Jesús Candelas, who twice coached Interviú Madrid to UEFA Futsal Cup glory and reached two more finals, looks ahead to this year's finals with the draw due on Wednesday in Almaty.
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No coach has had more success in the UEFA Futsal Cup than Jesús Candelas, who led Interviú Madrid to glory in 2004 and 2006 as well as to the final in 2007 and again last season, when they lost to hosts SL Benfica.
He ended his second spell with the much-decorated Spanish side last summer, but will still be watching closely when the 2011 finals draw is made on Wednesday in Almaty – the city in Kazakhstan that will stage the tournament from 29 April between hosts Kairat Almaty, Benfica, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Italy's ASD Città di Montesilvano C/5. Candelas gave UEFA.com his thoughts on the contenders and his memories of the competition, celebrating its tenth season.
UEFA.com: What do you think of the four contenders?
Jesús Candelas: Well, there's no doubt that Benfica have the experience of having been crowned champions after competing for many years. That's important. Let's say that their 'travelling companion' is their experience. Also, the presence of Sporting, who have obviously dominated their domestic league together with Benfica for the last five years, means Benfica know their rivals can win the title. In this competition, it's not about your own role as a favourite, but the role you are given by other teams. This is another important factor.
As for Italian teams, they have been perennial contenders, and it's not easy to cross that barrier and become champions. It's very difficult, because in the course of the competition they always find themselves in situations they cannot manage. At the end of the day, that's more important than the brain, which deals with logical thinking.
Finally, there's the hosts, who have been progressing slowly for many years, investing ... also, they are right on the amazing Silk Road, a region where other strong teams have also appeared. I think they have a unique opportunity. I don't know if they can manage the same atmosphere I saw last year in Lisbon. That really was like an extra player. Some people say this is not real, but I never saw them falter. Even the eagle was screaming.
UEFA.com: Almaty is a new venue for a European finals ...
Candelas: I think it's important for everybody – the fact it's held in a country that is not part of the European Union. Because in the end it's all about media and communications and the news that it generates, and the capacity to show pictures, share news and show this sport to the whole world. So today, it's not only the sport itself, but everything that comes with it.
And for a country [like Kazakhstan], that has tried for five years or longer, to host these finals, this now allows other emerging countries to do the same thing. I say this because in football or other sports which are more rooted it's much more difficult to progress in that manner, the planning period is much longer – in our sport those periods are much shorter. And that is why, when you were asking me if it's normal there aren't any Russian nor Spanish teams in the finals, I think this is good for our sport, although of course I'm annoyed that there are none of our teams.
UEFA.com: What does this competition mean to you?
Candelas: What I value most is the journey I took, where I met some very good people, great friends that make you a better person – and also sometimes you need an enemy, because to have critics makes you see what you need to improve. The journey is what I remember the most.