Azerbaijan's first UEFA final tournament begins in Baku this Thursday in the sport of futsal – and national football coach Berti Vogts will have a close interest.
Vogts made the draw for the semi-finals at Baku's Sarhadchi Olympic Sport Complex, in which hosts Araz Naxçivan face FC Barcelona after holders Kairat Almaty take on FC Dynamo. The coach himself admits futsal was only something he really discovered when moving to Azerbaijan six years ago, not least as his team are yet to reach a major final tournament while the small-sided squad have made the last three UEFA Futsal EUROs.
"As footballers we also played futsal occasionally, but this sport is not that popular in Germany," the 67-year-old told UEFA.com. "But after I took command of the Azerbaijan football team I obviously took interest in the results of the national futsal team and local futsal clubs. I can say that futsal in Azerbaijan is a long way ahead of local football."
Of his own experience, the FIFA World Cup winner as a player and EURO '96 victor as a coach added: "I played indoors myself, but I have never seen futsal matches live from the stands. I find it quite wrong to compare it to football. There are different philosophies, different balls, another approach and even the goal is another size."
Big crowds are expected in Baku on Thursday and Saturday, and Vogts concluded: "I know that local fans are good at creating a truly festive atmosphere at sport events. This final tournament will for sure be remembered not only as an interesting tournament, but also because of the Azerbaijani supporters. They know how to inspire their teams."
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