Argentina’s Cristian Borruto is one of those players capable of blocking a shot with his head if need be, but also of flicking the ball over an opponent right in the middle of a FIFA Futsal World Cup semi-final to score a vital goal in a historic win. Portugal can vouch for that.

“I learned to play like that in Dock Sud, the neighbourhood where I was born and grew up,” the 29-year-old wing from Avellaneda told FIFA.com. “It was a tough place, very much lacking the basics, but everyone could kick a ball around and we all went out in the street to play for money, a barbecue or just for pride. When I stop and think about it, football got me out of a situation that could have been tough for me.”

As he explained, Borruto has not had the easiest of lives. “I barely knew my father because he died when I was a kid, and it was my sisters who brought me up. There were 11 of us, though, and I had to start working when I was a kid. My last job before I started playing futsal full-time was fixing cars in a garage in the neighbourhood.”

His life changed when he signed for Independiente de Avellaneda: “I worked during the day and trained at night. It wasn’t long before the national team spotted me and a year later I went to Naples in Italy. I’ve been there for nine years now. I don’t know how things would have turned for me if this hadn’t happened.”

Now with Pescara, Borruto, who made his World Cup debut at Brazil 2008 and is now just one game away from glory, has never forgotten his friends from the barrio: “I’m still in touch with them, one of whom didn’t have so much luck and is now in prison. They all congratulate me for making my way.”

He is not the emotional type, however. “I’m not one those people who cries or lets emotions get the better of me. I’m pretty tough actually,” he said, before admitting to being just a little overcome at reaching the final of Colombia 2016: “It’s a unique feeling, just crazy. We all dreamed about it, but the reality is even better.”

Life lessons
Borruto set Argentina on the road to the final with the opening goal in the 5-2 defeat of Portugal, scoring a goal straight off the potrero (the rough, makeshift pitches where Argentinian youngsters learn their football), audaciously lobbing the ball over the keeper’s head before tucking it into an empty net. “I heard the keeper shout ‘mine’,” explained the man they call Titi. “I guessed he was right behind me, which is why I lifted the ball up in the air. I think it was a nice goal. A couple of people told me so anyway.”

Borruto, who has now pulled level with Carlos Sanchez as Argentina’s highest all-time scorer in futsal world finals with nine goals, added that his early strike helped him relax, even if the Portuguese did manage to equalise a few minutes later: “It was only natural I should feel tense in a match like that. There was a lot at stake and we were up against a team with the best player in the world. It was tough, but I did expect a closer result.”

Married to Camila and a father to four-year-old Leon and 13-month-old Lola, Titi admitted to having no role models in the game and to being a little disconnected from it all. “Luckily, I do know what time I have to train,” he said with a smile. “I have to keep on asking Pablo (Taborda), my room-mate. I go down ten minutes early and that’s that. The only thing I care about is the ball.”

He has plans to return home one day. “I wouldn’t swap Argentina for anywhere else in the world,” he said, though for the moment he has nothing else on his mind but Russia: “They’re a really strong side. When I was with Montesilvano I came up against a few of them in the UEFA Futsal Cup, and they’re so strong.”

If they are to match the Russians, Borruto believes Argentina will need to keep on doing what has got them this far in the first place and to dig deep, something he learned on the streets where he honed his skills: “We have to fight for every ball as if it were the last.”