Travelling 10,000 miles as an 18-year-old to pursue your sporting dreams is intimidating enough for most to consider. But on arrival being expected to pit yourself against some of the biggest names in your field turns up the heat to a whole new level.
This was the reality that Australia’s Tobias Seeto found himself in a decade ago, leaving his native Sydney behind him to relocate to the Mediterranean coast of Spain, pitching up at top-flight side Castellon to lay the foundations for his futsal career. Not only was there a towering language barrier to negotiate, alongside the culture shock a move like that entails, a band of the game’s finest talents were there to meet him every morning.
“I was playing with a lot of world class players. You had Andre, Euler and Pablo, who had played for Brazil in the 2004 World Cup [reaching the final]," Seeto told FIFA.com. "You had Dani Salgado and Josema who were full Spanish internationals, Fernandao who is in Colombia with the team. Coming up against these guys when I was 18 with no experience really helped me mature and develop.”
And you can bet there were no punches pulled for the young upstart. “Players of that stature are not shy about telling you where you should be or what you should be doing at any given time, as they’re the ones with the experience,” the erudite 28-year-old admitted. “It was a baptism of fire. I was way out of my comfort zone but it’s a game I love, so I was living the dream.”
While technique had to be honed, the slim, 180cm-tall defender had to overcome the physical advantage his more experienced peers possessed too, or face the consequences. “I remember vividly a lot of the training sessions where particularly Fernandao,” Seeto recalled, miming the sizeable frame of the Spain’s No6, “can roll you before you even think he’s got the ball. It was an experience playing against such talented players like that.”
It’s an experience he is set to get again in a few days’ time as, during his second spell at Castellon – separated in part by career-stalling knee surgery – he also crossed paths with Rafael Rato of Brazil, their second opponents. “I’m looking forward to [facing him] on a personal level, but he’s probably the most talented player I’ve ever played with. He will be very difficult to contain, but we’ll try our best.”
The experience of upping roots and relocating on the opposite side of the planet was unsurprisingly a lot to take in off the court too. “Fresh out of school, moving away from home, my family and my friends, to a country where I didn’t speak the language, was definitely a journey,” the defender said with a laugh of understatement. “There were a lot of hand gestures!”
Now at Baku United in England, via Lanzarote, and alongside Australia team-mate Jarrod Basger, Seeto’s futsal-fuelled, globe-trotting tour now sees him pitch up at his second FIFA Futsal World Cup. Following on from Thailand 2012, where a historic win over Mexico wasn’t enough to clinch a knockout place, they are intent on making that next step here at Colombia 2016.
Facing Mozambique in their opening game, with big guns Brazil and Ukraine to follow, Seeto is well aware the Futsalroos' first outing is key. “I don’t want to say everything hangs on the first game, but effectively it does. Then, if we do end up finding ourselves in third position in the group, goal difference is vitally important.
“We obviously don’t know as much about Mozambique as Brazil and Ukraine, but if we are to have any chance at progressing we really need to be beating them. We showed progress in Thailand and the objective now is to build on that.”