Thursday 09 September 2021, 00:00

Sampaio has big plans for Angola

  • Angola poised for FIFA Futsal World Cup debut

  • Coach Rui Sampaio sets out his side’s goals in Lithuania

  • Angola face Japan, Paraguay and Spain in the group phase

In a country where basketball is king and where the national team rules the continent with 11 AfroBasket titles, Angolan futsal has done well to establish itself and secure a place at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021. It is a first world finals appearance ever for the Palancas Negras (Giant Sable Antelopes), and the man who will take them there is Rui Sampaio, who took charge as coach after qualification had been secured. Just as it is virtually everywhere else in Africa, football is almost a religion in this country in the continent’s south west, where the street game is popular with young and old alike. And in the last few years, the indoor version of the beautiful game has gradually grown in popularity in this sports-mad nation. “Futsal only came to Angola in 2004 but it enjoyed a real boom from 2008 onwards, albeit in very challenging conditions,” Sampaio told “It’s taken a lot of work and self-sacrifice to get to a position where we could qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 2019.”

Rui Sampaio, coach of Angola Futsal national team

The importance of training

It is an achievement that owes nothing to luck and everything to the hard work of many stakeholders on and off the court in developing Angolan futsal and generating interest among the country’s registered players. Sampaio explained: “There really was a concerted effort to develop men’s and women’s futsal, which involved organising competitions such as U-9s and senior provincial championships, club championships and the Angola Cup too.” The Palancas Negras coach went on to highlight the importance of training, which he sees as a potential driving force of African futsal. “There are only a few good national teams on the continent, like Morocco and Egypt, an imbalance that’s all down to a lack of investment in training coaches, managers and referees,” lamented Sampaio, who nevertheless sees a lot of potential in his side. “Angola are on their way to becoming a major futsal power in Africa and I don’t see any reason why they can’t become a global force.”

An opportunity to grow the game

Angola will need all their talents to be firing come 12 September in Lithuania. Drawn into a very competitive Group E, the Palancas Negras will do battle with Spain, the world champions in 2000 and 2004; Paraguay, who reached the quarter-finals at Colombia 2016; and Japan, who are appearing at the world finals for a fourth time. The 55-year-old Angolan coach is undaunted by the opposition, however: “I’m not scared of any team, anything but. We’re going to match them and we’ve got no intention of coming off second best. There are no easy teams anymore. We’ll use our three group games to show just how good Angolan and African futsal is.” The Angolans warmed up for the tournament in Portugal, where they played matches against Portugal, Costa Rica, Uzbekistan and Venezuela before heading off to Lithuania. Though Sampaio describes their tournament preparations as “challenging”, he is confident they have made the most of them. “The health situation has hit us hard financially, but we feel we’ve prepared as well as we possibly can. This programme can help us reach our objectives.” In charge since February, Sampaio is impatient for the ball to start rolling at Lithuania 2021, a competition he believes can provide a springboard for Angolan futsal: “Taking part in this tournament will help us to make even more progress and put a solid and competitive team together for 2024. That’s our priority.”