Kairat Almaty's UEFA Futsal Cup win last weekend was Kazakhstan's maiden triumph in any European competition – nor was it the only first in Tbilisi.
Georgia had never hosted a UEFA final tournament but Iberia Star Tbilisi's qualification for the last four was followed by their selection to stage the event at the capital city's Palace of Sport. Iberia Star, the only team to enter all 12 editions of the UEFA Futsal Cup, lost their semi-final to MFK Dinamo and finished fourth, yet still made history and attracted impressive crowds for both days – including a third-place-match record attendance for their defeat by FC Barcelona.
"I want to congratulate Kairat, they deserved the title," said Georgian Football Federation (GFF) president Zviad Sichinava, whose organisation's efforts were praised by UEFA President Michel Platini, among those at the semi-finals alongside Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Sichinava added: "[Kairat] had played four semi-finals before. They won it at the fifth attempt and have to be congratulated. This competition was very important for our FA, both as a sports event and as an organisational one. It was a kind of a rehearsal for the UEFA Super Cup that will take place in the city [Tbilisi] in 2015. Our delegations will also work at the two coming Super Cups in Prague and Cardiff to gather experience."
Former Georgian football international Levan Tskitishvili was also impressed and sees big things ahead for futsal in his country. "The tournament was a high standard," the ex-FC Dinamo Tbilisi and SC Freiburg player told UEFA.com. "In both organisational and sporting terms it matched up to expectations.
"And the most important thing, many fans got to know futsal and enjoyed it. I have been a keen futsal devotee since I was a kid. I always combined football with futsal at every opportunity, be it in Georgia or in Germany where I had a chance to play at winter tournaments when I was at Freiburg.
"How do I see the future of futsal in Georgia? I am going to present an initiative to open a futsal school. Let the kids start a close relationship with the ball and have intensity of play. They may need it in football if they decide to take it up later."
Archil Arveladze, a tournament ambassador along with his brother Shota, also expects Georgian futsal to benefit. "As far as I know, the Dinamo Tbilisi president has expressed an interest and wish to create and finance a futsal team," said the erstwhile Georgia striker. "If the heads of other football clubs have the same desire, it will only boost the sport's development in Georgia. The league will become more competitive and that will be a good impetus for young players.
"What surprised me most was Barcelona, I expected them to play well," Arveladze continued. "After their [5-4 semi-final] loss to Kairat, I had a chance to speak with club president Sandro Rosell. He acknowledged that Barça were going through a difficult patch which may have affected the futsal team too. Kairat were the best team and won deservingly. As for Iberia Star, I believe their finals appearance was a big achievement in itself.
"Our country hosted a number of high-ranking visitors during the finals. Not only national association representatives but also the UEFA President. Such interest put us at the centre of international attention. The feedback from the participants and the UEFA committee was very good, apparently. The average match attendance was 6,000. The fans did Mexican waves in the stands – well, we have to catch these waves and use the tail wind for future sailing."
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