off. Hopefully me and Rodrigo can pull off more one-twos in this tournament. You were outstanding against Vietnam and scored four goals. Are the adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Shoe targets for you at Lithuania 2021? The principal objective is to win the World Cup. I think all of us feel the same. This Brazil team was built to win the World Cup. We desperately want to bring the title back to Brazil. Of course every player wants individual awards, but the fundamental thing is that we become champions and, if we manage it, I’m absolutely sure that the individual awards will go to players from our national team, whether it’s me or other players.
Ricardinho was named Best Player in the World for a record five times in succession. You have won the last two awards. Is equalling his feat something you think about? Without doubt. What Ricardinho did, and what Falcao did before him, were historic landmarks. It’s unbelievably difficult to manage it, to maintain such a high level to be able to win the Best Player award in five consecutive years like Ricardinho did. But I have two now, I really hope I can add to that, and there’s no better platform than a World Cup to show what you can do. If I can help Brazil become champions here, make [Brazilians] happy, I think that will give me a good chance. Your dad was a footballer who played for Gremio. Did you play futsal or football growing up? I started in futsal. My dad got me into it while I was a kid. I had a spell playing football, but it didn’t last long. When you’re a kid, you always want the ball and in football you always have to wait longer for it. So I always preferred futsal and, even though my dad tried to push me into football, I stuck with futsal and, looking back, I don’t regret it for a second.
You now star for Barcelona and Brazil and are the world’s best player, but in your early 20s you weren’t earning much money and suffering temperatures of -42°C living in Siberia. Did you ever think about quitting? I never got to the point where I wanted to give up because I wanted to play futsal, it was my dream. I said to myself I’d go there and make a name for myself – I set this as my target. Of course it was difficult at first, but as we say, it’s not always a bed of roses. I left home at 14 years old, moved to a different city to play futsal. I had testing moments, obstacles but thank God everything happened really quickly in my life. At 16 I was playing professionally and at 19 I went to Russia. Adapting was difficult at first because of the cold, the language, a totally different culture. But I adapted bit by bit and now I consider the Russian league and Russia as huge in my growth as a player and person. Speaking of the Russians, did you watch their 9-0 win over Egypt? I watched them. They were excellent, but that was no surprise. I played in Russia for four years, I know the majority of their players and they are outstanding. We already knew they would be real contenders at this World Cup and they showed why. Right now we are just thinking about getting through the group stage but we know that Russia are a big threat to our chances.
How would you asses Brazil’s chances? This is a new Seleção, one without Falcao, who did such unbelievable things, made history. You can’t replace a genius like that, but this team has been built for this specific goal: to win the World Cup. Everyone arrived here in really good form. We have four players who’ve been to a World Cup – Guitta, Rodrigo, Dyego and Dieguinho. Guitta and Rodrigo were champions in 2012. We have a great coach in Marquinhos, a great captain in Rodrigo. We have great players throughout the squad and, fundamentally, play really well together. There’s a really good atmosphere in the squad. In 2016 Brazil were playing really well but lost on penalties and that was it. It was devastating for Brazilian futsal and not the way Falcao deserved to go out. We’re here to regain the title for Brazil. We’re determined to do it and I’m very confident in our chances. You and Falcao always kept the squad entertaining with table tennis battles. With no Falcao, what do you do to relax off the court? Falcao was one of the greatest futsal players in history, but at table tennis I dominated! Sorry Falcao, but you were my whipping boy! (laughs) Joking aside, I’ve played table tennis since I was young, I love to play it, so whenever we have free time that’s what I look to do. Rocha is a fearsome table tennis player. He’s the opponent who’s given me most trouble. We also like to go in the sauna, watch series and play cards. These are the things we do to relax our minds, take them from being fully concentrated on futsal. Relaxing our minds is very important.
And music? I’m a born pagodeiro (someone who plays pagode music). I love pagoda, samba. We’ve brought our instruments. I brought my tambourine here. It’s personalised, I love it. Sometimes we mess about playing music. This is also good fun and it distracts us all together. If you weren’t a futsal player, what would you bed doing? That’s a good question. I think I’d be doing samba. I’m a pagodeiro, I like to play the tambourine, so I think I’d have tried to follow this path.