Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan made history in the UEFA Futsal Cup, winning Europe's premier club competition for the very first time. Kairat dug deep and saw off two formidable opponents on the way, beating defending champions Barcelona 5-4 in the semis before defeating 2012 runners-up Dinamo Moscow 4-3 in the final.
Barça completed the podium after beating Iberia Star Tbilisi 4-1 in the match for third place. The Georgian side hosted this year's finals, and maintained their record of having competed in every edition of the tournament to date.
Kairat had fallen at the semi-final stage in four of the last seven editions of the competition. But this time they went all the way, winning the title in what was their first final. "I have no words to describe this – I'm just full of emotions," captain Dinmukhambet Suleimenov told UEFA.com after his side were crowned champions.
"We're very happy, because it was the match of our lives. We've finally fulfilled our dream. I don't know when we'll be able to win the UEFA Cup again, so I'd like to thank everyone who helped to make this possible."
After the final, Kairat coach Cacau lavished praise on his players and was keen to put their remarkable achievement into context: "Kazakh futsal deserves this title for everything that's been done in recent years. They have invested a lot of money to be able to win this title, and now here it is. It's the country's first ever title in a team sport."
Cacau won plaudits of his own after Kairat's semi-final win over Barcelona. In that game, and later in the final, he deployed goalkeeper Higuita in an attacking role, with the 26-year-old Brazilian proving pivotal in both victories. "I had studied Barcelona like nobody's business, and I'd noticed that they had trouble defending," he said. "So Higuita's role was the key in both games."
Reflecting on the final, Cacau, who later also hailed his team's defensive strength and cohesion, said: "If we had shown a little more composure, the score could have been even better. But I think the dramatic ending makes the victory even more beautiful."
For the losing finalists, Dinamo, the disappointment was palpable. The Russians were unable to repeat their 2007 triumph, and instead had to settle for the runners-up spot for a fourth time. "Their five-against-four tactics made the difference," said Dinamo's Spanish coach, Tino Perez, referring to Kairat's use of an attacking goalkeeper.
"We were very nervous and we were unable to find an answer. We must learn to resolve these situations tactically," added Perez, who twice guided previous club Playas Castellon to the title and for whom this was a fourth final as coach.
The mood was similarly downcast in the Barcelona camp. The Catalans had gone into the UEFA Futsal Cup final four as strong favourites for the title, but in the end could only finish third.
"We're not happy, because this victory doesn't make up for the defeat against Kairat," said the Barça goalkeeper, Cristian, summing up the feeling after his side beat the hosts to third place. "We now have to think positively. If we want to return next year we have to win the league, and that's what we're going to try to do."
On the statistical front, Kairat's Fuamasa finished as top scorer in the final tournament with four goals. The accolade of overall top scorer, meanwhile, was shared by four players for the first time. The quartet in question are Alen Fetic (FC Litija), Amar Zouggaghi (Futsal Topsport Antwerpen), Betinho and Diniz Pinheiro (both Paris Sporting Club), all of whom finished the season on ten goals.