A year ago FC Barcelona vice-captain Fernandão carried the UEFA Futsal Cup onto the Camp Nou pitch in triumph; now he aims to lead the Catalan side to another triumph in Tbilisi.
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Fernandão may have had to watch FC Barcelona's 2012 UEFA Futsal Cup final victory over MFK Dinamo in Lleida from the bench due to injury – but he was the man that carried the trophy onto the Camp Nou pitch to be saluted by the Blaugrana fans. A year on, as Barcelona limber up for Friday's semi-final in Tbilisi against Kairat Almaty, Fernandão recalls last season's triumph and says the pressure is off this time.
UEFA.com: What does being in these finals mean to Barcelona?
Fernandão: Many years of work, a lot of patience along the way. We've been here for several years, working hard, with people coming and going. Players who worked well and stayed here – it's a long process, so when we reached the finals for the first time, that was the aim. We have to thank the old players who were also part of this project, as well as the ones that are continuing it. We are now back among the final four, so we are following the right path.
UEFA.com: Is there more pressure as holders?
Fernandão: I think it's a calmer situation. The first time, there was more responsibility, we were new. There was pressure then, in the sense that "the real competition has started". We wanted to play well, perform well, but I think the second time will be calmer. We've already experienced it and we've seen difficult moments in games. We've had big chances where we failed, difficult moments in games. I think that must be in our favour now.
UEFA.com: How would you compare this squad with last year's?
Fernandão: We've had a change, with Javi Rodríguez leaving and Aicardo coming in. We've lost a lot yet we've gained other things with Aicardo. I think the philosophy remains the same. We look for the moment. We achieved something difficult, which was to have the squad compact and together. We've already been through difficult moments. The first year we started winning things was very difficult, because winning was always difficult. It made us grow though. And now we are more experienced – I don't mean on a personal level but as a squad.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to lift the trophy?
Fernandão: It's a moment when you look back at all the effort you've put in – the decisions, the doubts – all in five seconds. Not just me but all my team-mates. We will never forget what happened that day. If you wanted to be poetic about it, you could say it was like, before leaving your wife and child for a month, having a five-second window to hug everyone. So you win the trophy, you hug the trophy and you say: "Stay with us." But you have to go. And next season you will try to win it again.
UEFA.com: It could be MFK Dinamo in the final again ...
Fernandão: A great team and a very difficult team. I still haven't played them – because on the day of the final I was out injured – but I know many of their players. They have the same philosophy and they are hard to beat. They have a lot of desire, like us, but I say again: this is the European Cup. I have five seconds to "be with my family" again, having been away for months. In this sense, I'd like to win it again, to have those five seconds, to embrace it again.
UEFA.com: How well do you know Kairat or hosts Iberia Star Tbilisi?
Fernandão: Not well, because they have made some changes. One of the [Kairat] coaches left and they've signed some new players. We don't have a lot of information, or maybe I haven't seen that information yet, but I am calm about things.
UEFA.com: Last year you paraded the trophy at Camp Nou at a Barcelona game – how did that feel?
Fernandão: It was me as vice-captain who received the cup because the actual captain Javi Rodríguez couldn't be there. To tell you the truth, I paraded a trophy from a match where I didn't even touch the ball, so I experienced it a bit differently from all the others, but the emotions I felt when we won it were the same as the players'.
When we entered Camp Nou and lifted the cup for the football fans – and I'm not saying this in disrespect of all the other stadiums in the world – but this was Camp Nou, the fans of Barça. So to walk out with the trophy in my hands felt like another victory. These are moments I will keep with me and always remember, stories I will tell my children and friends.