Tiago, Brazil's contagious champion

You wouldn't have been surprised if there was still been a sting residing on the palms of Brazil's goalkeeping supremo Tiago after their opening FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 encounter.

His night's work against Ukraine was relentless, as 66 shots were aimed his way, 20 of which he beat away from goal to safety, in his high-flying and crowd-pleasing style. All in a day's work for the modest two-time Futsal World Cup winner.

But today’s realities can so often hinge on a fragile, serendipitous blip in history, and the story of how Brazil ended up with arguably one of futsal’s greatest shot-stoppers is no different. “I became a goalkeeper by chance when I was 8 years old,” he explained to FIFA.com.

“The goalkeeper in our team had chickenpox and wasn't available to play. The big problem was that it really worked! I continued to play as a goalkeeper just for fun, but even then when I played football it’d still be as a striker.”

That bout of chickenpox his young team mate went down with has a lot to answer for. Two FIFA Futsal World Cup titles and a 2008 adidas Golden Glove to name just the tip of the iceberg. But incredibly, for the Brazilian No2 – who has retained his number, “which I don't change for anything”, since his first national call-up – it only took two years of focus to go pro.

“It wasn’t until I turned 16 that I decided to dedicate my life fully to being a futsal goalkeeper,” looking back on that wise choice just shy of two decades ago. “But futsal only really became my profession when I was about 18 years old. Before then it was still just for the fun of it.”

A winning disease Now an experienced 35-year-old stood at the base of the Brazilian side, his coach Sergio simply underlines importance: “He gives us security.” But he gives more than that too. As Tiago searches for his third world title in a land so famous for its coffee, he all too often resembles a vocal shot of caffeine, keeping his outfield team-mates in tune and alert.

“My enthusiasm is inexhaustible, because I don't like to lose,” he admitted. “My mission is to try to infect the other players with that same drive every time we play, even more so during the difficult moments in a game.”

That will to win on the field naturally translates into a hypercritical approach to growing his own game as well. The kind that is crucial to keeping you at the very pinnacle of any discipline for as long as the likes of Tiago has been. “That same drive means I always want to get better,” he explained. “So the search for perfection is one of my goals, even though I know that it will never happen.”

But, despite coming from a country where goalkeepers have never been the jewel in the crown, and playing in a team with magnetic attacking personalities like Falcao, Tiago has no hang-ups about not getting the accolades his quality may deserve. “Recognition is not an achievement regularly garnered by Brazilian goalkeepers,” he admitted. “The appreciation of our job comes just from the people involved in our position: families, friends, other goalkeepers and our coaches.”

Even with this, and his heaving trophy cabinet, Tiago philosophically signed off signalling his thirst for medals shows no sign of being quenched. “The past is already gone and the future doesn’t exist, but my aim is always to win the next championship.”