DILI: Chiquito do Carmo, 28-year-old striker for East Timor, has written his name into football history with the opening goal of the 2018 World Cup.
Indonesia-born Chiquito struck after seven minutes of a 4-1 win over Mongolia which was East Timor’s first ever World Cup win. They had lost all four of their previous qualifying matches. Three minutes later Chiquito struck his second goal.
The match was played in front of a capacity 10,000 crowd in the Municipal stadium in the capital, Dili, and with thousands watching on a large screen outside.
Francisco Lay, president of the FFTL, said: “This is a very historical moment for sporting life in Timor. The whole community is very excited, especially the football family. We are happy to start the World Cup qualification, and make history. If we qualify for the second round, it will be a great honour for our country, players and the federation.
“It doesn’t matter if Timor win, or Mongolia win, the most important thing is that football wins.”
The two-legged tie against Mongolia will conclude next Tuesday in Ulan Bator. The cold conditions in the Mongolian capital could hardly be any different to those in Dili with temperatures between 32-35 degrees Celsius.
Who are East Timor?
** The Portuguese-speaking south-east Asian nation shares a land border with Indonesia, and is located across the Timor Sea from Australia.
In many ways Timor-Leste are a perfect example of World Cup football away from the bright lights of the world’s most famous stages. One of FIFA’s newest Member Associations – they officially became part of the global football community only in 2005 – Timor-Leste are featuring in just their third World Cup campaign.
Though a nation of modest resources – one which gained independence just 13 years ago – Timor-Leste have a passion for football that few can surpass.
Timor-Leste had never previously won a World Cup contest, losing all four of their matches to date. But results in 2014 had provided cause for optimism, meaning interest is high among Dili’s 200,000 residents.
Timor-Leste have been boosted in recent years by several internationally-based players of Timorese extraction. Last year’s regional championship (Suzuki Cup) qualifiers provided cause for optimism as Timor-Leste defeated Brunei and drew with Myanmar.
However, with no national league and few top-level pitches, former national team captain Alfredo Esteves says local players face a challenging environment.
He added: “They are a humble people, and are skilful naturally talented players. Being part-timers they face many challenges, including taking time off work, which is not easy in a poor country, sometimes with big families to support. Players have to work or they won’t survive. In my experience there are players who were good enough but they just couldn’t afford to be away from home.
“Timorese players are very passionate for football. They all follow the leagues overseas, and it would be their dream to one day play professionally overseas. It is really important for them to qualify for the next round. They work very hard in football and in life.”
Timor-Leste is a young nation in more ways than one, with around 60 per cent of the population aged under 25.
Esteves says their passion for football is undeniable: “If you go around the streets of Dili, you will see a lot of kids kicking a ball, even without shoes,” he said. “It is the kind of thing you might have seen in other countries decades ago. Of course to play football you just need a bit of space and a round ball.”