The first FIFA Futsal World Cup took place in the Netherlands in January 1989. In the final, held at Sportpaleis Ahoy in Rotterdam, Brazil were stretched to the limit of their prodigious ability before finally overcoming the host nation. One man in particular earned honour and respect from the skilled South Americans, a certain Victor 'Vic' Hermans.
The player, who was 35 at the time, scored six goals in seven matches prior to the final, making a significant contribution to his side’s relentless pursuit of glory. The Dutch skipper failed to add to his total in the final as his team fell 2-1, but Hermans was named player of the tournament, an achievement which he now regards as the foundation for his remarkable career in the indoor game.
“It was an important moment in my career, although it was only later that I really understood what it meant for me. Taking part at that World Cup opened many other World Cup doors," Hermans recalled in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
In November this year, fully 23 years later, the Dutch legend will play an active part at his seventh World Cup finals. Hosts Thailand have secured the services of the futsal icon from Maastricht, who coached Hong Kong in 1992 and Malaysia in 1996, and was Netherlands assistant coach at the 2000 edition of the finals. At the 2004 and 2008 tournaments, Hermans was a member of the FIFA Technical Study Group (TSG).
His attendance has been excellent but his record is patchy, as both Hong Kong and Malaysia failed to survive the preliminary round, and the Dutch were knocked out at the second stage, but the 59-year-old is setting his sights high for his new charges at their home tournament.
“I think my team has a very good chance of reaching the quarter-finals at the World Cup. Obviously, it's going to depend to a certain extent on our group. If we’re drawn with extremely strong opponents, we could run into trouble. But my target is a place in the last eight," Hermans confidently asserted.
His players harbour even greater ambitions and are brimming with self-confidence, the communicative Dutchman revealed: “They’re aiming for the trophy at the AFC championship [from 25 May until 1 June] and a top-four finish at the World Cup.” Hermans is happy to endorse his team’s lofty goals, “because you'll only achieve great things if you set them as targets in the first place."
Preparation in progress
The coach is convinced by the quality in his squad, but remains acutely aware that, without extremely hard and productive work in advance, the World Cup on home soil could end in bitter disappointment. Determination to avoid that outcome explains his meticulous plans for the months to come.
“Thailand have very good players who are specially strong in attack,” the seasoned futsal practitioner stated, “but the team hasn't been pushed enough in defence up to now, so we're going to tour Europe and play friendlies against stronger teams. We don't want to get caught out, neither at the AFC championship nor at the World Cup, so we have a lot of work to do on our tactics and technique."
Prior to the World Cup in front of the passionate home crowds, Hermans and his players will seek a confidence-boosting performance at the AFC championship in late May. It is in fact an eliminator for the FIFA Futsal World Cup, but Thailand qualify automatically as hosts and are under no pressure at all at the continental match-up, so it is a chance to send out a signal to rival teams.
“Thailand have always done well at the AFC championship. Our minimum target is the semi-finals, and if we do make it as far as the last four, we’ll see what happens from then on," Hermans concluded.