Ricardinho was the stand-out star of UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 and hopes to do the same for Inter FS at the UEFA Futsal Cup. He speaks about what futsal means to him.
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The audacious piece of skill with which Ricardinho flashed past Marko Pršić before smashing a volley beyond Miodrag Aksentijević in the Serbia goal is one of the most enduring images of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2016.
The Inter FS and Portugal winger's mastery of the ball was honed on the local hard court in Gondomar, near Porto, even playing with an orange or a rolled up bunch of socks if no ball was available. Now fresh from leading Portugal's charge at the UEFA Futsal EURO, O Mágico – the Magician – is ready to take centre stage once again at the UEFA Futsal Cup.
A winner with Benfica in 2010, the 30-year-old Inter FS forward says facing his former club would be difficult, but getting his hands back on club futsal's most prestigious trophy is all that matters now as the hosts prepare to face Pescara in Friday's semi-final in Guadalajara.
UEFA.com: You were a winner with Benfica in 2010, beating Inter 3-2 in the final. What is your fondest memory of that?
Ricardinho: The fact that we were the ones looking down on everybody else from the stands where the trophy was given to us. To feel that we were the winners that time around.
UEFA.com:What were the Benfica fans like?
Ricardinho: It was an unbelievable atmosphere, unique in this sport. I just hope we can experience something like that again in Guadalajara.
UEFA.com: How did it feel to lift the trophy?
Ricardinho: It was without a doubt like I was touching heaven.
Winning the most important club competition in the world is something that cannot be explained. You have to experience it.
UEFA.com: Inter have won the UEFA Futsal Cup three times and are in the final tournament again after a six-year absence. How does it feel to be back?
Ricardinho: It's the most important competition of the year for us. It is our main objective for this season and we can't wait for the semi-final. We want to win it and reach the final, where we'll also be aiming to succeed.
UEFA.com: How much will playing the tournament in Guadalajara help Inter?
Ricardinho: Playing in Spain will be good for us because the Spanish fans will be behind us, but we won't be playing in our venue so any kind of advantage will be marginal at best.
UEFA.com: What would it mean to you to play against Benfica?
It would be quite painful for me to face Benfica because we're talking about the club of my heart. But I'm a professional and I really want to win this competition no matter who we play.
UEFA.com: What do you think about Friday's opponents Pescara?
Ricardinho: I don't know them that well, but they have to have a lot of quality to be one of the four best teams in Europe. I know a lot of their players, such as Gréllo and Betão, and I'm certain they will also pose all sorts of problems.
UEFA.com: You are famous around the world for your skill on the ball. What gives you most pleasure on the futsal court?
Ricardinho: Whenever I'm on the pitch my only thought is to play in the best way possible without pressure or fear. My only aim is to win the match and bring joy to all the fans who come and pay to see us play.
UEFA.com: How did you get started in the game?
Ricardinho: I started playing football when I was six and then decided to change to futsal when I was 14. From that moment on it has been a never-ending passion for me.
UEFA.com: As a child were you always playing with a ball?
Ricardinho: My parents may not have always had the money to buy me a ball – sometimes I played with oranges, other times with socks rolled up as a ball – but yes, I always had a 'ball' at my feet.
UEFA.com: Where did you and your friends play?
Ricardinho: My friends and I used to play on a football court in our neighbourhood. It didn't matter if it was raining or scorching hot, that's what we loved to do.
UEFA.com: You spent three years in Japan with Nagoya Oceans. How did that experience help you develop as a player and a person?
Ricardinho: When you experience different leagues and countries you learn a lot from the cultures you encounter. The positives from each of those experiences will of course help you, but nothing compares to playing alongside the best players in the world. Nothing beats that!
UEFA.com: What is it like to play in the Spanish Liga?
Ricardinho: To me it is, and has always been, the best league in the world. I have always wanted to play in it and I’m really, really happy to have the opportunity to do so.
UEFA.com: You are one of futsal's most famous players. Does it give you pleasure to help raise the profile of the sport around the world?
Ricardinho: It was always something that I wanted to achieve and this is the level where I want to be.
I always said that I wanted to be remembered forever in this sport. I always worked very hard and learned from my team-mates and coaches to go as far as I can. Now I have reached that level and it is where I want to remain. I hope I can be an example to all of those who love this sport, on and off the pitch.