Thursday 26 March 2020, 15:26

Exhilarating Amandinha’s historic six

  • Amandinha has just won her sixth successive Best Female Player award

  • The futsal superstar was thrilled to discover she’d eclipsed global icons

  • She's compared to Falcao and Ronaldinho

Lionel Messi’s interminable dynasty lasted four years. Marta and Ricardinho managed five apiece. But for the first time in the history of football, futsal or beach soccer, today someone awoke having been named their sport’s best performer in six successive years.

“Wow,” Amandinha reacted to, gasping, seconds after staving off competition from Spaniard Anita and Portuguese Fifo to reclaim Futsal Planet’s Best Female Player gong. “Really? Wow, what an honour.

“When you say those names, it makes my heart go, because they’re global sporting icons. I’m absolutely delighted – I’m still taking it in – to be mentioned in the same breath as those greats.

“There are so many amazing players around the world, so I feel really fulfilled. 2019 was a huge year for women’s futsal, with games being shown on television and packed-out arenas. This individual title crowns a highly successful year collectively.”

It was indeed – for Brazil and Leoas da Serra. Amandinha inspired her country to the Copa America and Grand Prix crowns, and her club to four of the five trophies they shot for, including the world title. Trailing to Atletico Madrid in extra-time in the final, she scored twice to send 8,000 fans at the Jones Minosso gymnasium to seventh heaven.

Those capacity crowds are indebted to someone who is as thrilling on Brazilian courts as Volcano boarding is in Nicaragua, the Insanity Rise is in Las Vegas or Zapcat powerboating is in Britain. Hypnotising hip-shakes, hypersonic step-overs, 360 degree turns, breathtaking flicks and a reverse nutmeg all decorated Amandinha’s video game-esque performance against the Spanish superpower.

As well as her team-mates, her “mentor” Daniela Civinski, and Mauricio, who runs Leoas, the left-winger never forgets the fundamental function her first coach played in her rise to Amazon Tall Tower heights. Andre Lima gave up his time and money to run a social project for kids in Ceara, and founded a futsal school for them.

“I was the only girl at the school,” said Amandinha. “All the boys were great with me. There was no prejudice.

“But when we went to our first competition, they wouldn’t accept me playing because I was a girl. Andre tried to talk to them, but they weren’t budging.

“So Andre said to them, in no uncertain terms, ‘We’re a team. Amandinha’s part of our team. If she doesn’t play, none of us do.’ They were taken aback, had a meeting, allowed me to play and we went home as champions. I owe Andre so much.”

Andre tragically suffered a car accident a few years ago that has left him wheelchair-bound, but his summa cum laude-graduated student communicates with him via his sister. And if he inspired Amandinha to make futsal her craze, another man got her chasing it as a career.

“When I was growing up, every Sunday I would stop whatever I was doing to watch Falcao play on TV, to watch the exceptional plays that only he could pull off,” she said. “He was a huge inspiration for me.

“He transformed our sport. He was incomparable. He’s the greatest of all time. He made me want to do what he did.

“Of course people didn’t believe a girl could make a go of it. ‘Ah, she’s just another one having fun with a football, but she’ll finish her studies and get a normal career.’ But I’ve always been determined.”

Amandinha went from schoolgirl in Fortaleza to pro futsal player at Barateiro, big hitters in Brazil, at the speed of her step-overs. At just 18, she was sporting canary-yellow in the Women’s Futsal World Tournament.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was first called up by A Seleção," she said. "When I was with my idols, great players and great people, for the first time, I cried tears of joy. And to represent my nation, Brazil, 200 million people who are totally impassioned by football, was an incredible, indescribable feeling.

“A few months later I was at the World Cup in 2013. Brazil beat Spain in Spain in the final. It was unbelievable.

“The World Cup in 2014 was so important for me. We were losing to Portugal in the final, and I scored the title-winning goal. And at the last World Cup, in 2015, I scored two goals in the final and we beat Russia 3-0. Thank God that every year I’ve played for A Seleção, we’ve managed to bring joy to the supporters.”

Those fans may have canonized Amandinha, but in Lages, a futsal-crazy city of 160,000 inhabitants in Santa Catarina, she is as mythical as Rihanna is in St. Michael or Shakira is in Barranquilla.

(laughs) I don’t have words for the way the people treat me here,” she said. “I had been named the world’s best player before I came here, but not many people knew who I was.

“Here it’s totally different. Wherever I go, people recognise me. They come to talk to me, want to take photos. It’s so, so gratifying. It makes me feel that, in some way, I’m important to the people and that my work is paying off.

“We’ve managed to build up a really passionate following. We put 7,000, 8,000 people in gymnasiums. It’s incredible, it makes your heart go. Fortunately Leoas da Serra have managed to win everything to repay this incredible support.”

So what does a 25-year-old who has won everything at club, international and individual level aspire to?

“In 2019 women’s futsal reached a new level, and now I’d love for it to reach the next level. We’ve exchanged messages a few times, but I’ve never met Marta personally. I’ve met great players like Cristiane, Erika, Andressa Alves, but it would be really cool to meet Marta.

“And I’d love to go to The Best FIFA Football Awards™. I’ve always watched it on television. I remember watching Kaka, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo win it. Now we have Neymar. I’m really, really yearning for him to win it for the incredible talent he has.

“One of my favourite moments was Falcao being honoured with something he deserved so, so much. His speech got me really emotional.

“I’d love to go and see the awards live one day. It’s a dream I‘ve had since I was a little girl.”

Do you promise you won’t mention eclipsing Messi and Marta, Amandinha!?