Christian Karembeu is no stranger to futsal; he has played the sport around the world in recent years in a team of France '98 winners including Zinédine Zidane. However, he has been enjoying his role as spectator this week as a UEFA European Futsal Championship tournament ambassador in Hungary.
The 1998 UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid FC took in the Azerbaijan against Czech Republic game in Budapest on Thursday and then travelled to Debrecen the next day to see Portugal and Belarus play out a thrilling 5-5 draw. In both venues he performed a ceremonial kick-off – in Debrecen passing the ball to the mascot, who promptly scored from the halfway line to huge applause – and took time out to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans.
"I am enjoying the tournament," Karembeu said. "I have to congratulate the organisers because I was very surprised; I enjoyed the games and have seen many impressive things. In particular, the noise of the crowd. I like the atmosphere. When it is indoors, the fans are right on top of the players – it puts pressure on them for sure, but also gives them pleasure."
Karembeu's own career path took him into the outdoor game, but he believes "if I had started very young, I could have been one of the best futsal players". However, the French futsal team has not matched the feats of their football counterparts, losing – though only narrowly– in EURO qualifying to the more established Russia, Slovenia and Montenegro, but Karembeu concluded: "I hope that France can have a great futsal team because we have the facilities."
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