x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fernando Baiano is taking nothing for granted

The Brazilian striker says a focused Al Wahda side have what it takes to clear the first hurdle of the Club World Cup.

Fernando Baiano, left, has scored 70 goals in 73 games since arriving in the UAE in 2008.
Fernando Baiano, left, has scored 70 goals in 73 games since arriving in the UAE in 2008.

ABU DHABI // Fernando Baiano is widely regarded as one of the most successful strikers to have played in the Pro League.

Al Wahda's Brazilian import has scored 70 goals in all competitions - including 35 for Al Jazira - since arriving in the UAE in 2008 and was Wahda's top scorer when they won the league last season.

So it is with some justification that the former Corinthians and Internacional forward becomes annoyed when people start to doubt him on the rare occasion he endures a lean spell.

"Everyone questions me when I don't score in a game but it is not possible to score in every match, and without the support of my colleagues," Baiano said.

"If I score, it is for the team. If we win, it is for the team. We win together and lose together. In football, you can't do anything alone.

"If I score, it's not only me who wins, but the team. But I can say I have done consistently well."

Baiano's 70 goals in the UAE have come in just 73 matches. And he hopes that strike rate will help his side's hopes at the Club World Cup (CWC).

"I have handled pressure all my life so it's nothing new to me," he said.

As Wahda prepare to face Hekari United of Papua New Guinea in the opener at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium tomorrow, Baiano remains confident his team have what it takes to clear the first hurdle.

"In football, you don't take any team for granted," Baiano said. "We have been thinking only of the first game and all the preparations have been focused on the first game. We have prepared well and had a good week-long camp in Egypt to get our focus on the CWC."

Josef Hickersberger, the coach, has strengthened his team's attacking options by naming Modibo Diarra, the Ivory Coast forward, as their fourth foreigner alongside the Brazilians, Magrao and Hugo, who replaced Diarra as the third foreign player allowed in the domestic competitions.

"The team is more balanced with Diarra in the side," Baiano said. "The coach knows this team very well and he knows how to get the team focused for the big occasions. Winning the first game is our main objective and then we can start thinking what's next."

Baiano is the youngest in a family of two boys and a girl, and says his mother, Maroli, is everything to him - his teacher and motivator.

"She took care of me all my life and if I am in this position now it is because of her," he said. "I started in the streets like most other kids in Brazil. I had a very tough life when I was young but my mother managed to educate me and supported me in my football."

Romario, the Brazilian striker, was Baiano's childhood hero and he tried to emulate his style during his formative years.

"He was very famous in Brazil and I wanted to play like him and score goals," he said. "I began as a striker and have remained as a striker."

Baiano spent five years with the Brazilian clubs Corinthians, Internacional and Flamengo before his first assignment abroad with Wolfsburg, the Bundaesliga club, in 2003/2004.

He returned to Brazil with Sao Caetano and then moved to the Primera Liga in Spain, where he had spells with Malaga, Celta Viga and Real Murcia.

Baiano has scored several memorable goals but his best in the Pro League, he recalled, was the second goal he scored against his old club Jazira in the 2-1 home win in February 2009. He described it as a mid-air collision with an Apache helicopter.

"I saw the ball as dipping, like the rotating blades of a helicopter. I went up in the air and connected a perfect header to score from a difficult angle.

"That goal won us the game and virtually secured the league. I have had a few memorable goals and that's one of them; definitely the best in the Pro League."