Futsal Euro in Slovenia lived up to the hype
Ljubljana, 12 February - The UEFA Futsal Euro in Ljubljana was a complete success as it saw futsal wizard Ricardinho of Portugal live up to the hype by powering Portugal to the tournament title, while hosts Slovenia matched their best result at European championships by making it to the quarter-finals. The organisers are also happy with the attendance.
Portugal were the darlings of the tournament, which ended on Saturday with Ricardinho's crew beating seven-time champions Spain to win their first Futsal Euro title to the delight of many Portuguese fans who showed up in Slovenia.
The Magician, as he is nicknamed, finished the tournament as the most valuable player and the best scorer with seven goals. He received the trophy after being treated for an injury that he suffered only minutes before the end of the finals.
The final day also saw Russia win bronze after finishing as the runners-up at the previous tournament in Serbia in 2016, beating Kazakhstan who failed to defend their third-place from two years ago in what was only their second Futsal Euro.
Kazakhstan was arguably the second most popular team at the tournament, fielding feisty Taynan and technical master Douglas Junior, as well as the offensive-minded goalkeeper Higuita, who scored a goal in the semi-finals.
Also making notable appearances was Brazilian-born Russian player Eder Lima with five goals and the well-balanced Spanish team headlined by the playmaker Miguelin and scorer Pola.
Tournament director Aleks Štolfa has told the STA that Portugal deservedly won the tournament, but it was not easy. "The numbers show that the best team won. The team is something new for futsal and I think that it will give the sport a new dimension".
The Slovenian team also presented themselves to the home fans in a good light, making it to the quarter finals out of a group that also featured Serbia and Italy, and being eliminated by the futsal superpower Russia.
"The goal was certainly achieved or even exceeded, because it had been realistically hard to expect the quarter-finals after the group draw," he said, also noting an unexpectedly high number of spectators in Stožice Arena.
The organisers had been looking to crack the 100,000 spectator milestone in the ten competition days, and the latest official numbers say that the overall attendance was 101,934, which is a few thousand less than in Serbia two years ago.
"The 100,000 spectators was more of a wish. The actual goal was somewhere around 60,000, which was based on the popularity of futsal in Slovenia. Today we can claim that we could have exceeded the number from Belgrade if we had been just a little bit more lucky."
Štolfa believes that ticket prices were right and that the goal was never to "make some huge revenue on attendance". He said that the feedback from UEFA and teams was positive, and he also commended the local authorities as the organising partner.
Asked what about futsal in Slovenia now that the major tournament has ended, he said that "we are returning to the cruel reality", adding that some organisational changes should be made to make the sport an equal member of the "football family", referring to the national football federation.