Friday 17 September 2021, 13:00

Taynan: Knowing my son can say his dad played in a World Cup makes me so emotional

  • Taynan has dazzled for Kazakhstan at this FIFA Futsal World Cup

  • Discussing his three-year-old son made him really emotional

  • He hails Higuita, Douglas and Ferrao and backs Kazakhstan to win Lithuania 2021

“A friend asked me to play in a friendly tournament in Dubai in 2017,” began Leo Higuita to “There was this older guy on my team. “The game started… Wow. He was phenomenal. He was bald. I guessed he was around 33, 34. I thought, ‘What a shame I didn’t see him ten years ago'. “After the game we were chatting about this and that and I asked him how old he was. ‘I’m 24’. Boom. My eyes lit up. I grabbed my phone and called Kairat. I said, ‘You simply have to sign this guy.’” Anyway, that’s enough from the goalkeeper-turned-scout-turned-storyteller. It’s time to hear from the man who, in a few short years, has transfigured himself from being a little-known, semi-pro journeyman to one of the finest players in his position on the planet and a star of Sporting’s recent UEFA Futsal Champions League.

Taynan of Kazakhstan celebrates Can you believe all this has happened to you in such a short space of time? Taynan: I keep wondering when I’ll wake up. It's hard to believe. I’m living a dream. The World Cup… man, it’s unbelievable. The organisation, everything here is exceptional. I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve been getting. It’s impossible to respond to them. I feel fulfilled, but I want to keep going further and further in this competition. What is Kazakhstan’s target at this tournament? We’re aware of our limitations, but we’re very confident. We’ve come on so much since I arrived I Kazakhstan. Our target is to finish in the top four. We’re very confident that we can do that. We know how difficult it will be, we’re taking it step by step, but we want to reach the semi-finals and then see what we can do from there. The favourites are always the same… Brazil, Spain, Iran, Russia, Portugal. We’re not at the front of the queue, but we’re battling to be a surprise package like Argentina were in 2016.

A brace in the first game. A delightful goal and an assist in the second. You must be very pleased with your own performances at this FIFA Futsal World Cup™? I’m really happy but I’m still not at my best. I caught COVID just before the tournament, had to spend 15 days in quarantine without being able to train. It really took it out of me. It’s been really difficult but, bit by bit, I’m getting there. Your son Kaynan is three. Has he been watching daddy on TV? (cries) Sorry, I can’t help it (cries some more). I get so emotional thinking about it. He always watches my games, celebrates my goals. Whenever I’m on the court, it’s for him, for my family. Obviously for Kazakhstan too, because they have made me feel so at home, they’re great people and they deserve it. But I’m always thinking about Kaynan. For him to be able to say, when he’s old enough to understand, that his dad played in a World Cup (cries)… I don’t have the words for how proud, how emotional this makes me.

What do you think of Higuita? Higuita’s a phenomenon. Like he jokes, he’s a legend! (laughs) But he is genuinely a legend for us, an idol for everybody. He wasn’t the Best Goalkeeper in the World five times for nothing. To know we have Higuita in goal, it instils us with enormous confidence. He’s done extraordinary things for futsal in Kazakhstan. He’s the ultimate idol. I have the utmost respect for him as a player, a person and a friend. You’ve played with Higuita and Guitta. Who do you consider the best goalkeeper in the world? What an honour. What an honour to know and to have played alongside these two exceptional goalkeepers. When they’re on their game, it’s unbelievably difficult to score past either of them. Everyone says the same. Some of the saves they make are mind-blowing. It’s really difficult for me to say this – my heart is genuinely torn – but I will say Higuita edges it because he’s also incredible with the ball at his feet.

 Higuita of Kazakhstan reacts

And what about Douglas? For me he’s the best defender in the world. Nothing gets past him. He’s our iron man. When you have Douglas and Higuita behind you, that’s the ultimate security team. Douglas is another idol of Kazakh and world futsal, another inspiration for a lot of people – for me as well. I learn so much from him on a daily basis. He’s another phenomenon. Who do you consider the best three players in the world? In my opinion, Ferrao, Pito and Merlim. It’s a shame Italy aren’t here for Merlim to showcase his talent, but for me those are the three who, individually, are most capable of winning games.

Finally, if you had to bet now, who will win the adidas Golden Ball and who will become champions? Honestly, I don’t think anyone’s stopping Ferrao winning the Golden Ball, but I believe that we can become champions. Thank God I have a lot of belief – my dad always taught to me to believe. Brazil are the big favourites, but I’m very confident Kazakhstan can become champions.