- Fernando Wilhelm captains Argentina’s national futsal team
- A FIFA Futsal World Cup and adidas Golden Ball winner at Colombia 2016
- He is one of the Athlete Role Models at Buenos Aires 2018
Fernando Wilhelm has futsal in his blood. The sport he took up as a boy, just to pass time with his friends, has become his great passion.
Now 36, the captain of reigning world champions Argentina has been chosen by FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to perform a key role at the men’s and women’s Youth Olympic Futsal Tournaments Buenos Aires 2018, that of Athlete Role Model (ARM).
In bringing these champion athletes on board, the programme aims to inspire young sportspeople. The Buenos Aires 2018 ARMs will perform a number of duties, including making visits to the Olympic Village and answering questions from the young athletes.
“I can’t wait for it to start,” an excited Wilhelm told FIFA.com. “I was proud [to have been chosen] and I felt great about it. Unfortunately, our sport isn’t Olympic at senior level yet and I’d never thought about playing in one, let alone playing a role like this.”
Signed recently by Italian club Napoli, the defender is hoping to spend as much time as possible with the youngsters: “I want to talk about the sport, about the options it gives you and how it can shape you.”
“There’s still a long way to go but it’s a little bit shorter now,” he said. “It’s important that the sport is there. Playing in the Olympic Games is different to everything else. And I think it’s a big motivating factor if a kid knows that it’s a sport that can take you to the Olympic Games.”
Convinced that being part of the Youth Olympic Games is a small but important victory for futsal, the Argentinian added: “We can make it a success if the matches entertain the fans and the players enjoy it and stick to the principles of fair play.”
Argentina at Buenos Aires 2018: “I was lucky enough to play in the Pan American Games and we left Buenos Aires like it was just another tournament. But when we got there and went to the Olympic Village we realised it was something else entirely. These kids are going to go crazy when they see everything that’s happening and all the athletes there.”
The impact of the 2016 Futsal World Cup win in Argentina: “The media impact was huge. Futsal was already on the sporting map but we put it on the social map too. I used to have to explain to people what futsal was when I told them what I did. We’ve broken down that barrier now.”
The new Argentinian league: “It’s on the right track. What they’re doing is good and they’re doing it at the right pace too. It would be very easy to say that we have to have the best league in the world or in South America just because we’re the champions, but things aren’t that straightforward. In terms of marketing it’s just getting going.”
Women’s futsal: “I think it’s growing very fast. There are a lot of girls coming into the game and taking part. And they’re taking it seriously too, girls who are only 12 or 13. It’s amazing!”
Matias Lucuix, Argentina’s new national team coach: “He’s very knowledgeable already [Lucuix was an assistant to former Argentina coach Diego Giustozzi] and it would be very difficult to find someone else like him. We can’t judge him until he’s been in the post for a while, for a couple of years. The national team has some big matches coming up but we can’t judge him on those. We have to give him time and be patient with him, but I think he’ll do a good job.”
Did you know?
- The men’s and women’s Youth Olympic Football Tournaments Buenos Aires 2018 will take place from 7-18 October.
- Ten nations will take part in each competition, and the draw will be held in the Argentinian capital on 24 August.
- Click here for the match schedule.