The sight of blue and red ribbons on a European trophy is nothing new where FC Barcelona are concerned. But it has never been seen in futsal and as Marc Carmona's men bid to emulate their footballing counterparts by winning the UEFA Futsal Cup, it is worth noting they will do so with more than a passing interest from Josep Guardiola's side.
David Villa, who helped make the draw for the semi-finals during half-time of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final triumph against AC Milan, pairing Barcelona with Sporting Clube de Portugal in Lleida on Friday night, is an enthusiast of the small-sided game. So too Xavi Hernández, which should come as little surprise; after all, to use the broadest of brushstrokes, Barcelona's swift, short-passing game, with its focus on technical excellence, is not dissimilar to the style employed in futsal.
Villa himself accepts the similarities "especially when attacking with all those short passes between many players, handling the ball well, and keeping a lot of possession".
The Spain striker played futsal up to the age of nine, and believes it provided a good grounding, despite its slightly differing demands. "Futsal is a bit more technical than football. I also think that, because you play a shorter amount of time, there are different physical requirements, because you need constantly to run," he explains.
It is a reflection of futsal's popularity in Spain that Villa and Xavi still play the sport with friends when the opportunity allows. Xavi, as he explains, also enjoys watching. "I like the sport because you can see a player's talent," says the Blaugrana and Spain playmaker.
"Perhaps in normal football you cannot always appreciate their talent – everything is more physical and in futsal you have small details of quality, class, tactical aspects. Barcelona have put together an amazing team. Last year they almost won every title, and they're a very competitive team, it is a pleasure to watch them."
This support is gratefully received according to Jordi Torras, the Barcelona player and UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 golden boot winner in Spain's latest triumph. It is a by-product of being part of a club which promotes excellence in various sports. "We often run into the basketball, hockey, and handball squads," Torras says. "They are close to us, as we train and play on the same pitch, but there is also great support from the football players. I have met Xavi many times, and he is a real fan of this sport; he congratulates us and always has something to say."
According to Javi Rodríguez, captain of the UEFA Futsal Cup hosts, the European conquests of not just the club's footballers but also their basketball, hockey and handball players are "a source of inspiration" for the futsal team, who only won their first national title in 2011.
After their victory in the Spanish Futsal Cup in March, the futsal team paraded the trophy at Camp Nou when Barcelona played Granada CF. There is an evident mutual respect underlined by Villa as he singles out Rodríguez, who won everything there was to win as Spain captain and aided Playas de Castellón FS to the first two UEFA Futsal Cups in 2002 and 2003, as his favourite player.
"He is the best player for me, in terms of the history of this sport," Villa says. His hope is now is that Rodríguez is soon celebrating another triumph. "I hope that Barça have a good final tournament. Let's see if they can win the title. I would like to see them do well and have as much luck as possible."
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