The UEFA Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee has hailed the recent 2010 UEFA European Futsal Championship in Hungary as "a step forward" for the sport.
Spain again proved head and shoulders above their rivals as they completed a hat-trick of continental titles by beating Iberian neighbours Portugal 4-2 in Debrecen. The 30 January final was watched by a crowd of 4,845, helping to set an aggregate attendance record of 58,851 for the tournament, and providing a fitting end to a top-class competition.
"It was definitely a step forward in terms of the quality of organisation by the Hungarian Football Federation, and in terms of the participation of fans – which was significant – with respect of course to previous events," said UEFA Futsal and Beach Soccer Committee chairman Giancarlo Abete. "And what was also important was the television audience. It's noticeable that this is growing – UEFA figures show [an overall] growth in comparison to the previous event."
Like women's football, futsal is a major growth sport, which was reflected in the expansion of the championship in Hungary from eight to 12 teams, giving some of the game's less established nations a chance to grab the limelight. While Belgium and Slovenia made their first appearances in the finals for seven years, Belarus and Azerbaijan competed as debutants at this level. The Azerbaijanis surprised everyone by reaching the last four, and Abete believes futsal will continue to make strides outside its traditional strongholds.
The Italian football administrator highlighted the joy and entertainment factor behind futsal's rise, saying: "Futsal is popular because it's an attractive sport in terms of spectacle and the participation of players at these events – which most of the time are played indoors – so it makes it possible to have competitions in indoor facilities which also involve the fans. There are nations which have grown immensely and others which are in a growing process. We can see a significant growth in a lot of countries."
With futsal flourishing, the committee intends to maintain the momentum. In addition to continuing to monitor the sport's progress, it is also encouraging UEFA's 53 member associations to carry on nurturing the game. "There is a strong will to invest in the future and to improve facilities, which is fundamental," said Abete. "And it is also important to introduce development systems which can be accepted by UEFA. It's important that there is a certain kind of consistency in developing systems which can then be applied."
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