Monday 23 December 2019, 09:00

Danilevicius: Lithuania excited to host its first ever FIFA World Cup

  • FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 will be first FIFA tournament hosted by Lithuania

  • National association president Tomas Danilevicius hopes it can "boost" the sport in his country

  • Brand-new modern venues in great cities for fans to look forward to

"I’m getting really excited already, I can promise you that!" The anticipation was clear for all to see when sat down with Lithuanian national association president Tomas Danilevicius to talk about the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™. "This is the first World Cup of any kind and also the first FIFA tournament that we will be hosting in Lithuania. The Futsal World Cup is coming back to Europe after a 24-year absence and we're very proud that we have been chosen to host it. We want to present ourselves to the world and show ourselves in a good light," said Danilevicius, proud and enthusiastic in equal measure.

Hosting a FIFA World Cup is intended to inject a healthy dose of football fever into a country whose three million inhabitants are avid basketball fans. The Lithuanian men’s national team currently sits at No.131 in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking – some way off the heady days of around 11 years ago, when they were as high as 37, but nevertheless an improvement on two years ago when they had slipped as low as 149.

Who is Tomas Danilevicius?

  • Current position: President of the LFF (Lietuvos futbolo federacija)

  • Former Lithuanian international: 71 caps, 19 goals

  • Country’s top goal-scorer

  • Fourth most appearances for the Lithuanian national team

  • Lithuanian footballer of the year 2006 and 2007

"I am sure that the World Cup will give futsal a boost in our country – not just that more kids will be interested in the sport but that the quality will also improve," said the president.

In terms of "boosts", Lithuania will doubtless be hoping to match some of the football team’s best results, for example when they held then FIFA World Cup™ runners-up Germany to a 1-1 draw on 29 March 2003 in Nuremberg, and then again versus recently-crowned world champions Italy on 2 September 2006 in Naples, when they managed the same scoreline. The goal that day against Italy came from none other than current LFF president and Lithuania’s all-time top scorer – Tomas Danilevicius. However, the country has yet to qualify for the final phase of a World Cup or European Championship, and in the recent qualifying rounds for the UEFA EURO 2020, they failed to register a solitary win in eight matches.

That bleak outlook on the football pitch means that the anticipation for the first ever FIFA Futsal World Cup on home soil is all the greater. "The tournament organising committee and the LOCs in the three host cities are already working tirelessly on a number of fronts to ensure that everything is in place for a perfect World Cup," Danilevicius continued, before adding that the players and staff are also leaving no stone unturned in their bid to show what they are made of. "On the sporting side of things, a number of special futsal programmes have been created for our national team, and they are also going to have various training courses and camps to be fully prepared for the World Cup."

FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021

  • When: 12 September – 3 October

  • Where: Lithuania

  • Venues: Vilnius, Klaipeda, Kaunas

  • Teams: 24

Lithuania will be making their debut at the FIFA Futsal World Cup not just as hosts but as participants, so it is little wonder that Danilevicius is managing expectations of sporting success and focusing on the thrill of taking part. "I think that we’re obviously not on the same level as this sport’s leading nations – we’re not as professional as a lot of other countries," he said. "But this will be a dream come true for every player when they get to represent their country at a World Cup, so every one of them will give it all they’ve got to make sure they are fully prepared and put in the best possible performance. I’m really looking forward to it."

"We are a small nation but one that has so much to offer culturally," said the president as he explained what fans can expect from the tournament in Lithuania. "The size of the country means that it is easy to travel around and get from one venue to another." And once he got onto the subject of the three venues – Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda – there was no stopping Danilevicius.

"The architecture in the centres of the three host cities is something to behold, and there will be brand-new modern arenas where the fans can expect incredible atmospheres. In this country, we’re used to going to venues like these to watch sport. Basketball is very popular here and the matches always attract great crowds, so I’m sure that it will be the same for the World Cup."