Santizo siblings back for more with Guatemala

Football has always been a family affair for Guatemalan brothers Miguel and Edgar Santizo, who are about to contest their second consecutive FIFA Futsal World Cup together.

The pair first started kicking a ball around on the streets of Colonia Santa Ana, the Guatemala City neighbourhood where they grew up, where they formed a team with their mother Rosa, who kept goal, and their sisters Gladys and Ingrid. Watched by their father Miguel Angel and coached by their grandfather Jose Ricardo, they won more games than they lost and began a journey that would see them make a career in the game.

“I think it’s thanks to my grandfather that we’re where we are now,” said Edgar, who, at 29, is the younger of the two Santizo boys. “He coached us in his teams and he gave us training every day, always in the 11-a-side game though.”

Edgar was invited to Europe for a trial at the age of 13, an invitation turned down by his mother, who said he should focus on his studies. Though you could be forgiven for thinking that he and Miguel found their way into futsal in 2000, when Guatemala hosted the fourth FIFA Futsal World Cup, the fact is they were both introduced to the game they love by their older sisters.

“It happened in 2008, one Saturday night,” said the 31-year-old Miguel, taking up the story. “We went to see them play for an indoor football team coached by Pablo Morales, who was also coaching the men’s teams. They were short of people that day, they asked us to play, and, well, here we are.” caught up with the talkative siblings at a hotel in Buenos Aires, where Guatemala are continuing their preparations for Colombia 2016. “Though we spend a lot of time together, we do get on really well,” said Edgar. “Our team-mates tell us they’d like to get on that well with their brothers, but for us it’s just a natural thing,” added Miguel.

A dream fulfilled The only time they have not played together for the same club was in 2013, as Edgar explained: “We were both with Acuasistemas, but the club folded. I got the call from Glucosoral, which is the club we both play for now, and Miguel from a new team called Xelas. And we played against each other in the final.

“And that’s not all,” he added with a smile. “He kicked me into the benches. It’s still hurts today.”  How did their family put up with ordeal of seeing them on opposing teams? “They were anxious about it. There was even a newspaper article with a photo of my son and the headline: ‘My dad plays against my uncle’,” added Miguel, who was on the losing side that day.

By that time, the name Santizo was already appearing on the Guatemala team sheet. A small, skilful defender who likes to get forward and take people on, Edgar was the first to get the call, in 2010. “I was very pleased for myself, but sad for him too,” he recalled. One year later, however, their dream of playing together for the national team came true.

The Santizo boys formed part of the squad that finished runners-up when hosting the CONCACAF qualifying competition for the 2012 Futsal World Cup in Thailand. “I didn’t even come on in the final, which had me worrying that I wouldn’t get picked. But when my wife told me we were both in the squad for the World Cup, I cried with happiness,” explained Miguel, himself a defender too, but more solidly built and content to hold his position.

Big plans Edgar has bittersweet memories of the opening match in Thailand, against Colombia. “They sent me off in my first World Cup match! Just as well that we won.” That was Guatemala’s only victory of the competition. After losing heavily to Russia, the Central Americans faced Solomon Islands with a place in the last 16 at stake.

“We went out there so sure of ourselves that we lost and got knocked out,” said Edgar. “When I think that Colombia were packing their bags and then ended up finishing fourth, it makes me even angrier.

“That’s the lesson we learned as a group: it won’t happen again,” vowed Miguel, who also learned something on a personal level. “I only played for two minutes against Russia, but when you make it to the national team, you have to be ready to do your bit. That’s what I try to tell the youngsters now: it’s not easy to get to a World Cup, and they have to make the most of it.”

With the Spanish coach Tomas de Dios now at the helm, Miguel is enjoying far more playing time these days. Despite being the more defensive of the two siblings, he scored four goals in the CONCACAF qualifiers for Colombia 2016, two of them coming in the vital 6-2 defeat of Mexico in the group phase and the other two in the 3-2 victory over Cuba in the match for third place.

Guatemala have been drawn in Group C in the world finals, along with Italy, Paraguay and tournament newcomers Vietnam. “Our aim is to make the last 16, even if it’s as one of the best third-placed teams,” said Edgar. “I even think we could fight for second place. We’ve won as many as we’ve lost against Paraguay. Italy’s not impossible, but very difficult all the same,” added Miguel.

While the younger Edgar hopes to play one more World Cup in the future, Miguel is ready to make way for the players coming through, though his team-mates are asking him to reconsider his decision. Both the Santizo boys want the same thing nevertheless: “That the name Santizo leaves a legacy in Guatemalan futsal.”