Futsal Champions League finals: Armenia star Henrikh Mkhitaryan previews Yerevan showpiece

Eleven-time Armenian player of the year Henrikh Mkhitaryan tells the players to seize the moment at the 2024 Futsal Champions League finals in Yerevan.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan knows all about lifting UEFA trophies. He won the Europa League with Manchester United in 2017, the Europa Conference League with Roma in 2022 and came close again last season after reaching the Champions League final with Inter Milan.

Now Armenia’s all-time record scorer is encouraging the four UEFA Futsal Champions League finalists in Yerevan to make the most of the occasion as he looks forward to seeing Europe’s top sides in action in his hometown.

Below is Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s interview with UEFA’s official website:

How big is futsal in Armenia?

“Futsal runs deep in the hearts of Armenian children. Many of us enjoy playing futsal in our backyards and with our friends, mainly because it’s an easier way to have fun with the ball as you only need one goalkeeper and four players. Futsal is more practical sometimes and the game is so fast paced. That’s why I think it’s especially popular in crowded cities where yards might not be very big or regular in shape.”

How important is it for sport in Armenia to be hosting events like this?

“We are a country that loves sport. We have hosted a number of competition finals in almost every sport, and hosting the Futsal Champions League finals for the first time will be special. I’m convinced that it will be hosted at a high level and that the arena will be full of supporters as it will be a unique opportunity to watch champions and amazing players take to the court.”

Have you played much futsal yourself?

“I played futsal when I was a youngster in Armenia. Due to the harsh weather conditions in winter, it was quite difficult to train on natural turf and so the only solution was to train indoors and play in the halls. I usually spent most of the winter in training and playing indoors with one keeper and four outfield players.”

What do you like most about the sport?

“I feel like there is a lot of synergy between football and futsal, especially at grassroots level. For example, all Brazilian football club academies, including Santos and Flamengo, include futsal in training for kids between the ages of five and 12. This has helped produce talents like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Neymar, Vinícius Júnior and many others. The sport is growing so much worldwide, with well over 100 nations playing futsal now. It has great appeal because it’s dynamic, features end-to-end action, you see a lot of goals and it takes place in a comfortable indoor environment.”

You have enjoyed so much success in your career and played so many big games. What’s the key to preparing for a big final like the Futsal Champions League?

“Every final is special and brings a chance to make history. It doesn’t matter whether it a Champions League or another final. It is an amazing feeling to win a final, and it is an equally bad feeling to lose it, because it will follow you for the rest of your life. Understanding the importance of a final, you just aspire to do your best and win it. Sadly, it is not always possible but that’s how it is.”

You have played in the finals of all three of UEFA’s major club competitions. How does it feel just before you go out on the pitch for the final? What emotions are you feeling? What thoughts go through your mind?

“Before every final you have many thoughts. So many episodes and scenarios of the game run through your head. You start remembering previous finals that you have played. Before some of them, I couldn’t even sleep the night before because of the pressure and the adrenaline pumping in my blood. Playing a final is special and not everyone gets the chance to do it. As the moment of stepping up onto the pitch approaches, the more the pressure builds, but once the game starts you are fully focused on what is happening. The only thing I can say is that you need to enjoy every moment of the final because you never know if it will be the last one in your entire football career.”

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