Léo Higuita has been named futsalplanet.com’s futsal goalkeeper of the year two years running – but he is so much more than just a shot-stopper. The Brazil-born 31-year-old has represented Kazakhstan since 2014, and Higuita has thrilled fans as he proves tough to beat in goal then advances to join their attack, often getting himself on to the scoresheet, not least when he struck as his team beat hosts Serbia to claim UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 bronze.
In an exclusive interview with futsaleuro2018.si, Higuita disclosed what he thinks of the Slovenian team, why seeing UEFA Futsal EURO live is something special, who is to blame for him becoming a goalkeeper and what he has in common with the Brazilian football legend Ronaldo. Higuita was a huge fan favourite in Belgrade in 2016 and futsaleuro2018.si is looking forward to his masterpieces at Arena Stožice in Ljubljana from 30 January to 10 February.
I started playing futsal when I was six years old for the club Social Ramos where, believe it or not, the famous Ronaldo had started his amazing career. When I was nine I switched to football, but got back into futsal at 17, since I was not tall enough to be a football goalkeeper.
My dad was also a goalkeeper and this was definitely decisive. And also, as a small boy I already liked ‘jumping’ between the goal posts and I often imitated Zeti, the great goalkeeper who played for the Brazilian national team many years.
Futsal in Brasil and Europe
Futsal in Europe is definitely a lot different from the game in Brazil. In Europe, there is a lot more emphasis on passing the ball and taking shots, while in Brazil dribbling and speed prevail.
Secret to your success
Honestly, I do not have a secret recipe. I am just a goalkeeper who is also very good at using his feet and I can help my team-mates this way too. In doing so, we are taking advantage of having one player more in outfield. Personally, in training I take a lot of shots, drill passes and back-passes. These are the elements that I use the most during matches. Let us not forget, my primary task is to guard the goal.
I know the whole team very well. Captain Osredkar is the soul of the team; Čujec is on a mission to score goals, Fetić for dribbling and putting opponents out of balance.
AFC Kairat and futsal in Kazakhstan
Kairat are the best club in the history of the country. Event though there are some good teams in our league, the whole structure and organisation at AFC Kairat is at the highest possible level. That is why we have a clear goal every season – to win the national championship.
Kazakhstan’s style of playing futsal with the goalkeeper in the attacking formation
It is true, we have a somewhat different style from others and I would say this is our most distinguished virtue. When our opponents think about their chances of scoring a goal we, on the other hand, have many tactical options at our disposal. I believe this is also the reason why everybody respects Kazakhstan.
Your evolvement into an outfield player
I have always played futsal with my feet, so it comes naturally to me. But we need to know that there is a big risk when I take over the attacking role. It is a constant risk.
The most difficult opponent
I would say Spain with their tradition of great performances at major tournaments. They are extremely good. How to play against them? You need to have a good day, the highest possible level of concentration and play your best futsal, which is only the result of the first two conditions. Russia are also a strong team and they have a similar style of play to ours.
Spain, Russia, Slovenia, Italy and Portugal are for me the main favourites for a title. Let us not forget Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
In my opinion, Portugal’s Ricardinho and Miguelín from Spain are definitely among the best players in the world.
Favourites at UEFA Futsal EURO 2018
Spain, Russia, Slovenia, Italy and Portugal are for me the main favourites for a title in Slovenia. Let us not forget Kazakhstan and Ukraine. There is actually a broad spectrum of candidates. I hope this time it will be one of the teams that does not have a title yet, as opposed to Spain, Italy and Russia.
Comment to your draw with Russia and Poland in Group B
Every group at UEFA Futsal EURO is strong and I would say any team could advance to the quarter-finals. We have played against Russia and Poland and we know their style. They are definitely strong opponents. Our first effort is to qualify for the quarter-finals, which is our primary goal. From then on, anything is possible.
Opinon of the home team
I have played against Slovenia already and I know how they play. The Slovenian team consists of physically well-prepared players who possess a lot of futsal skills. And let us not forget about the support they will get from the home crowd. This could help them get closer to a medal. Something similar happened in Serbia two years ago.
I mostly want the fans to really enjoy UEFA Futsal EURO 2018. There is a lot worth seeing – some of the best players in the world are on their way to Slovenia.
I know the whole team very well. Captain Igor Osredkar is the soul of the team; Kristjan Čujec is on a mission to score goals, Alen Fetić for dribbling and putting opponents out of balance. Slovenia plays really nice futsal.
Message for the fans
I mostly want the fans to really enjoy UEFA Futsal EURO 2018. I would like to welcome them to see as many matches as possible, live or on TV. There is a lot worth seeing – some of the best players in the world are on their way to Slovenia. Finally, my wish is for the Slovenian fans to not only support their own team, but to also show support for Kazakhstan.