World premiere and finals fever for Ussaca

  • Mozambique set to take part in maiden Beach Soccer World Cup

  • chats to Abineiro Ussaca, the man who led Os Mambas there

  • Group-stage opponents will be Spain, UAE and Tahiti

In May this year, Abineiro Ussaca and his charges made history with a feat that almost no one had expected. After guiding Mozambique to the knockout phase of the CAF Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations for the first time, he then went a step further and secured the country’s maiden qualification for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

From 19 to 29 August in Russia, Ussaca will pit his Mambas against some of the best teams in the discipline with a humility befitting their newcomer status, but also with the confidence acquired during qualifying.

"We performed well during the AFCON qualifying phase and at the tournament itself. We had the best player, top scorer and most prolific attack there," the coach told Ussaca clearly intends to carry that momentum into the finals in Russia, saying: "We’re duty bound to be at the level of this tournament while respecting each opponent and playing with humility. We’ll play each game as if it were a final."

The Mozambicans will need to be at their best if they are to progress from a Group B that includes 2015 and 2017 finalists Tahiti, 2013 finalists Spain, and UAE, who are making their seventh appearance at the event. "We know very well that we’re a small team with no track record yet, which is why we’ll go into this World Cup with humility and respect, and a desire to learn," admitted the realistic but ambitious Ussaca. "We intend to develop our football based on technical finesse and attacking. Our players are masters on sand and super motivated to test themselves against our three opponents."

Abineiro Ussaca, coach of Mozambique Beach Soccer National Team

Solid and competitive

With just over a month to go before their debut on the world stage, Os Mambas are fine-tuning their preparations so as to arrive at the competition in top form. Currently practicing on the sands of Mozambique, they will fly to Portugal for a training camp from 24 July to 9 August, where they will face Brazil, Portugal, ACD Sotao and Os Nazarenos, before arriving in Russia on 10 August. "We’re doing all we can to put out a solid, highly competitive team," said the 41-year-old.

While he is now a household name on the country’s beach soccer scene, Ussaca did not envisage making a career on the sand. Like many youngsters in Africa, the Mozambican began competing at district level, before making the step up to play for a series of clubs in the capital Maputo. That was until 2000, when an injury forced him to change direction. "While I was sidelined, I used the time to train myself in coaching. I’ve coached girls and boys and won titles with senior men and women's sides," he said proudly.

Foundations to build on

It was in 2005 that Ussaca first took an interest in beach soccer, a discipline then in its infancy in his homeland. "I was involved in the country’s first championship, and in 2014 I led Vulcano FC to the national championship as well as runners-up spot in the latest edition of the Beach Soccer Copa 2M," said the man who describes himself as "a fully-fledged coach of beach soccer, and of football".

Today, his passion and the Mambas’ historic World Cup qualification are the ideal foundations on which to develop the game in the country. "We’ve had a championship with 16 teams since 2013, but it’s only played in the capital Maputo. We’re still trying to expand it throughout the country," Ussaca explained. "We’re still novices and beach soccer is not yet very popular in Mozambique, but I very much hope it will be," he concluded, no doubt aware that a good showing in Russia could contribute greatly to that.

Abineiro Ussaca, coach of Mozambique Beach Soccer National Team