Alessandro Rosa Vieira, better known as Falcao to his legion of international fans, might not be a familiar name in India just yet. But the 39-year-old Futsal legend believes that the sport is perfectly suited for the subcontinent.
“It’s been a pleasure to play here,” he says. “I was surprised to see so much love for the sport in India.”
Futsal, the sport which Falcao has devoted his life to and mastered (he is known as the Pele of the game), is a more fast-paced variant of football, with matches typically only lasting 40 minutes, and being marked by skill-shots and tricks.
It’s this action which sets it apart from its more well-known cousin: And the entire premise of the Premier Futsal League is banking on Indian audiences being receptive to it.
“It’s a very big opportunity,” Falcao says. “Because it is action packed I’m sure it will continue to be popular for India.”
Futsal, with its reliance on skill shots, ball control, and swift pace, is a commonality between any of the great South American and Spanish football players because it’s what they all played as children.
Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi, Crespo, Neymar – their first touch on the ball was in the cramped streets of their hometowns, playing 5-a-side futsal.
Most then go on to sign for a local club and transition into playing the beautiful game, using the tricks and reflexes learned from futsal and taking it to a larger pitch. It’s what partially accounts for the unique style – aggressive forward pushes, fast footwork, and flashy passes – that the Latin American players bring to the table.
Falcao also dabbled in football, joining the legendary Brazilian club Santos with his close friend, Neymar.
“We talk every day,” Falcao says. “He keeps asking me how India is.”
Part of the gimmick of the Premier League’s first iteration in India was in bringing together legends from the footballing world as well as the world of futsal, and seeing how they coped with the mechanics of the game.
Some, like Hernan Crespo, Ronaldinho, and Michel Salgado, played futsal as children: But others, like Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, had never played before.
That didn’t appear to hamper them however. “Giggs was fantastic, Crespo even better, and you know what to expect from Ronaldinho,” says Falcao when asked about their performances.
Giggs, especially, was a “pleasant surprise” according to the futsal legend. “You saw the score, right?” he laughs, referring to his team’s 4-2 loss to the Welshman’s Mumbai team on the opening night of the tournament.
But the League is more than just a flashy contest for the Brazilian: It signifies his hopes that his sport will be adopted across India. “I want to start building academies and teaching kids how to play futsal here,” Falcao says. “It was such an important part in all of our lives: And the conditions in India are perfect for it.”
Regardless of whether his beloved sport does become a popular pastime in India, it is clear Vieira is enjoying his time here. “India is now my second home,” he beams, his irrepressible grin belying just how seriously he takes his game.