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Thursday, 19 March 2009 12:01

Portugal ignores Cyprus based players - Helio Pinto

Ex-Benfica man admits Seleccao frustrations

Helio PintoAPOEL winger Helio Pinto has lamented the way players in Cyprus are ignored by the Portuguese international selectors, and hopes to one day represent his country at full senior level.

The former Benfica winger, 25, who has been in Cyprus since 2005 and with APOEL since 2006, scored the third goal as his team, currently five points clear at the top of the domestic league, booked their place in the semi-finals of the Cypriot Cup on Wednesday evening with a 3-0 win over Ermis Aradippou.

”I am forgotten by the people responsible at the Portuguese Football Federation,” he told Maisfutebol. “I have had a great season. My team is clear at the top of the championship; I had good games in the Uefa Cup and even scored a great goal in Gelsenkirchen (in October) against Schalke 04.

“I’m not speaking about the international A squad. But they just had a period of training with thirty players, for the B team, and neither did I take part in that. We are easily forgettable in Cyprus. I don’t understand because nobody comes here to watch our games and look at our condition and quality.

“The people in Portugal have a distorted image of the football in Cyprus. I can guarantee that the three best teams here (APOEL, Omonia and Anorthosis) would compete for the first three places in the Portuguese league. They are very strong squads. So I don’t see the prejudice of football in this country.”

Having come through the academy at Benfica and experiencing a brief spell in Spain’s La Liga with Sevilla, it would appear that Pinto will have to return to a higher level of football if his international ambitions are to be realised.

“I was an under-19 European champion wearing the Portugal shirt and I dream to wear it again. Will I have to move club? Perhaps. I am very happy here - the club fulfils me in every way - but sometimes I think I will have to leave. I have had some offers from Portugal, but all with very low financial terms.”

By Sean Gillen.

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