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Thailand - September 04, 2018 12:30Abolfazl Khodabandehloo: interview by Doug ReedThe ambition to bring Futsal to the worldAbolfazl Khodabandehloo, An Ambition To Bring Futsal To The World & A Key Figure Behind The World Intercontinental Futsal Cup

by Doug Reed (www.DougReedFutsal.com)

The recent World Intercontinental Futsal Cup in Thailand has been deemed a huge success after the high level of play from the world’s best clubs generated significant interest from fans, television broadcasters and sponsors. Most importantly, it promoted a positive image for a game which is still fighting for its space in the global sporting landscape.

One of the key figures behind its success was Abolfazl Khodabandehloo who was the deputy executive of the event and has big plans for its future. The goal is to grow futsal and make the event the second most important global futsal event behind the FIFA Futsal World Cup, He confidently declared “This tournament is going to grow bigger and bigger….It is going to be one of the major futsal tournaments in the world.”

This comes with some authority as Iranian Khodabandehloo is an executive with extensive experience in the area. He has been organizing events for the AFC for many years as well as being involved in the management of major sports events such as The Olympics and Asian Games.

The World Intercontinental Futsal Cup brings together the top clubs from across the planet to compete for the title of World Champions. It has a history going back to the late 1990s but has not always been given the attention or treatment it deserves as the premium global club competition.

However, that is all set to change with Khodabandehloo and the company he is Vice President of. Futsal and Beach Soccer International organised this year’s edition and have a wealth of sports industry experience among their ranks. The old cliché “location, location, location” is just as applicable to sport events and 2012 World Cup host Thailand, which will host the competition for the following two years, is seen as a key factor in their strategy of fulfilling the championships potential.

“I believe Thailand, on the base of its infrastructure and management are one of the most developed futsal countries in Asia and the world. They have proven that by having hosted lots of big events in the country” commented Khodabandehloo. “For bigger matches, over 12,000 people are attending.”

The interest in the sport is certainly growing in the country both from the government, who supported the event, and the fans who came to the games in their thousands to gain a glimpse of the world’s best futsal players. They weren’t disappointed with legends that have been the stars of their generation such as Falcao and Foglia on show as well as those that will surely achieve the same status in the future such as tournament top goalscorer Leandro Lino and his teammate Marcel.

Looking wider afield, Asia has become a leader in the development of the sport. “Compared to other continents, Asia is moving faster and giving more attention to futsal.” Back in 2015, The AFC was the first confederation to hold an intercontinental futsal championship for women’s national teams which is a bi-annual event. Its example has been followed by Europe’s UEFA who will debut their equivalent in 2019.

Khodabandehloo was keen to stress the importance of developing the women’s game. “Women are half the population. They have a say in every aspect in society, in Asia many women are in top management positions and we should treat everyone the same. Women must be given confidence. Women’s futsal is very, very important not only the men’s game. Futsal is a sport for everybody.”

So what are the keys to building a sports event? “In order to make a tournament successful the futsal participating clubs are very important, but the management of the event is also playing a very big role, the people who work behind the scenes. If they are not professional the tournament can fail even if you have all the top teams.”

And this is what his company Futsal and Beach Soccer International aims to provide. They offer services that cover every aspect of organising futsal events from securing sponsors, securing the participation of the world’s biggest teams and advising on legal matters. They have already organised many qualifying tournaments for futsal and beach soccer for The AFC and FIFA as well as these championships.

Global futsal participation is significant and has been growing but this hasn’t been reflected in the interest in the elite game. Building the World Intercontinental Futsal Cup, as well as mentioning the possibility of another huge futsal event in the near future that he is keeping tight lipped about, is all part of Khodabandehloo aim of introducing the sport he adores to the world.

To finish our interview, considering he was a former professional football player and has been Head Coach and Technical Director of the Thailand Beach Soccer team, I asked why he has such a strong desire to grow futsal. Without any hesitation, he rapidly reels off the reasons behind his love for the game.

“Futsal is totally different from football. Futsal is the base of football. Number one is the speed of the game. Number two is the entertainment value for spectators. Number three is its indoor so you can play in all weather conditions. Number four is the atmosphere the fans create. 6000 in an indoor arena is like 100,000 in an outdoor stadium.” He replies enthusiastically before continuing.

“Number five is the players have to be fitter than in football. You cannot stop in futsal. Number six is the tactics involved. It is a mixture of football, basketball, handball, all team ball sports. For me, in futsal the winner is the team that makes the fewest mistakes. Futsal is like playing chess. For top teams, technique is very important, but tactics are the major factor. In football it is power.” With his experience, knowledge and passion for organising futsal events and the sport itself it would be a brave person who doubts Abolfazl Khodabandehloo will achieve his ambitions.

Abolfazl Khodabandehloo

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