Everything ready for Futsal Euro in Ljubljana
Ljubljana, 19 January - A round table debate on the upcoming UEFA Futsal Euro in Ljubljana, hosted by the STA on Friday, saw the stakeholders assure the public that everything is ready for what is arguably the biggest football-related event the country has ever hosted.
Radenko Mijatović, the head of the Slovenian Football Association (NZS), said that Slovenia had bid to host the tournament in order to promote futsal and in a way reward the national team, which is in the top 10 in Europe.
He expects a good tournament in Ljubljana as a "great number of excellent players will show up". He also sees the event as an invitation to young people to get acquainted with the sport and perhaps get intrigued by it.
"We have excellent conditions and an excellent arena, and I expect a great number of visitors," Mijatović said.
Stane Kokalj, the secretary of futsal teams at the NZS, added that the tournament was "icing on the cake" for all the players who had been playing the sport since it had been introduced in Slovenia in 1995.
He noted that Slovenia was one of the rare countries with national teams in all age categories, expressing hope that the Futsal Euro would help popularise the sport in the country even further.
Tournament director Aleks Štolfa said everything was ready for the event and invited Slovenians to visit the tournament and support the national team saying "the game looks much better live than on TV".
When it comes to individual matches, he said that the interest was the greatest for Slovenia's matches, while he also singled out the Spain-France and Kazakhstan-Russia matches as interesting fixtures.
Former Slovenian national team member Milenko Ačimović, the official ambassador of the Futsal Euro, said that he had started with futsal and was now also playing it as a retired professional player.
"Unlike when we played, young players can now pick between futsal and football and those who stay in futsal can realise their dream too by playing at major tournaments, such as the Euro or the Champions League," he said.
His favourite player at the tournament is Ricardinho of Portugal, a player "you want to come and see play" who could take the Portuguese team very far.
The Slovenian team said they were ready for the tournament opener with Serbia on 30 January.
"There will be some nervousness on game day, but we all know what awaits us and how we have to play and what to work on. We know the Serbs very well and we will play with full force."
The roster of the Slovenian team features goalkeepers Damir Puškar and Vid Sever, and Rok Mordej, Matej Fideršek, Anže Širok, Dejan Bizjak, Žiga Čeh, Tilen Štendler, Alen Fetić, Igor Osredkar, Denis Totošković, Gašper Vrhovec, Kristjan Čujec and Teo Turk in the field.