Sunday 15 May 2016, 10:23

Captain Mizo leading from the front for Egypt

Beset by economic and political problems, the people of Egypt could do with a little positive news. Thankfully, good tidings have just come in the shape of the national team’s qualification for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016.

The Pharaohs sealed a place at the world finals for the sixth time in a row – a sequence that began at Spain 1996 – thanks to their run to the final at the recently-concluded 2016 CAF Africa Futsal Cup of Nations in South Africa. To mark the occasion, FIFA.comspoke to Egypt captain Mizo, who looked back on his early days in the game, explained his reasons for taking up futsal and set out his objectives for the big event in Colombia.

A born leaderA professional footballer at the age of 18, Mizo switched to futsal after being spotted by Mouaffak Al Sayed, who asked him to join up with the national team. The player did not hesitate to accept the invitation, as he explained: “It wasn’t a difficult decision, as I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear my country’s jersey. I wanted to travel and live like a professional player, and that’s why I accepted straightaway.”

Mizo’s choice to opt for futsal was immediately rewarded with a contract with Qatari club Al Khor, where he picked up some valuable experience before returning to Egypt to play for Misr Al Maqasa, a team boasting no fewer than seven internationals.

In the meantime, he has represented his country at three consecutive African finals, and is now looking forward to a third straight Futsal World Cup appearance, having also run out at Brazil 2008 and Thailand 2012.

One of the national team’s chief goal threats, Mizo explained the role he plays as the side’s skipper: “The captain has to control the team and rally the players. These days I’ve stopped complaining and protesting to referees about their decisions. I realised that kind of thing was pointless and that it made me lose my concentration.”

There’s more to being a captain than just wearing an armband. More than anything else, it’s a major responsibility. You have to be the backbone of the team.

Adding that his job also involves giving his colleagues a lift when they need it, Mizo said: “When a player misses an easy chance, he gets frustrated and it could be the case that things don’t go his way for the rest of the game. I have to give him confidence and keep on encouraging him. The score can change in a second, and I never give up hope until the final whistle blows.

“I also have to take care of problems on the pitch and not leave everything up to the coach, who’s got a lot of other things to do. There’s more to being a captain than just wearing an armband. More than anything else, it’s a major responsibility. You have to be the backbone of the team.”

With Mizo having now qualified for the World Cup for the third time in a row, you could be forgiven for thinking that the competition does not hold quite the same appeal for him as before. Yet, as he explained, the opposite is true: “The World Cup is still a dream for any player. I’m as happy about qualifying this third time as I was the first. You can only get to play this competition once every four years, and you can’t describe how it feels.”

Thanking his parents for the positive influence they have had on his career, the Egypt international said: “They’re the reason for my success because they helped me right from the start and they encouraged me to make some difficult decisions. I would have loved my father to see me wearing the captain’s armband and playing in the World Cup. I dedicate my success to him.”

Ambition renewedMizo is heading back to Colombia 2016 full of confidence and ambition. Discussing his hopes for Egypt, he reflected on Colombia’s surprise run to the last four at Thailand 2012: “I watched them closely. No one gave them a chance of qualifying from their group, but they went all the way to the semis. I hope it’s going to be our turn to spring a surprise, and I know we can go far if we get drawn into a good group.”

But what does Mizo mean by “a good group”? “As long as we can avoid Spain, Russia and Italy, it’ll be a good draw for us. I hope to reach the semi-finals. There are a lot of newcomers this time, and I think our experience can help us get the better of them.”

When his side bid to do just that, Mizo will be expecting plenty of support from the Egyptian people: “I’m sure our compatriots will be right behind us, and I hope our results will do them proud. I’d be very sad if we get knocked out in the first round or if I come away feeling that we haven’t given our all.”

The Colombia 2016 final draw will take place on Thursday 19 May, when Egypt’s skipper will find out just how high he can set his sights.