UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 kicks off in Antwerp on Tuesday and an interested observer will be former Belgian football international Marc Degryse.
A veteran of two FIFA World Cups, Degryse ended his playing career with KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen and returned to the city last year to make the finals draw, matching Belgium with Romania – whom they face first at the Lotto Arena – and Ukraine in Group A. Degryse spoke to UEFA.com about his own futsal-playing days and his hopes for the tournament.
UEFA.com: Have you played futsal?
Marc Degryse: I played when I was younger, when I was really young, before [becoming] a professional footballer. Once you are going to play professional football the clubs don't like it too much, because they are afraid of injuries and things like that, but if you are a youngster, a young kid, I think it's a good sport to start. You learn your technique, you learn your speed, you have to think quick and the space is very small, so if you later play on a big pitch with all those qualities, it helps you become a good player.
UEFA.com: Are you looking forward to the championship?
Degryse: Yes, it is something special. We are organising it here in Belgium, and we are looking forward to [seeing] good teams like Spain, who are known as a very good team. I think the fans will be happy to see a big tournament here in Belgium.
UEFA.com: As well as being a great sport in its own right, is futsal important in developing footballers?
Degryse: I'm sure, yes. You need technique, and in the last 20 years football has become so much more technical than before. Of course you need physical qualities, but in futsal you definitely need speed and technique, and it is nice to watch players who have those qualities. So to develop that in your youth is good for youngsters.
UEFA.com: How popular is futsal in Belgium?
Degryse: It's well known because it is on television – I see it on Eurosport. And I think it is spectacular, it is like basketball or volleyball, and those sports are quite well known in Belgium. But I think we have some steps to take before futsal in Belgium is as popular as basketball or volleyball. So maybe with the Red Devils, the big guys, doing well, that might help the interest in futsal.
UEFA.com: You played for a club in Antwerp – how will the city enjoy the tournament?
Degryse: I think Antwerp needs big tournaments. People here only come to watch the big games. And I think a European Championship is a big tournament so they will be very interested.
UEFA.com: What about Antwerp itself?
Degryse: It's a big city. People from Antwerp think it is the most interesting city in the world, even bigger than New York! But unluckily, they don't have a first division team in football. But, for the rest, it is an interesting city where you can live 24 hours, like New York.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.