Czech Republic keeper Jan Klima, standing 1.93 metres in his socks, is both the tallest player at the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004 and also one of the world's best players in his position. With the Czechs safely through to the second round, FIFA.com caught up with the 34-year-old at the team hotel.
FIFA.com: Congratulations on getting through to the second round. You had your work cut out against group opponents Thailand and Australia. Did you realise how hard it would be in advance?
Jan Klima: In all honesty, we knew nothing at all about our opponents beforehand. That holds true for half our worldwide rivals. We hadn't seen Thailand or Australia play, but we expected Thailand to be slightly stronger. The last warm-up games suggested both were playing at about the same level.
Czech Republic are appearing at the World Championship for the first time. The team has appeared very nervous, both in the pre-tournament play-offs and now at the event itself. Tell us a little about what it means to be here.
More than anything else it's an honour to represent the Czech Republic here. I'm 34, I've taken part in any number of games at home, across Europe and at the European Championship, but for me as a goalkeeper this is a really special experience. The world championship is the highlight of my futsal career and I guess that applies to most of my team-mates. I think we'll stop being nervous now. We've hit our most important target by reaching the second round so we can relax and get on with it now. We'll be taking on Spain and Italy, two of the best teams in the world, but I think anything could happen. We believe in ourselves and it's definitely an advantage that we'll be playing European teams. We've met them before so we know what to expect. We have the ability to win and spring a surprise, although obviously we respect the quality of our opponents.
You've taken it in turns with reserve keeper Petr Krayzel in the early matches. How do you feel about the idea of rotation?
Naturally you're looking to play every game, which is what I did at the previous European Championship. But Petr Krayzel and I are basically as good as each other. We don't know in advance who'll get the nod, you'll have to ask the coach. And we didn't know there would be rotation before the tournament, it's the first time we've had it. But Petr and I are friends and we both want the best for each other. I think we'll get a half each against Brazil.
The group phase results suggest it's very difficult for a team to come back and win after they've gone a goal behind. Is good defending more important than it used to be?
I'd definitely say so. I reckon that defence has definitely become more important. Defending is undoubtedly the key to success in futsal these days.
Did you know you're the tallest player at the tournament?
No, I didn't know that. I'd actually rather be a couple of centimetres shorter. I don't think my height is an advantage for a futsal goalkeeper. Smaller keepers have an easier time of it in terms of manoeuvrability. I have to work hard on my reactions. If I was shorter everything would be a lot easier, I'd be more flexible.
What's the biggest difference between a futsal keeper and his football equivalent?
A futsal keeper has to have more technical ability because he's involved in the game a lot more.
How did you start playing futsal, and did you always want to be a goalkeeper?
I only took up futsal at the age of 30 four years ago. Who knows, maybe I was fated to end up playing the game. A friend introduced me to it. He himself played frequently and one day he just said to me: "Why don't you come along, I think you'll like it." And basically that was that. As a kid, I might have been five, I played out on the left flank, but as I grew taller and taller they simply stuck me in goal.
Many of the best football keepers come from Europe. Does that hold true for futsal?
Luis Amado of Spain is the best. He has everything you need to be a good goalkeeper. He has no weaknesses. He's strong in every respect, so he's the most complete keeper around. The rest of us have a range of strengths, but Amado is a true all-rounder. I've been surprised at the high standard of goalkeeping, I didn't particularly expect that. Thailand keeper Somkid Chuenta made a really positive impression.
How do you rate futsal in the Czech Republic and the overall quality of the league?
Trying to compare the national side and the league is like comparing apples with pears. There are 12 teams in the league and the national team is strong because it's made up of the best players. But the quality in the national team can't be compared to the league. The league is basically still amateur. Every club also runs U-18 and U-15 teams, and practically every futsal player also plays football. If we want to keep on raising the quality in the national side we have to work on improving what we have in the league, and it needs to get better gradually year after year. One or two of our best internationals play professionally abroad, in Russia, which is where I spent five months. It's definitely a good idea, because you come home to the domestic league with plenty of new experiences. Football is the obvious example of the benefit of going abroad. Almost without exception the best Czech players are the ones who play abroad, and the same applies to futsal.
The match schedule at this World Championship allows very little free time. Have you seen anything of the host nation so far?
We actually got back from a sightseeing tour an hour ago. We visited some historical and traditional sites and we took a look at the tallest skyscraper in the world. It's a totally different culture here and it's very exciting to feel it around you. But obviously we're here to play futsal and there's not a lot of spare time. You're completely drained after the match, so you're just happy to stay at the hotel, switch off and relax.
One last question: who'll win the world championship?
Czech Republic, who else (laughs)? Seriously, it's difficult to choose, but if I have to, then Spain or Brazil. We're really looking forward to playing Brazil.