Pereira: I wanted to feel the moment in my heart

  • Portuguese captain Telma Pereira is now an Olympic champion

  • She contributed four goals and seven assists at Buenos Aires 2018

  • “We’ve made history!”

Telma Pereira toyed with the medal she had just received on the podium as she awaited the crowning moment for any Olympic athlete: the playing of the national anthem and the raising of the flags. Her flag, that of Portugal, flew higher than any other, by virtue of the gold medal-winning victory she and her team-mates had just achieved over Japan in the final of the Women’s Youth Olympic Futsal Tournament Buenos Aires 2018. At that point, she chose to close her eyes.

"The truth is that it wasn’t planned – it just felt natural," the Portugal skipper explained to after the medal ceremony. "I wanted to feel the moment in my heart."

The influential No10 was still struggling to come to terms with what she had accomplished, and could not stop laughing. "It’s amazing when you realise that you’ve achieved something that you’ve worked so hard for. I’ve been with this group of girls for three years, and I’m so happy. This is a big deal!"

How big, in her opinion? "Well, it’s the first time that futsal has been part of the programme at an Olympic Games, and we’ve ended up winning the women’s competition," said Pereira, who will be 18 at the end of this month. "We’ve made history!"

Portugal were crowned Olympic champions after a final that was trickier than the final scoreline of 4-1 would suggest. "We definitely had one big advantage over them," she said, pointing at her team-mate Fifo, who scored all four goals on the night. "She was incredible. But we all contributed to the win. And we all defended as a team when Japan came back at us. To win you have to know how to defend your lead, and today we did that extremely well."

Love of the game Towards the end of the match Pereira attempted to dispatch a high ball with a scissor kick, a move reminiscent of Portuguese futsal star Ricardinho. She smiled at the comparison, aware that they have similar ways of walking, running and performing feints. They even sport the same number on their jerseys. Did he ever influence her decision to play futsal?

"In my opinion, he’s the greatest player in the world, and I’m a big admirer," she said. "But it was my dad who first got me into it. He played 11-a-side football, but they didn’t have women’s football in my town, so I turned to futsal. I was about four-years-old, and I quickly fell in love with the game.

"I think it’s the most beautiful sport. It combines intelligence with skill, the ball is constantly moving from foot to foot, and you have to think really fast. It’s the very best form of football."

She blossomed while playing for the GCR Nun`Alvares club, and from there she made the jump to the Portuguese national team three years ago, with the same players who just secured the gold medal.

Passionate about music ("I like a bit of everything, from rock like AC/DC to samba music," she explained), the mechanical engineering student is keen to strike the right note with Portugal's senior futsal team, for which she is yet to receive a call-up.

"I’m going to work to get there, so that I can continue to develop. I just love futsal, and today was a great reminder of why I love it so much."