Jose Cintas, Spain's faithful servant
When teams have a lot of firepower, we often talk about their artillery. Yet, in an ironic twist of fate, there is a real-life artilleryman in the Spanish national beach soccer side - and he plays in defence!
"I enlisted with the military when I was 18, because I saw it as a stable career path. I don't regret it because I've learned a lot of good things and got to know some great people. On top of that, I'm proud to work for my country," Jose Cintas told FIFA.comin the run-up to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015.
Cintas, a member of the La Roja squad that finished runners-up at Tahiti 2013, has spent the last ten years in the 32nd Mixed Artillery Regiment in his native Melilla, a Spanish territory in northern Africa. He works there every day from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, except when he has training or is travelling with the Spain team. "Luckily my job doesn't interfere with my sporting pursuits. As far as possible, the regiment have always been accommodating so that I can represent Spain. Let's just say that they're patient with me," he said, smiling.
From the field to the sandDespite being stationed at a base near the shores of the Mediterranean, Cintas did not make his name on sand right away. "I used to play football at centre-back for Spanish third-division team Atletico Melilla. Beach soccer is pretty popular in Melilla and so in the summer of 2008 or 2009 I signed up for a tournament. Since then I have combined both forms of the game with my work, but beach soccer is my priority on the sporting side," Cintas said.
Cintas's military background has undoubtedly helped him to develop some attributes that stand him in good stead in matches. "Above all my physical condition, since I also take part in the pentathlon in regional military competitions. That involves an 8 km run, an obstacle run, rifle shooting at a distance of 200 m, a 50 m obstacle swim and grenade throwing," he explained.
Asked whether his profession gives him an edge over the rest when it comes to mental strength, Cintas downplayed this factor. "My training helps me to not give up, to not admit defeat at any moment. But it's not like I consciously draw on it during games or tournaments!" said the stopper, a fixture in the Spain set-up since the beginning of 2013.
A sporting ambassadorCintas's presence in the Spain side is a source of both pride and motivation among his fellow troops. Indeed, his success inspired the creation of a regiment team, albeit one without Cintas. "They started playing in the Melilla League this year, but I play for Melistar. I missed the first meeting between the two teams because I was away at a tournament. A lot of the guys ought to buy me breakfast for that," he joked.
As for his own inspiration, Cintas is a massive admirer of fellow Spain defender Juanma because he "sets an example on and off the pitch". The 27-year-old looks poised to emulate his vastly experienced team-mate by serving as one of La Roja's leaders in the immediate future, although he is not counting his chickens before they hatch. "If that's the role I'm called on to play, that's what I'll do. First I have to work hard so the coach keeps faith in me, because competition is fiercer than ever. The 23- and 24-year-old lads are putting the pressure on and that's good for everyone."
Consequently, Cintas is not taking anything for granted with regard to his place in the squad in Portugal. One thing he is banking on, however, is that Spain will not have it easy at the big event, with four-time world champions Brazil, gutsy Iran and up-and-coming Mexico in their group. "It's a very tough draw because all three are at a high level, but we're in good shape. After reaching the final in Tahiti we won the Euro Beach Soccer Cup in 2014 and we've improved since then. Maybe our opponents will look at us differently and view us as contenders now, but our philosophy won't change," said the defender, who featured in all six of his country's games on the world stage last time round, scoring one goal.
It would be tempting to just say that Cintas is ready to wage war to capture the crown in Portugal, but such metaphors do not sit well with this lover of pizza and reggaeton music. "Thank God I've never seen action on a battlefield and I hope I never have to because I believe in peace. Just like I'm proud to work for Spain and represent my country, I relish the opportunity beach soccer gives me. Football unites and aids coexistence, and nothing compares to engaging through sport."