"It is good to play in this beautiful place," said Baku United FC coach Chema Jiménez after the English season ended with a spectacular at London's Copper Box, one of the venues for the 2012 Olympics.
The FA Futsal Cup was revived this season after a three-year absence with a women's competition also run for the first time. Around 500 sides began in the regional qualifiers for the right to compete in the finals for 12 men's clubs and eight women's teams at the Copper Box, but the eventual male decider was the same as for that in the league championship at St George's Park two weeks earlier – Baku against Manchester Futsal Club.
London-based Baku won the league decider 5-1 to ensure a return to the UEFA Futsal Cup where they were the first English side to reach the main round last season, only just missing going even further. But Manchester had won the most recent FA Futsal Cup in 2011 and ran a fully-professional Baku outfit containing the likes of Spanish FIFA Futsal World Cup winner Marcelo close, eventually succumbing 2-0. Former Torrejón FS and Segovia FS pivot José Carlos top-scored for Baku in the tournament.
Ex-Interviú Madrid coach Jiménez, who could face his former club if Baku progress a stage further in Europe next term, told UEFA.com: "Congratulations to Manchester as they played well too. This tournament is difficult as there are many matches [in a short space of time], but I am happy as Manchester are a very good team. I congratulate my players – this season we have worked for 11 months since we started pre-season on 15 July, we won the league and the FA Cup so this has been a good season for us."
The only full-time futsal team in England, Baku have recently also used the Copper Box – which hosted handball and modern pentathlon during the Olympics – for training. "The Copper Box is very important, futsal in England is growing and improving and it is good to play in this beautiful place," Jiménez said. "We have trained here, for us maybe our future is to stay here."
Baku do not have long until they learn their first European opponents on 3 July but first Jiménez, whose squad features England trio James Dalton, Doug Reed and Agon Rexha alongside the experienced Spanish professionals, wants his squad to recuperate. "Now the most important thing is rest. We need to rest as we have trained every day and we now need to forget about futsal. Then we will prepare for the UEFA Futsal Cup, which is very important for my club president."
In the women's competition, the University of Gloucestershire won the final 3-1 against Norton and Stockton Ancients FC, who made the decider thanks to an epic penalty shoot-out defeat of Hartpury Futsal Club despite having only six available players in London. Gloucestershire's Georgia Lane put her side three up in the final and was top scorer.
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