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Yevgeny Ryvkin: Lithuania knows how to host competitions of the highest level

Did you know that the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup will be only the third Futsal World Cup ever played in a European country? The initial World Cup was played in 1989 in the Netherlands and Spain hosted the third edition in 1996.

After more than 15 years later - Futsal World Cup is returning to Europe. The host nation is the Baltic state of Lithuania.

The Lithuanias' no.1 sport is basketball. The Lithuanian basketball team won three European gold medals, three silver ones, and one bronze medal. They also have three bronze Olympic medals and one World Championship bronze medal.

Unlike basketball, the sport in which Lithuania played their first match in 1925, futsal is a relatively new sport in this Baltic country. Their first international match was played in 1999 when they played against Hungary in Tiszaujvaros. 

Lithuania (ranked 82nd in the Futsal World Ranking) failed to qualify for any major competitions, therefore the upcoming Futsal World Cup will be their debut on the big stage.

We took the opportunity and talked with Lithuania's national team head coach Yevgeny Ryvkin...

Dear Mr. Ryvkin, what are your expectations of the upcoming Futsal World Cup?

Taking into account the pandemic, it will be the first futsal world tournament in the last five years. The strongest teams, players, and coaches will gather in this tournament. I think we will see what trends in futsal development will dominate soon.”

As the host of the tournament, Lithuania was placed in the first drawing pot and they will play in Group A against Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. 

“The group is challenging. The team of Kazakhstan is the clear favorite of this group, and here I think no additional comments are needed. Teams of Venezuela and Costa Rica are very fast and technical teams, well prepared tactically.”


Do you see a chance for your team to push through and advance to the next stage?

“Only the matches themselves will show how the events will unfold in our group and who will pass to the next stage. Probably, this is what futsal is interesting for because the results of the matches can bring surprises. It remains only to wait for the start of the tournament.”

How are you proceeding with the team preparations for the World Cup? When will the 'camp' start?

“It is very difficult for us to collect players for a long period, given that our team is made of non-professional players. Therefore, our training is divided into several short preparatory camps.”, said Ryvkin and continued:

"We are struggling to find sparring partners for friendly games, considering our low ratings. Therefore I cannot say much about specific plans. I can only say that the preparation is going normal, the players want to adequately represent Lithuania at the home World Cup”

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Will everyone be healthy for the big games? We're hoping that there are no injuries on your roster?

“This is futsal, and it is a hard men's game on the court. Therefore, there are and will be injuries. I hope that our doctors will do their best to ensure that the players come to the World Cup games healthy.”

Modern futsal is often played with emphasis on defense first. Can we expect the same from your team, or do you have a few hidden attacking solutions up your sleeve?

“I think modern futsal is very diverse. Much depends on the performance skills of the players of the opposing teams. This is an important aspect for choosing tactics and strategy for the game.”

“In training, we try to work on various options for defensive and offensive tactical decisions. We understand how difficult it will be for us in the upcoming games, but if we want to develop, we must overcome these difficulties.”

How important is this organization of the World Cup in Lithuania for the sport of futsal in the country?

“Holding competitions of this level is a big challenge for any country. The entire futsal world will turn its sights on Lithuania during this period. This is a great event for the sports life of Lithuania. I think that the organization of the World Cup will be at the highest level. Lithuania knows how to host competitions of the highest level. The organization of the World Cup in Lithuania is very important for the further development of futsal in Lithuania.”

“For a long time, it has been an auxiliary sport for football in this country. Now everything is changing and futsal is being paid attention to as a separate species in the big football family. I hope that after the World Cup this trend will continue and futsal in Lithuania will reach a new stage of development.”

What are the positive things you hope that futsal stakeholders will take from this World Cup to improve the overall futsal development in Lithuania?

“I hope that many young players will see futsal as a possible continuation of their future careers. After all, not all football school graduates can become professional footballers. Perhaps these talented guys will join the Lithuanian futsal clubs. I hope that the Lithuanian audience will rightfully appreciate the beauty and attractiveness of this dynamic game. All this will help with the popularization of futsal.”

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What can you tell us about the current situation of futsal development in Lithuania? How strong are the league and the teams that participate in it? Did the league get better in the few last years?

“Unfortunately, futsal in Lithuania has an amateur status. Clubs are not professional. The players have their main job, and after work, they go to training and games. This is very difficult. Futsal season does not last long, no more than 5 months. After that, many players move to the clubs of the first league of ‘big’ football. Although it should be noted that over the past few years, there have been major changes in futsal in Lithuania.”

“Lithuanian «A" League has a stable number of clubs. A full-fledged Lithuanian Championship is held in two rounds and it has a playoff system in place and the Lithuanian Cup is taking place. The leader among the clubs is Kaunas “Zalgiris”, but now the club “Vikings” from Jonava, a good team in the city of Gargzdai, which also competes for the Championship awards, is a worthy competitor to it.”

“But for normal development, these clubs must become professional, that is, they must fully focus on futsal and conduct year-round futsal training. Then other clubs will strive for them. And only in this way can there be general development. Nobody has canceled the rule - strong clubs are a strong National team. Today only «Zalgiris» players and some «Vikings» players play only futsal. The rest of the players combine football and futsal. This is a big problem.”

The most successful futsal club in the country, Vytis, became part of the Žalgiris sporting society earlier this year. Do you believe that this will be beneficial for the futsal development in Lithuania or that the gap between Žalgiris and the rest of the clubs will widen?

“In my opinion, this is a great event for futsal. Sports club "Zalgiris" is a world-famous brand. Of course, everyone knows the famous basketball team "Zalgiris", besides that, the club also has a football team. “And the fact that futsal got into this sports family with big sports ambitions is very good. I think this should only motivate the leaders of other clubs. I hope that the competition between the teams in the Championship will continue and grow. This is very important for the overall development of futsal in Lithuania.”

FusalFeed wishes Lithuania good luck in the upcoming tournament to worthily represent their country at the Futsal World Cup.