The first UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO finals take place in Portugal over the coming days - another great leap forward for futsal and, in particular, its female players.
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It’s amazing, it’s a dream come true,” says Portugal’s captain, Ana Azevedo, as she looks ahead to the first UEFA Women’s Futsal EURO, which takes place at the Pavilhão Multiusos de Gondomar in Porto between 15 and 17 February.
Portugal have qualified alongside Spain, Russia and Ukraine for this first final tournament and she is still pinching herself as the sport prepares to take this great leap forward. “Maybe we don’t have the notion yet of what this means to us,” she says. “We’re going to play in the inaugural Women’s Futsal EURO. That is very special for the players that are going to be there in February. It’s a matter of credibility and recognition for women’s futsal.”
It was something of a step into the unknown when UEFA’s Executive Committee voted in April 2017 to create this new competition. Only seven national associations had senior women’s national teams and 30 nations had no registered women’s futsal players at all. Fast forward 22 months and the transformation has been extraordinary. Twenty-three teams took part in qualifying and the high standard of play is already vindicating the decision to create UEFA’s first women’s futsal competition.
UEFA was surprised to see how many associations started to organise talent detection programmes without delay and brought together a mix of good football and futsal players to make decent teams for the qualifiers.
This new competition is riding the crest of a futsal wave. At the national level, the men’s Futsal EURO has been expanded to 16 teams for the next tournament in 2022, and a new men’s Under-19 competition has also been launched. The rebranding of the UEFA Futsal Champions League for 2018/19 shows the strength of the game at club level.
For Azevedo and her side, there is also the added motivation of matching the feats of Portugal’s men’s team, which lifted the UEFA Futsal EURO trophy for the first time in February. Winning on home soil would make for a unique futsal double.
This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 182