Scored four goals in his country’s first beach soccer world finals win
In his first tournament for the African nation he has scored seven goals in two games
Talks about his nickname, objectives, and what he will do with his two match balls
Tournament newcomers Mozambique have just recorded their first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup win and Antonio Jose Pedro Namape Junior has the match ball in his hands. And all for a very good reason: better known as Figo, he scored all of his side’s goals in their 4-2 defeat of United Arab Emirates. “I’m so happy, but I have to say this is better than anything I could have imagined,” Mozambique’s hero of the hour told FIFA.com, ball in hand and still wearing his yellow No. 9 shirt. “It’s our first ever World Cup win and to cap it all I scored four goals,” said the 28-year-old wing. “Getting here hasn’t been easy, though. We’ve worked really hard, kept our feet on the ground, and we’ve just achieved one of our objectives. This is historic for our national team.”
Figo is already one of the sensations of Russia 2021. The scorer of three goals in his side’s 8-4 defeat to Spain in their opening match, he now has seven from two games and is firmly in contention for the adidas Golden Boot, to the surprise of many, not least himself. “I was hoping to get some goals, but I’ve been lucky,” said Figo, who won his first cap in Mozambique’s preparations for the tournament. “You train for things like this. It’s my job, but scoring seven goals in two games is something I never dreamed of doing.” He now has to make space in his luggage for his two match balls: “They’ll both be going into my bedroom. I’m the first Mozambique player ever to score seven goals at a World Cup! I think I’m going to end up sleeping with them (laughs).”
Figo’s beach soccer career began when he was 20 and living in Maputo, the country’s capital: “I’d always played street football, but some friends asked me if I wanted to play beach soccer, and that’s where it all began. I enjoyed it, got spotted, and carried on with it.” It was on the streets of Maputo that he picked up his nickname: “When I played in my neighbourhood in Mozambique, I had a Portugal jersey with Figo’s name on it. I used to do lots of flicks and tricks with the ball, so they started to call me that. And it stuck.” Though he never saw his namesake in action much during his playing days, the wonders of modern technology have allowed him to catch up: “I’ve watched a lot of his videos and I really identify with the way he plays. That’s why I’m happy that the name stuck.”
The victory over United Arab Emirates showcased Mozambique’s style of play to perfection, as their star man explained: “We play a direct game. That’s the way we’ve chosen to play. On the physical side, we like to use our speed. And on top of that we make the most of our technique.” Mozambique’s next opponents are Beach Soccer World Cup regulars Tahiti, with a place in the last eight at stake. “Every match is different,” said Figo. “We’ll go into it with the same modesty and respect that we’ve shown our opponents up to now. We’ll need to show the same fight as today. Let’s see what they do on the pitch and if we can make the most of their errors.” Figo is far from fazed by Mozambique’s ground-breaking win, as he went on to explain: “Our aim when we came here was to get through the group phase. We’re focused on that and I’d like to believe that, if we can keep this spirit going and keep playing this way, we can do it. And if we can, then we’ll see what happens next.”
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