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1996: Paulo Roberto

Futsal originated in Brazil but in UEFA competition, at least, has been dominated by Spain, and it was a man connecting both nations who played a vital part in Spain's victory in the first official European futsal tournament.
by Paul Saffer
1996: Paulo Roberto
Paolo Roberto shot to prominence at the experimental UEFA European Futsal Tournament in 1996 ©UEFA.com

1996: Paulo Roberto

Futsal originated in Brazil but in UEFA competition, at least, has been dominated by Spain, and it was a man connecting both nations who played a vital part in Spain's victory in the first official European futsal tournament.

Futsal originated in Brazil but in UEFA competition, at least, has been dominated by Spain, and it was a man connecting both nations who played a vital part in Spain's victory in the first official European futsal tournament.

Born in Rio de Janeiro on 12 August 1967, Paulo Roberto moved to Spain, the nation of his paternal grandfather, at the end of 1988 to Marsanz Torrejón. By 1991 he was a naturalised Spaniard, and three years later the pivot made his international debut, featuring in victories against Belgium, Netherlands and Italy on the way to winning a four nations tournament in Madrid. The experience of facing those sides proved handy when the experimental UEFA European Futsal Tournament was played in Cordoba, Spain, in January 1996. He scored in both group games as Spain beat Belgium 2-1 and drew 2-2 with the Netherlands, and struck twice in the 4-1 semi-final defeat of Italy. Russia awaited in the final and Paulo Roberto was again on target amid four Vicente Martínez strikes to secure a 5-3 win and the first European title for Spain.

That was the beginning of what has proved a glorious era for Spain, and with Paulo Roberto as a crucial member of the side they triumphed at the 2000 FIFA Futsal World Cup and 2001 UEFA European Futsal Championship before he bowed out of internationals the following year. He continued to play for ElPozo Murcia FS until 2005, when he began a four-year spell as sporting director, but his place as a legend of the sport was secure. In 2004 he was awarded the silver medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit by King Juan Carlos and was described by his Spain coach Javier Lozano as "the real phenomenon in the marketing of futsal".

Last updated: 29/01/12 5.03CET

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