Doug Reed has been a member of the England futsal national team since 2008 and has played professionally in Spain, Serbia, Cyprus and Croatia before returning to Manchester this summer. He is involved in the sport on many different levels, not only as a player and coach, but also as the futsal expert commentator for Eurosport, the author of a great futsal blog DougReedFutsal who can also be found on social media channels, and a helping hand for many organisers of futsal tournaments around the world.
We talked about the passion he feels for his profession, futsal in general, and a position of futsal in the region, where we have high expectations before another flagship tournament for futsal, UEFA Futsal EURO 2018 in Slovenia, which will start on 30 January 2018.
Doug, together with all your activities outside the futsal pitch, you really are a true ambassador of the sport. When and how did you “fall in love” with futsal?
I grew up crazy about football but in 2006 I discovered futsal. Over the following year my passion transitioned to the 5-a-side game and I have been obsessed with it ever since. Futsal has given me wonderful moments and I want the sport to grow so more people can have the same experiences.
Futsal in England does not have a long tradition, but it has been developing quickly in the recent years. Together with the other “football super force” Germany (that joined the UEFA Futsal EURO qualifiers for the first time) and all other European nations involved, there is a really strong momentum for futsal. Could you tell us more about futsal in your country?
Futsal is gaining momentum in England, but a lot of this is under the surface at the youth and grassroots level. Eventually this will translate into a bigger public profile and it will go mainstream. The fast and attacking nature of the sport is perfectly suited to what English fans demand.
I have played against many excellent Slovenian players and faced Slovenian clubs in the UEFA Futsal Cup, so I can say I am familiar with Slovenian futsal and know it is strong.
How big of a wish there is in England to qualify for EURO? As a member of your national team, how tough would you say the competition in Europe is?
This would be a dream come true for everyone involved in the national team and would give futsal a big boost here. Europe is the strongest region in the world and we need to develop the sport further in England to reach a EURO finals. I will never give up on trying to make this dream a reality!
You have played professionally across different countries. Last season you played for Futsal Dinamo in Zagreb, you also have experience from Serbian league… How do you see futsal in our region and how well do you know Slovenian futsal?
The Balkan region is one of the strongest in the world for producing talent and only a lack of more professional leagues and clubs stops the various countries from competing for titles. I have played against many excellent Slovenian players such as Čujec, Mordej and Osredkar, and faced Slovenian clubs in the UEFA Futsal Cup, so I can say I am familiar with Slovenian futsal and know it is strong.
Slovenia has qualified for EURO as a host, Serbia (vs. Czech Republic) and Croatia (vs. France) will try to secure their spot on the tournament through the play-off matches… All three countries were part of EURO in the previous tournaments. How do you see these three national teams, would you maybe draw attention to any particular players?
All three have achieved results against the best teams in previous EUROs and Croatia and Serbia reached the final day when they were hosts. I hope Slovenia can replicate this success. I would highlight Novak & Jelovčić from Croatia, Perić and Kocić from Serbia and Čujec and Mordej from Slovenia. All these are excellent in attacking 1v1 situations, a typical quality of players from the region.
You have experienced Futsal EURO as the Eurosport’s futsal expert. What has been your experience so far and what was your favourite moment of UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 in Belgrade?
The Futsal EURO always provides two weeks of pure entertainment, whether watching in the stadium or on TV. There were so many great moments in 2016 of which I would highlight two. Serbia’s winner during the final seconds of the quarter final when the home fans went wild and Ricardinho’s goal against the hosts. I have never seen such an unbelievable piece of skill in a high level match before.
What are your expectations for the next edition in Ljubljana, Slovenia?
I am sure the atmosphere in the stadiums will be amazing as it was in Croatia and Serbia and the home fans will get behind their team. We can expect the usual drama, excitement, skill and spectacular goals that futsal always delivers.
UEFA Futsal EURO 2018? Spain were dominant last time and will be favourites but all the teams are competitive so maybe we are in for a surprise.
Connected to the future of futsal… In the last UEFA Direct, we could read an article about the “boom time” of futsal. The UEFA Executive Committee meeting on 4 April definitely brought some changes for the sport. The UEFA Futsal Cup will be renamed the UEFA Futsal Champions League, a couple of brand new competitions are being launched and the flagship competition in Europe, UEFA Futsal EURO, will take place every four years with 16 teams competing instead of 12 every two years. How do you view these changes?
The whole of the futsal community was delighted with these announcements and with UEFA getting behind the sport. They will help the futsal’s development across the continent by increasing awareness and opportunities. These changes reflect the growing demand for futsal.
Do you follow build-up activities to the Futsal EURO in Slovenia? What would be your advice to the LOC of UEFA Futsal EURO 2018, how to attract fans to see the matches live and what would be your message directly to the fans, present and future, of futsal?
I am following the build-up on the social media channels and the LOC are doing an excellent job promoting the event. I think informing the fans about the story of the championships through promoting its stars and history is the way to gain the public’s interest. I encourage the fans to attend the matches as you will have a fantastic experience and won’t regret it!
A little more personal question for the end of your interview. Who is your favourite futsal player (current or former) and who do you consider a favourite to win UEFA Futsal EURO 2018?
My favourite player was Brazil’s Schumacher who played for Inter Movistar. He was such an efficient, innovative and intelligent player. Currently I love to watch Ricardinho as he always does something eye-catching. Spain were dominant last time and will be favourites but all the teams are competitive so maybe we are in for a surprise.