Lithuania captain Justinas Zagurskas speaks ahead of the FIFA Futsal World Cup
Zagurskas tells how he came to futsal as well as his expectations for the finals
He explains the advantages and drawbacks of the tournament’s postponement
The FIFA Futsal World Cup™ will kick off in Lithuania on 12 September 2021. The tournament was originally due to be held exactly a year earlier, meaning that anticipation in the host country is now building up to fever pitch. We spoke to Lithuanian futsal captain Justinas Zagurskas about the World Cup in particular and sport in general.
I think that the Lithuanian futsal community is growing and that this won’t stop after the World Cup – it will continue to grow.
On the futsal community in Lithuania…
“Futsal in our country is not professional – it’s more semi-professional. The FIFA Futsal World Cup has given futsal teams and players a boost when it comes to achieving professional status. You can feel it among the teams and players when there are call-ups to the national squad – we all come to work, not to have a break. I think that the Lithuanian futsal community is growing and that this won’t stop after the World Cup – it will continue to grow.”
How has the FIFA Futsal World Cup changed the image of futsal in Lithuania?
“We’ve got more media attention in recent times and more call-ups to the national squad. We’ve had intensive preparations and everyone was looking forward to this World Cup, so it’s a shame that the tournament had to be postponed to the following year due to the current situation. Feelings are still positive however and we’re all motivated and ready to give it everything we’ve got.”
What made you take up futsal?
“When I was younger, I played football but I had a few health problems which prevented me from carrying on, so I swapped to futsal. I’d played futsal from time to time when I was a kid and we even won the championship when I was at school. I was always fascinated by futsal when I was young and started playing at a higher level when I was 16. What I like about futsal is that it’s a fast, dynamic sport with a lot of goals and tactical variations at set pieces. That really fascinated me and once I started, I couldn’t stop.”
What kind of experience have you picked up playing against top European futsal clubs?
“When you play teams like Inter, Barcelona or Tyumen, it’s a unique experience. Top-quality opposition like them will be at the World Cup as well, and that will give us even more experience. It will help us deal with the stress and the excitement when we play against tough opponents. Playing top clubs will help us prepare better for the forthcoming World Cup. We’ve obviously all working hard and the coach has told us not to be afraid ahead of any of the matches, since our opponents are merely human as well. Anything can happen, especially if we’re all focused on giving everything we’ve got. We’ve had good results but there’s still room for improvement. Matches like these have shown us what we still need to improve, both as players and the coaches. The two games that we won in a row were historic. It wasn’t just the results – we showed character and we reaped the rewards of the hard work that we’d done in training. It was definitely a real confidence-booster for all of us. Every player’s now focused and we’ll be well prepared heading into the tournament.”
As far as Lithuania overall is concerned, this World Cup is a significant event – the first of its kind for the country and who knows if we’ll ever have one like this again.
Expectations at the FIFA Futsal World Cup…
“The World Cup is still a long way off and we still have a fair bit of work to do so I’m not prepared to talk about our chances. What I can say is that we’ll go into every match willing to give it our all and try to get a positive result. After that, we’ll just have to see.”
On the postponement of the Futsal World Cup…
“On the one hand it’s a good thing. We’ve got more time to prepare and to iron out our mistakes. On the other hand, it’s sad for the players as we’ve been waiting for this event for so long. Last season, they had to make personal sacrifices to be really well prepared for the World Cup and then everything was postponed, which means that the players now have to make more changes. At the end of the day, though, we’ll give it our all at the World Cup – whether it’s this year or any other year.”
How would you describe your country to someone from abroad?
“I’d recommend that they visit the big cities. Each city has its own architecture with plenty of things to see. I’m also a nature-lover so I’d suggest they visit the various attractions that we have out in the country. For those who are planning to come, our country is full of greenery with hills, fields and parks with great viewing areas that give you a chance to see all the amazing beauty spots. Or you could even hire a hot-air balloon and get a bird’s-eye view what the country has to offer.”
What will the Futsal World Cup bring to Lithuania?
“For the players, it’s a good opportunity to put themselves in the limelight. Some of our guys have already caught the eye of international clubs and are discussing contract terms. As far as Lithuania overall is concerned, this World Cup is a significant event – the first of its kind for the country and who knows if we’ll ever have one like this again. We had a major basketball event in 2011 but that was the European championships. This one is going to be a global tournament – it’s the World Cup. If the situation that we’re in at the moment changes, I hope that a lot of people will come and visit Lithuania during the tournament. In any case, it will increase recognition levels for our nation and ensure that people know the name of our country all around the world.