Dubai: A Brazilian futsal player is mulling a historic moment while helping his adopted nation of Georgia qualify for next year’s Fifa Futsal World Cup.
Scheduled to be held in Lithuania from September 12 to October 4, the 24-nation event is to host its main rounds of qualifying in October before the final rounds are held from January 28 to February 2 to choose the six nations representing Europe.
With Brazilians Seme Sayote and Thales Da Mata in their ranks, Georgia had an easy passage into the next round, while topping Group D with nine points from three matches in the Uefa Qualifying at the beginning of this year.
However, the next round will see Georgia up against Spain, Poland and Finland in Group 1 of the main qualifiers. Should they win or end runners-up in the group, Georgia will advance to the play-offs to decide the European quota for the main competition.
“I think I am more Georgian than Brazilian,” Da Mata told Gulf News after he turned up for the Dubai Police team at the Nad Al Sheba (NAS) futsal tournament being held at the NAS Sports Complex.
“It’s not easy to avoid the adulation and support given by the fans after we qualified to the next stages of the Futsal World Cup. The indoor stadium was full and everyone was shouting and screaming after we finished at the top of the group ahead of teams like Germany, Israel and Denmark. I have this feeling that we can make it as one of the qualifiers for the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup.”
After spending eight years of his futsal career back home in Brazil, Da Mata, 31, made the move to Europe while joining Tulpar Club in Kazakhstan in 2015. Known for his utility as a pivot, Da Mata attracted attention and moved on to Novaya Generatsiya (Russia) and then to Serbian sides Ekonomac and Sibiryak where he currently plays.
“My best days are behind me. If at all I had played for the national team, then it should have happened when I was in Brazil,” Da Mata said. “Now I am 31 and when the opportunity came to play for a national team [Georgia] I jumped on it. I don’t I have any regrets there.
“Playing for a national team is a different feeling altogether. It’s a huge learning experience that sort of rubs on you and makes you give everything you’ve got to ensure your country wins. At most times I forget that I am playing for my adopted country Georgia, but I feel very much Georgian simply because the people from Georgia have embraced me for what I am helping them achieve on the futsal court.
“If we do everything right, Georgia can be sure they make their debut at the 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup. That’s the prayer and hope.”