Much of the rise of Azerbaijani futsal, their national side and their champion club Araz Naxçivan has been influenced by Brazil – but at the heart of both teams is a man very much from Baku.
Vitaliy Borisov was born in Azerbaijan's capital in 1982 and has spent most of the last decade with Araz. Part of the side that won UEFA Futsal Cup bronze in Lisbon in 2010, Borisov is back again four years later thanks to a superb 6-3 away defeat of Sporting Clube de Portugal in their elite round decider. This time Araz stage the finals in Baku, facing FC Barcelona in Thursday's semis, and Borisov talked about the occasion to UEFA.com.
UEFA.com: What does it mean to you to play in these finals?
Vitaliy Borisov: It is a great sporting occasion. Araz will play there for the second time and we feel extra excitement because the finals are in Baku.
UEFA.com: How special is it for Baku to host this tournament?
Borisov: It was great news for all of us. We are delighted. Baku is happy to host each and every sporting event. I am sure everything will be done just great by the local organisers. You will see.
UEFA.com: How will home advantage help your side?
Borisov: It's the same for everyone. All four teams are very experienced, with a great history. These teams are ready to show their best in any city. Of course, we are happy we will get special support, but I don't think our opponents will feel any more pressure.
UEFA.com: You beat Sporting in Lisbon in the elite round to qualify for this tournament, with you scoring a goal. Describe that match ...
Borisov: Everything worked out fine, we were ahead throughout. It was good, because even a draw wasn't enough for us. We loved the atmosphere there in Lisbon – how they support their team with all their songs ... it's fantastic. The win was clinched once the scoreline went to 5-3. Just a bit of time was left and Sporting didn't play well with a flying goalkeeper.
UEFA.com: How much confidence does a victory like that give your side coming into this tournament?
Borisov: Every win is important. We played against three strong clubs in the elite round and played well. It gives us extra energy and confidence in preparation for the finals.
UEFA.com: How have Araz developed since playing in the 2010 finals in Lisbon?
Borisov: We are more experienced. Also, we are now stronger in terms of our squad thanks to the newcomers. They are good players who have adapted well in our team. We are able to put on better performances now, but we will see if we are ready to get better results.
UEFA.com: How much of an ambition was it for you to get back to the finals?
Borisov: It is one of our main goals. We should try to get to the finals as many times as possible. The board expect us to win the trophy in the near future. We will try to do this now.
UEFA.com: What would it mean to lift the trophy?
Borisov: It would be just phenomenal and a brilliant occasion for Araz and Azerbaijani futsal. Our nation wishes us only success.
UEFA.com: You have a mix of Brazilians and Azerbaijanis in your squad. How does that blend work to form a successful side?
Borisov: These days there are Brazilians in most clubs. We give a warm welcome to all our team-mates and don't differentiate between foreign and local players. We work together, we have fun together, we laugh together. Azerbaijanis are very friendly and Brazilians don't come across any problems here. They like our climate too.
UEFA.com: What do the Azerbaijanis learn from the Brazilians and vice versa?
Borisov: It's more about younger players who should learn from them, but we also do this. They have phenomenal technical skills, they are just born with a ball. All players are different. Some are better tactically, some are faster ... Everybody should learn from each other. There is no player who knows everything and can do everything.
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