Kaunas set to host 2021 Lithuania semi-finals and final
Former Champions League winner, ex-Bundesliga striker among local fans
The city’s futsal community, including a Brazilian, eager for an outcome
Although millions of fans around the world watched the exciting 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup ™ knockout matches on television, the first major FIFA tournament in Lithuania was also a hit with the local football and futsal community.
Among those who greatly appreciate the show is a former UEFA Champions League winner, a former German Bundesliga striker and a Brazilian who has lived in the Baltic country for years and has been trying to develop futsal there. FIFA.com spoke to them about their thoughts on the tournament so far, upcoming matches and the future of the game.
When you think of the Porto side of José Mourinho, 2003 and 2004 winners, UEFA Cup and Champions League winners several years in a row, Edgaras Jankauskas’s name might not be the first that comes to mind. That’s not to say, however, that the forward hasn’t made his mark around this time. It was he, for example, who won the free kick at Manchester United that led to Costinha’s dying equalizer and Mourinho’s famous touchdown run as Porto advanced to the quarter-finals.
Now retired, Jankauskas has had time to watch Portugal play. He was in his hometown of Vilnius on Monday to see the Selecção das Quinas make a brilliant comeback against Spain to reach the semi-finals. The game left a very good impression on the Lithuanian, who also counts Real Sociedad and Benfica among his former sides.
“We had the chance to see the crème de la crème of futsal, the best players in the world. Although this is only a quarter-final, it could easily have been the semi or the final. Unfortunately one of the teams had to lose, ”said Jankauskas, who took part in the official tournament draw ceremony. “I think Portugal have a good chance of going all the way now, with their less complicated side of the draw.”
Jankauskas added that he would support Portugal for the rest of the tournament, where he was very interested in the game itself: “It’s a very dynamic game, and those of us who were able to watch the quarterfinals. final in person received a real treat. The control of the ball, the movements, the tricks – there was a lot for football players to admire and study, and things to emulate for children too.
The last four matches of the World Cup will take place in Kaunas, home of another former Lithuanian striker Valdas Ivanauskas, who made a stint in the 1990s in Hamburg where he remains a cult figure for some. Now coach of the Lithuanian national football team, he has also found time to enjoy futsal, a new experience for him.
“I couldn’t have been more impressed, especially with the RFU – Argentina quarter-final in which I participated. It was truly exceptional. The quality, technical level and speed of the game really surprised me in a good way, ”said Ivanauskas, who also saw the game not only as a spectator, but also from a coach’s point of view. “I think futsal could also be useful for young players, as a way to develop their skills from an early age. I played a slightly different version of indoor football as a player and that also helped me hone my skills.
Ivanauskas said he was proud to have a FIFA final tournament in his hometown for the first time. “We have one of the best indoor arenas in Europe and the organization of the tournament has been really excellent. In addition, we have a unique opportunity to watch the best players. Even though the pandemic has made it difficult for more fans to come, I hope those who can attend make the most of the last few opportunities, because we need to enjoy every moment of this great show. We are proud that such an event is taking place here.
The Futsal World Cup has not only attracted football stars, but has also made the past few weeks particularly enjoyable for the local futsal community.
Brazilian Guilherme Wendt Ferreira has lived in Kaunas for a decade and has been involved in recent years with futsal team Zalgiris Kaunas (formerly Vytis), the five-time Lithuanian champion and the ninth club of recent UEFA Futsal Champions. League draw. The club’s current standings are all the more remarkable when you consider that he still has to win his first trophy and was a total amateur until 2016, when Ferreira and local businessman Darius Gurskis got together. are partners in this ambitious project.
So what’s it like to have the Futsal World Cup on your doorstep? “To me it’s like Disneyland for the kids and something I’ll never forget. For a month and especially now for a few days, Kaunas feels like the futsal capital of the world. And this is my city now, ”beamed Ferreira.
His fellow Brazilian players and coaches from Zalgiris can now look forward to a wonderful opportunity in their adopted hometown: the semi-final between Brazil and their fierce South American rival Argentina – a match that transcends futsal and football. sport.
“Brazilians don’t like losing to Argentina, even in a game of rock, paper, scissors,” Ferreira said with a laugh. “For some, the game may be even more important than winning the World Cup itself! The rivalry is huge in all sports, but since Argentina became a force in futsal, they have also become very competitive in this discipline.
Rivalries aside, he hopes the World Cup will elevate the game of futsal in the country even further, which he has already noticed. “People I talk to who had never heard of futsal before now know it. Hope the rest of the futsal world got to see the high quality arenas that exist here. The World Cup has placed the country on the world futsal map, ”said the Brazilian, adding that the tournament could boost the development of the game in Lithuania, where futsal-focused academies have started to flourish in recent years.
“Children can watch the games and see the best futsal stars up close. They can also see that some of football’s biggest stars have started in futsal as well. For me it’s fantastic. I hope more people will also start bringing their children to futsal academies, ”he concluded.