Kairat Almaty have lost in the semi-finals of the UEFA Futsal Cup three times since 2006 but as hosts of this season's showpiece, facing Sporting Clube de Portugal on Friday, they have a "70%" chance of victory according to Dinmukhambet Suleimenov. The strongest local player in a Brazilian-dominated team who recently clinched another Kazakhstan championship, the 29-year-old joined after their last finals appearance in 2009 and the scorer of a vital elite round goal against Iberia Star Tblisi spoke to UEFA.com about the honour of hosting the finals and the Brazilian influence at the club.
UEFA.com: What does it mean for Kairat to host the finals?
Dinmukhambet Suleimenov: For me personally it will be the first final tournament. I joined the team two years ago, after Kairat had finished third. To tell the truth, I've always dreamed about winning this trophy. I think it's the main achievement for any player.
UEFA.com: How significant is it for sport in Kazakhstan and the country in general?
Suleimenov: I believe it's really important for Kazakh futsa. There are not many teams in our league; futsal is developing quite slowly here. As a player, I want more strong clubs to compete in the national league. Thousands of spectators will come to the UEFA finals. I hope there will be some who'll want to invest in futsal – sponsors and sport administrators – so there'll be more strong teams next year. It'll be a success for the whole of Kazakhstan. We just organised the Asian Winter Games and want to host Olympic Games in the future. Every big sporting event is a great holiday for the country. Sports are improving all the time in Kazakhstan.
UEFA.com: What is the advantage of playing in front of your home supporters?
Suleimenov: It's a big plus, of course. We played the elite round in Almaty, and it's a totally different feeling. There are never so many spectators at a Kazakh league match. Here we played for the whole country, and we felt huge support. I am sure there'll be even more fans at the final round.
UEFA.com: The coach and eight players in the Kairat squad are from Brazil. What's the working language in the team?
Suleimenov: At training a translator helps us, but during matches we speak Russian, Kazakh and Portuguese. That's quite a mixture. Actually, our Brazilians show great willingness to learn new words. Katata will be able to write articles in Russian soon.
UEFA.com: What do you most enjoy about working and playing with Brazilians?
Suleimenov: I like their attitude towards life. They are so happy with each victory. If we win, they always dance and sing in the dressing room. At first I stayed out of it, but now I always join in.
UEFA.com: You are the only Kazakh player who gets lots of playing time at Kairat. Can you see a day when Kazakh players are on a par with the imports?
Suleimenov: When I've played for other sides, I didn't like the fact that foreigners are the top players at Kazakh clubs. But now I know that it's for a reason. They play better. But I also see that our young players want to be like them. We have many young Kazakh players at Kairat. If they practice hard, they'll make the starting lineup in the coming years.
UEFA.com: How do you rate Kairat's chances of winning the Futsal Cup?
Suleimenov: We are at home, so our chances are high. I would rate them as 70%. We have to make the final, and then we'll do our best to get the trophy.
UEFA.com: What do you think of your semi-final opponents Sporting?
Suleimenov: They beat the Spanish champions [ElPozo Murcia FS] in the elite round, and that says a lot.
UEFA.com: How strong a side are SL Benfica?
Suleimenov: I saw videos of Benfica playing in the elite round. There small moments made the difference, when someone took the initiative on himself.
UEFA.com: ...and ASD Città di Montesilvano C/5?
Suleimenov: I have to say – they really surprised me. I saw their games versus MFK Sinara Ekaterinburg and Araz Naxçivan – they were lucky both times. They scored a very lucky goal against Araz.
UEFA.com: Tell us about Kelson, what makes him special as a player?
Suleimenov: Kelson is our captain. He is a very nice person; it's easy to communicate with him. When he arrived, we all knew he won the UEFA Futsal Cup twice [with Action 21 Charleroi and MFK Dinamo Moskva]. But he doesn't have a slightest 'star sickness', and he doesn't act like a super-player. He is a normal guy, just like everybody else. That's what I like about him.
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