Friday, October 8 2021

Sep 28, 2021

  • 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 held 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 impressions of the tournament so far, upcoming matches and the future of the game.

When one thinks of the Porto team of José Mourinho, winner of 2003 and 2004, winner of the UEFA Cup and the Champions League in the following years, the name of Edgaras Jankauskas may not be the first to 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 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-final 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.”

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Andre of Portugal celebrates with Ricardinho after scoring their team's first goal in the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup quarterfinal match between Spain and Portugal in Vilnius Arena on September 27, 2021 in Vilnius, Lithuania.  (Photo by Alexander Scheuber - FIFA / FIFA via Getty Images)

2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania ™

Highlights of the match: Spain-Portugal

Sep 27, 2021

Jankauskas added that he would support Portugal for the remainder 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 attend the games in person. Quarter-finals are a real treat. The control of the ball, the movement, the tricks – there was a lot to admire and study for football players, 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.

Valdas Ivanauskas

“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 it 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, as 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 for a few 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 has yet to win his first trophy and was a total amateur until 2016, when Ferreira and local businessman Darius Gurskis have joined forces in this ambitious project.

Guilherme Wendt Ferreira

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 event in their adopted city: the semi-final between Brazil and their fierce South American rival, Argentina, a match that transcends futsal and the sport.

KLAIPEDA, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 16: Brazil fans show their support for their team during the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup Group D match between Brazil and Czech Republic at Klaipeda Arena on September 16, 2021 in Klaipeda , Lithuania.  (Photo by Tullio Puglia - FIFA / FIFA via Getty Images)

“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. I 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 develop 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 that more people will also start bringing their children to futsal academies, ”he concluded.

KAUNAS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Argentina fans attend the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup Quarter Final match between RFU and Argentina at Kaunas Arena on September 26, 2021 in Kaunas, Lithuania.  (Photo by Angel Martinez - FIFA / FIFA via Getty Images)


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