Monday 20 September 2021, 01:00

Arthur: Japanese people are very passionate, so patriotic

  • Arthur has been one of the stars of Lithuania 2021

  • His father PC de Oliveira coached Brazil to glory in 2008

  • Arthur hails the Japanese fans and discusses the team’s targets

Arthur Oliveira remembers calling his father in October 2008. It was to congratulate him on guiding Brazil to the FIFA Futsal World Cup™ trophy.

Thirteen years on and Arthur is still calling his dad about the competition. PC de Oliveira is, however, 11,000km away from the sport’s showpiece event in Sao Paulo. Arthur is playing in it… in the colours of Japan. “I was called up by the Brazil youth teams a couple of times, but I wasn’t able to go because of club commitments,” explained Arthur. “When I went to Japan, the Japanese people welcomed me, my wife in such a lovely way that, when I had the opportunity to represent the country, I wanted to give them something back.”

Arthur certainly gave something back on his Futsal World Cup debut: four goals inspired an 8-4 win over Angola. He was in fine form again as Japan gave two-time Futsal World Cup winners Spain a fierce examination. The Asians led and bossed the game for a long period before falling to a 4-2 defeat. “I think we played really well. When we were 2-1 up, we were in control. We could have gone further ahead. But Spain have been world champions, they have players who are of the highest calibre, they play at the best clubs in the world. “Nonetheless, to put up a performance like that against such opponents gives us a lot of confidence to take into the Paraguay game. It shows we can compete against anyone.”

A draw would send Japan through in second place in Group E, while a narrow defeat would also guarantee them a spot in the Round of 16. Arthur, however, insists Bruno Garcia’s side will not be trying to play it safe in Vilnius. “It won’t be easy,” said the No15. “Paraguay are a really strong team. They also gave Spain a really tough game. The standard of South American teams is very high. South American futsal is, perhaps, the benchmark nowadays. “We will go out to win. Confidence is a big thing in futsal, just like in football. We want to go through in the top two and take that momentum into the knockout phase. “Our target is to surpass our best-ever performance in this competition, which was the last 16. So we want to reach the quarter-finals and then anything can happen. Little things decide matches, as we saw against Spain. But we’d love to give the fans something to celebrate. “Japanese people love sport, football. Futsal has grown a lot in Japan and continues to grow each year. Japanese people are very passionate, so patriotic. Their support is wonderful and it gives us players an enormous push.”

Arthur is aware that Japan are not among the favourites, but he believes there’s an additional reason for surprise this year. “I think the favourites are Brazil, Argentina, who have ten players who won the World Cup in 2016, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Iran,” he said. “Physically the Iranians are incredible – they’re probably the best team in the world physically. “But I think futsal is much more balanced these days. Even more so with COVID, it’s perhaps given a greater chance to the teams in the next bracket. “I think the futsal world has been taking Japan more seriously, and I think this will be even more so now. We had a really competitive friendly against Argentina and lost 2-1. We gave Spain a really tough game. On another day, we could have won both of those matches. We’ve shown we can compete with anyone.”

FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 - Japan Portraits

Arthur, too, will have the benefit of some special advice. “I speak to my dad all the time. I spoke to him before the Spain game, asked for some tips. He beat Spain in the 2008 final. I’ll speak to him before the Paraguay game. He’s come up against them so many times. “I try to take on board some of the things he tells me. I hope some of it can come off against Paraguay.”