- FIFA Forward Programme aiding futsal in Lithuania ahead of FIFA Futsal World Cup
- Women’s and U-19 national teams created
- Training possible despite COVID-19 restrictions
The FIFA Forward Programme is supporting the Lithuania national team as the country prepares to host the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021™, and is also helping to develop the sport across the nation. To that end, a sum of $299,947 USD was made available to the Lithuanian Football Association. The FIFA Forward Programme provides comprehensive and individually tailored football development support to FIFA member associations and the six confederations.
On 12 September 2021, the Futsal World Cup will kick off in Lithuania, marking the first FIFA event to be held in the country. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place in September 2020, but had to be postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country’s appetite for futsal has grown enormously ever since it was announced that Lithuania would host the World Cup. This has led, among other things, to the welcome development of both a women’s and an U-19 national team being established.
“Hosting the FIFA Futsal World Cup is a big challenge, both for the LOC and the Lithuania national futsal team,” said Edgaras Stankevicius, general secretary of the LFF. “Futsal is still a semi-professional sport in Lithuania and, as such, it still has a long road ahead. The FIFA Forward Programme has helped the national team to develop considerably within a year.”
COVID-19 restrictions making conditions harder
The necessary and important COVID-19 restrictions have obviously had a huge impact on the national team’s Futsal World Cup preparations, as well as on the training plans of the women’s and U-19 sides. By guaranteeing ‘player bubbles’, it was possible to ensure that the teams could continue to train.
“Another very important aspect is that we’ve set up a training centre for the futsal national team, so that the coach is able to organise short training camps to maintain rhythm and communicate closely with the players,” said Stankevicius of the FIFA Forward Programme’s positive impact. “Thanks to the programme we were able to form a women’s national team and a men’s U-19 side. Obviously the pandemic has been a huge challenge for all of these teams, but they’ve managed to overcome it and continue training.”
As the restrictions mean it is not possible to play friendly matches, the fixtures in the qualifying round for UEFA Futsal EURO 2022 in the Netherlands against Montenegro in November 2020 took on even greater significance. Lithuania may have lost both games in the play-offs, succumbing to a 3-0 defeat in Montenegro and losing 2-1 at home, but Stankevicius was satisfied nevertheless in light of the important lessons his team learned.
“The futsal national team reached the play-off round of the UEFA European Championship and gained valuable experience by playing against top-quality teams,” he said.
We also recently had the chance to speak to the captain of the Lithuania national team, Justinas Zagurskas, in a video interview. The 25-year-old defender talks about his expectations for the Futsal World Cup and how the one-year postponement of the tournament has both good and bad sides, while he also gives insights about the sport of futsal in Lithuania.