- Eliott Mounoud will be between the posts for Switzerland at Paraguay 2019
- He can speak over five languages
- “I went from watching [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen to watching Jonathan Torohia of Tahiti”
Two years ago, Eliott Mounoud decided to pass up the opportunity to play in his first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The young keeper was training with Switzerland in the lead-up to Bahamas 2017, while still holding out hope of one day playing for Spain, the country to which he moved with his family at the age of four.
“It was a very difficult decision but I did what I thought was the best thing,” Mounoud told FIFA.com, finding time for an interview during his preparations for Paraguay 2019, where he will finally make his Beach Soccer World Cup debut not with Spain but with Switzerland.
“I was 22 at the time and I felt this emotional pull,” he explained. “I grew up in Torredembarra [a town in Catalonia] with friends who were in the Spain team, like Llorenc Gomez, Edu Suarez and Adrian Frutos. I was so excited about the idea of playing in a World Cup with them.
“There was also the fact that I didn’t understand German and felt a bit out of place,” said the Geneva-born keeper. “Luckily for me, Angelo Schirinzi, the Switzerland coach, understood where I’d been coming from and called me up again a couple of months ago.”
As it turned out, Mounoud was unable to take out Spanish citizenship. In the meantime, he developed his skills between the posts, proving his ability with his hands and feet and picking up valuable experience at the highest level with several clubs in Europe.
“I’ve also matured as a person and I can look at things from a different angle now,” he said. “That’s why I’m grateful to Angelo for this fresh opportunity, for putting his faith in me. And I’m grateful to my team-mates too, who’ve made it easy for me to settle into the team.”
The teething problems Mounoud once faced are now a thing of the past: “I’ve got round the language thing by speaking English and a bit of French,” said the goalkeeper, who also speaks Spanish, Catalan, Italian and Portuguese.
His debut for Switzerland came in the Superfinal of the Euro Beach Soccer League, against who else but Spain. “It was very special and I even scored two goals. We lost, though, which made it bittersweet.”
The chemistry was there, however. “My style of play fits in perfectly with the players here. They’re very technical,” said Mounoud, who joined the Switzerland set-up after the qualifiers for Paraguay 2019, but has quickly grown in stature.
A goalkeeper throughout his career, Mounoud came close to fulfilling his dream of playing in the Spanish first division. After coming up through the youth ranks at Gimnastic de Tarragona, he very nearly played for Real Zaragoza at the age of 18.
His career took a different direction, however, and he returned to Torredembarra, choosing to play beach soccer professionally. “I went from watching [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen to watching Jonathan Torohia of Tahiti. He was my motivation for improving as a beach soccer player.”
Now known for his saves, assists and goals, the smiling Mounoud is enjoying his sport: “I don’t know how many goals I’ve scored – a few. I’ve always been good with my feet but I didn’t do so well in 11-a-side football. You have more responsibilities in beach soccer and I like that.”
The World Cup in Paraguay is just around the corner and the keeper believes the Swiss are among the favourites to win the trophy. Backing up that claim, he said: “We’re in good shape. We played a tournament in Qatar a little while back and the only team that beat us were reigning world champions Brazil, in a very tight game.”
The Swiss have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Paraguay, Japan and USA. During their time in Qatar they had the chance to watch the first two of those sides in the flesh.
“They were playing each other and Angelo sent us to watch the game,” said Mounoud. “I was impressed with the speed of the Japanese and how good Ozu Moreira was. As for Paraguay, they’ve got Pedro Moran, a goalscorer I know well because I played against him in Italy.”
The Switzerland keeper is excited by the prospect of taking on the tournament hosts: “I’m motivated by the idea of playing in a stadium full of opposition fans. The big players have to handle pressure like that to show what they’re capable of.”