Monday 19 September 2016, 20:07

Colombia, lovers of the underdog

Within the confines of the futsal court, where the margins can be so fine, that little something extra can be all you need to force the ball over the line. Being able to run that inch further, get a touch more power on your shot, or have an additional ounce of bravery can be the difference.

But at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016, that something extra has all too often been coming from the other side of the white line, a wave of energy pouring down from the stands, and all too often it has been on hand to boost the little guy.

Cocooned in Colombia’s coliseos, the noise can build to a staggering volume, reverberating beneath the roof and resonating out on the court through the revitalised quintet pouring themselves into the match. The hosts themselves know all too well about this effect – just look at their last-minute equaliser against Uzbekistan – but for some of the lesser nations, while not necessarily converting to points, pride and passion have flowed freely as a result.

Seeing their shouts from the stands translate into belief on the field is one of the driving forces behind fans directing their support in favour of the underdog. “You can tell the team performs at a higher level when the crowd gets behind them, it helps them out and it feels good to be part of that,” Ariel Diaz, watching Solomon Islands in Bucaramanga, said.

Fellow fan Andres Duran concurred. “It makes an influence on the game, it’s like when Colombia play too, and I guess it makes the players think ‘let’s try to perform better for everyone who’s supporting us’.”

Boost for playersAnd in no uncertain terms it is a boost that’s felt out on the court. “When the crowd is behind you it gives you a lot of energy and fills you with a lot of positivity to keep working hard,” Solomons captain Elliot Ragomo said. “The way have cheered and supported us has kept us boys going and makes us believe we can keep going.”

Coach Juliano Schmeling was in full agreement. “The way the crowd got behind us and supported us was an amazing feeling.” And Mozambique opposite number Naymo Abdul felt the impact too, seeing his side go up a gear while under the influence of the locals. “If you look at the atmosphere, the fans were really getting on board and once everyone was behind us it reflected in us raising our game.”

"It is true, we felt all the support for the Colombian people, and it was fantastic,” Ricardinho, one of Abdul’s charges, agreed. "It was definitely very motivating, and gave us that extra dose of power in the field. We are a young team and things like that make you feel better."

This has been the way across all three venues, with fans getting behind the likes of debutants Azerbaijan, Mozambique, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, or even more seasoned underdogs like Australia when clashing with giants of the game like Brazil. And some have their own reasons a little more personal than simply seeing a futsal ‘David’ standing up a goliath.

Be it having happy memories of trips to the likes of Morocco, a long lost relative from Azerbaijan or enlivened by the passionate native fans who have travelled across the world to be here, such as with Uzbekistan’s vibrant following, many have found their reason to latch on to a brand new team. Or as Duran simply put it: “We’ve just never seen teams like the Solomon Islands here before.”