Javier Lozano is much more than an authority on futsal. With two FIFA Futsal World Cup titles to his name during his time in charge of Spain, the former coach is now one of the sport’s gurus, a status he has attained thanks to his achievements and the legacy he left behind.
Now the president of Spain’s National Futsal League (LNFS), the 55-year-old Lozano brought an end to Brazil’s World Cup domination at Guatemala 2000 and won the world title again four years later, triggering the emergence of Spain as a futsal powerhouse, the effects of which were very much in evidence at Colombia 2016, where five of the 24 sides taking part had a Spanish coach.
Lozano, who was in Colombia as part of FIFA’s Technical Study Group – the second time he has taken on the job – gave FIFA.com his views on the eighth world finals, which saw a first-time winner of the competition and produced all manner of surprises.
FIFA.com: What’s your overall view of the tournament?
Javier Lozano: It’s been the World Cup where everything changed and futsal broke out to a wider audience. And that’s not just because we had two new finalists and new champions, but because it also fired the dreams of the emerging nations. When you see that you’ve got a chance, you put more resources into it and you try to improve, because it’s wonderful to play in a final and win it. It’s a force that can move mountains.
Were you pleased to see a new champion crowned at Colombia 2016?
It’s always a cause for celebration when you see an old order being toppled. We’ve seen the dispelling of the myth that Brazil and Spain always win, just like at Guatemala 2000, when the belief was that nobody could beat Brazil. That was a breath of fresh air and so is this.
Is there a new order in world futsal now?
To me, it’s not so much a new order as a reorganisation of the power base. What I think is really exciting for the future is that more and more teams are coming in now, which is really healthy in terms of competition. The fact that there are five or six contenders for the world title now shows that futsal is maturing as a sport.
What’s your take on the early exits for Brazil, Spain and Italy?
The big teams will continue to be the big teams, especially now that they’ve seen that having a reputation is no longer enough to win matches. They’ve got competition now. That’s another of the things we’ve learned from Colombia: if you work hard and stay grounded, you can win. If you don’t concentrate and you’re not in the zone, then you can always lose, no matter how big you are.
What was the first thing that stood out for you in terms of the football you saw?
Teams have started to understand now that tactical systems are not sealed units, so to speak, but are adaptable and changeable. They’re tools that allow you to bring out all your tactical know-how and make the most of it. It’s good to be able to combine these systems in a match, which is something we saw from 11 of the 24 teams taking part.
What do you put that down to?
To the fact that we also saw changes in terms of leadership. Some of the coaches were once players themselves and they’ve got fresh ideas rather than approaches that are set in stone. They’re generous, modest and they’ve added a touch of logic to their passion and been able to get their ideas across to the players.
One of the most notable developments was the use of the flying keeper. What’s your view on that?
As long as it doesn’t twist the philosophy behind the rule, which is to take a risk by playing with an extra man in attack, it brings excitement and passion to the game, which are both essential features of futsal. If you do it just to waste time, keep the score down or get under the skin of the opposition, then it’s playing with the rules and should be punished.
But would that not deprive smaller teams of something they can use to compete?
If you know that you’re not as good as the rest, you have to go to the World Cup to develop, to fight yourself and not the big teams. If that means that you’re not going to get results, then you have to look for performance objectives and look on matches as opportunities to improve. The result is a learning process. If you don’t look at it that way, you won’t learn, you won’t get results and you’ll pass up the opportunity to improve, while doing harm to the sport in the process.
How much do you think Falcao’s retirement will impact on futsal?
There have been other Falcaos before, maybe not as skilful as him, but each with bags of talent. What’s changed is the world. Falcao was as intelligent on the pitch as he was off it, making the most of today’s communication resources, which really helped take futsal to a wider audience.
Can you expand on that?
Falcao hasn’t used social media to fool around. He had a commercial vision, and if futsal is going to grow as a sport, it also needs to grow as a product. Investment creates a virtuous circle and he was the first to understand that. FIFA did very well to recognise that.
Was Colombia 2016 the World Cup that finally brought futsal to the fan in the street?
In futsal, the fans are very close to the action, which makes it an emotional and social sport. That appeals to people. Then there’s the fact that social media is its way of communicating. And it’s going to succeed because it has tremendous potential.
In keeping with the rest of the tournament, an in-form Argentina won the final. Why do you think that happened?
If you ask me, Russia are technically superior and have more experience of playing finals. They were inconsistent, though, and they lacked conviction at various times of the game. In beating Portugal in the semi-finals, the Argentinians showed that they were going to break new ground, which is what champions do. It was a victory founded on belief and team spirit and it sent a message out to other sides that have yet to win the tournament: if you work to a high standard and with passion, then you can achieve glory.