Ahead of San Marino's competitive debut, Stefano Bevitori, the man tasked with developing futsal in UEFA's smallest member nation, reflects on the years of preparation.
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San Marino only played their first international matches last month – losing twice to Montenegro – in preparation for their competitive debut in UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 qualifying next week, but their arrival in the game has been long in the making. Stefano Bevitori, the San Marino Football Federation (FSGC) head of futsal, tells UEFA.com about the years of ground work ahead of the trip to Finland to take on Cyprus, the host team and Albania in preliminary round Group E from 20 January.
UEFA.com: Where does futsal stand today in San Marino?
Stefano Bevitori: We started playing futsal five years ago. Currently, we have 13 teams playing in the league. Honestly, the signs we are receiving so far indicate that we are not too badly positioned, even though we play futsal in a rather unusual way, outdoors and on artificial turf. However, the national team was created around two years ago. Training takes place indoors on a proper futsal surface. We have played six or seven friendly matches against Italian Serie A and Serie B teams.
We do not expect to be highly competitive yet, but we are working hard with a weekly training session. In addition, this summer we organised a two-week training camp. We hope to be ready to make a good debut in the competition, and we hope that we might achieve some good results.
UEFA.com: Do you have players involved in the Italian futsal league?
Bevitori: We have three players who participate in Serie C, and one in Serie B. In the past, a Sammarinese team played in the Italian league, earning promotion to Serie B before stopping. We have solid structures and quite big numbers with around 300 players taking part in our league. We also have experienced technicians who gained a lot of experience in the Italian league at various levels. We are confident that we have done the best we could to create a solid movement.
UEFA.com: Is it realistic that one day the San Marino futsal national team might move ahead of the football national team?
Bevitori: This is my highest aspiration. When the FA president, Mr Crescentini, gave me the task of creating futsal in our country some six years back, he told me to try earning the first ever victory for a Sammarinese national team. And this is a clear objective we have.
UEFA.com: What chance do you give your team in this preliminary group?
Bevitori: We are clear outsiders, but I see a small chance for us to obtain some good results in this group.
UEFA.com: How will you prepare for the mini-tournament?
Bevitori: We have already planned the domestic league accordingly. The league stopped at the end of November to allow the national team to focus entirely on preparation for the tournament over five to six weeks. Everything is focused on our participation for this mini-tournament.