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Last week I was co-commentator on international broadcaster Eurosport for their coverage of the 2013-2014 UEFA Futsal Cup Final Four. The competition took place in Baku, Azerbaijan with FC Barcelona Alusport winning the title. I want to give you an insight into my experience of covering the games for TV and provide a short review of the competition.
In 2012 I provided well-known sports commentator Tim Caple with background information on the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand which he was covering for Eurosport. I did this again for last year’s edition of the UEFA Futsal Cup.
From this I received an email a few weeks ago asking if I would be available to commentate on the upcoming UEFA Futsal Cup Final Four. Though I had never done any commentary before, it sounded an interesting challenge and I agreed to do it.
I felt a lot of responsibility because I knew I could impact the viewers’ enjoyment of futsal. In many of the countries where Eurosport is broadcast, futsal is rarely televised so it was a fantastic opportunity to promote the game. I wanted to try to make futsal as entertaining as possible.Watching sport is always more interesting when you are informed about the participants and what is happening during the game, and the majority of the audience were not going to be familiar with these things. So I decided I would try to make it more interesting by providing some insight through tactical analysis and the history of the teams and players.
I follow futsal around the world so the teams were familiar to me already. I had seen Dynamo and Barcelona a lot throughout the season as the Russian and Spanish leagues are the ones I follow the most. I recently saw Kairat in the Eremenko Cup, a tournament with some great teams and dedicated to the late Russian star, plus they hadn’t changed too much from when they won the cup the year before. Coincidentally, in August I spent three weeks in Baku and that included playing Araz in two friendlies and seeing them train after us so I knew them quite well. With the help of the internet I did some additional research to fill the gaps in my knowledge and ensure I was prepared for the games.
On the day of the semi-finals, I rushed to Eurosport’s London studios after training and was met by Tim Caple, who I would be commentating alongside on the first day (For the games on the second day I was joined by Andy Bodfish and then Wayne Boyce). We had 90 minutes or so before the game to kill so we had a chat about futsal and then looked up the starting line ups. 10 minutes or so before the game we went into the booth from where we would cover the games. It was a small room with just enough space for a couple of screens, a desk and a couple of chairs. One screen showed a live feed and the other was the TV broadcast.
Then it was time to start and go live. I hadn’t had any training in commentating and had received just a couple of pieces of advice from Tim but I was hopeful I would get through it unscathed! At the start of all the games I was a little nervous which probably showed but after a few minutes I was able to relax and just enjoy the games.
It was actually much easier than I thought. As a co-commentator my role was to provide analysis and insight rather than describe everything that was happening. This allowed me to just watch the game and say thoughts as they came in to my head. What did surprise me was how mentally tiring it was. You have to be concentrated the whole time and by the second game of the day it was harder to stay focused.
I can improve a lot at it but I expected that as I had never done it before and I noticed I was better the second day after the experience of the first. In the end, if I improved the viewing experience of futsal for the audience to some extent then I will be happy. Hopefully I achieved that and, overall, I found it a thoroughly and surprisingly enjoyable experience.
All the games were very entertaining; the exception could be the first semi-final between Kairat and Dinamo though, personally, I still enjoyed it. The final was a great advert of thrilling world class futsal from the first minute which surprised me as I thought it would start much more tentative. Over the four games there were plenty of goals scored with an average of six a game.
From a tactical perspective, in the semi-finals I noticed there were very few counter attacks with teams ensuring they never left themselves open by not sending players forward. Even Kairat, who brought their goalkeeper out into their opponents half to join the attack, were defensive by employing it mainly to maintain possession and disrupt the rhythm of the game (this is something I will post about later).
All the teams were afraid to commit too many players forward and be left exposed to a counter attack, the most effective method of attack. I think this was because Kairat and Araz saw themselves as weaker teams and Barca and Dinamo were still uneasy after their unexpected defeats last year. The counter attack is one of the most exciting aspects of futsal so it was disappointing to see this occur with less frequency.
Kairat, who claimed fourth place, had lost the element of surprise with their fly goalkeeper from last year. Teams, who had much more preparation, defended it much better this time round and we saw that it was less effective compared to when they won the title in 2013. In Fumasa they have one of the best pivots in the game and he was always a threat whether receiving the ball centrally, out wide, with his back to goal or facing his opponent.
Araz performed admirably in both games with excellent intensity in defence and the genius of Foglia adding a bit of magic in attack. Their comeback in the game against Barca, where they scored three goals through the use of the fly goalkeeper, was great to watch. To miss out on the final through penalties was harsh but their home fans can be proud of their performance and their 3rd place finish.
Before the final between Dynamo and Barcelona I thought the defenders would be the key. The Russians are very strong in that department with Kobzar, Rakhimov, Nando and Romulo. The latter are not only superb in defence but are dangerous when their team is in possession and they showed that in the tournament. Barcelona, without their best defender Ari through injury, had no specialist defenders except Aicardo but he is not the best marker. He shared the defensive responsibilities with the experienced Torras and Gabriel and all three did a good job.
The final was very even as expected and though Dynamo had slightly better chances, mainly involving Fernandinho, Paco Sedano was there to save Barca when needed. Fernandinho’s absence due to a terrible injury in extra-time swayed the game in Barca’s favour.
In the end the crucial goal came after Tatu hit the post and Barca went down the other end, with a shot from Aicardo being saved into the path of Fernandao who put the ball in. At this level it is those small details that decide the result. After the event we can create a story to say why Barca were the deserved winners but the reality was that it was probably only due to chance that the game fell in their favour.
Dynamo made a desperate attempt to save the game with the fly goalkeeper but Barca defended it well and took advantage of the open goal to add two more goals. The Catalans took their 2nd European title and there will be two Spanish teams in next season’s edition.
Watch Final Highlights Here