The third staging of the UEFA Futsal Cup has been the biggest and most high-profile edition yet.
The presence of former Real Madrid CF and Croatia star Robert Jarni in this season's competition has particularly done much to raise the fast-flowing sport's standing. As a footballer, Jarni played 81 times at international level including three appearances at the FIFA World Cup finals, and captained the Croatian team in 2002.
Jarni, 35, has been with Croatia's top Futsal club MNK Split since March 2003 and passed on his years of experience from clubs like Madrid, Juventus FC and HNK Hajduk Split to their 2003/04 UEFA Futsal Cup challenge, helping them to the second qualifying round stage before falling at the last hurdle before the final.
uefa.com: Have you always played Futsal, was it a sport you played as a child?
Robert Jarni: Yes, my first steps [in football] were playing Futsal - we made goals out of two stones, played on concrete and it is great to remember those days. At the beginning I played both handball and football and later athletics too. When I was 15 I decided that football is my favourite sport.
uefa.com: What do you like about the sport?
I enjoy it because it is very fast but also because if you have a good brain you can achieve success. For me, it was very hard decision to stop playing football, but fortunately I have a chance to play with the best Futsal players and I enjoy the game. I enjoy dribbling in small places, and the games are interesting because even if you are two or three goals ahead it is not guaranteed that you'll win.
uefa.com: How does Futsal compare to playing football at the very highest level?
Jarni: It is totally different. [In Futsal] you cannot take a break, you cannot sleep on the field for a moment, and tactics are very important. I had a few problems with the small ball at the beginning, but fortunately I am playing with excellent Futsal players, so it did not take too long to adapt.
uefa.com: Are you able to pass on your experience to your team-mates at MNK Split - do you enjoy helping young players to develop?
Jarni: I am able to give them the benefit of my experience from important and big games, but also they help me with their Futsal experience, and tactics and tricks which are very important in close games.
uefa.com: What can Split achieve in the future?
Jarni: We have been rebuilding the team in a small way, so at the moment we have three or four young players that need some time [to settle in]. Me and my team-mates, international Futsal players like [Nikola] Tomicic, [Alen] Delpont, [Aljosa] Stanicic and [Ivica] Osibov will all help them to make the step from very good players to international level players.
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