Denmark futsal players only facing Slovakia, Wales to save their own sport - coach

Mattias KarenArsenal correspondent3 Minute Read
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Denmark's futsal players who will represent their national football team this week only accepted a call-up in order to save their own sport, their coach has told ESPN FC.

The Denmark squad, which lost 3-0 to Slovakia in a friendly on Wednesday and is scheduled to face Wales in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday, includes six futsal players from Danish champions Jaegersborg. Most other players are from the country's third and fourth tiers.

The amateur-laden squad is a result of a standoff between the Danish football association (DBU) and the players' union over commercial rights that has seen the country's top professionals, including Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen, stay at home.

The decision to include indoor five-a-side players in the squad has led to global headlines and a domestic debate over whether the DBU has acted correctly. But Bo Holden, the coach of Jaegersborg, said his players are only doing what's needed to make sure the DBU -- which is also in charge of the national futsal team -- doesn't get banned by UEFA.

"The futsal players have a fear that if Denmark don't show up for these games, that UEFA will put sanctions on the Danish FA," Holden told ESPN FC. "And since futsal is a part of the Danish FA, then our national futsal team would be affected by the sanctions as well.

"So the players are doing this to save futsal as a sport and to make sure we can participate in the next World Cup. If we were sanctioned we could get a two-year ban from all international tournaments, and that would ruin all the work we've been doing in futsal. We do this for the love of futsal."

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Holden said qualifying for the 2020 Futsal World Cup starts in January; the national team also has two games later this month.

"Obviously they've already started training for this, so they have a lot of futsal activities lined up that they would have to cancel if we were put on a blacklist by UEFA," he said.

Like all futsal players in Denmark, the six Jaegersborg members called up for the national team are amateurs who either have day jobs or are in school, Holden said.

Defender Christian Bommelund Christensen is a carpenter, and forward Louis Veis is a coach in a social program focused on getting children involved in sports.

Now they're suddenly facing international interest as an otherwise routine friendly has taken on added significance.

Holden said he didn't want to comment on the conflict between the DBU and its players but said the opinion within the country is clearly split.

"The phone has been ringing quite a lot. Everybody wants to know about these guys and how they will do," he said. "I think a lot of people in Denmark are happy that Denmark will show up and play, because it would be terrible for our future as a football nation to get sanctioned. But of course, people are divided. Some will hate it, some will love it."

While the players are more used to indoor hard-court surfaces, Holden said most of them have a background as elite youth players at regular football clubs.

"They are familiar with the game played on grass as well. But they have chosen a career in futsal," he said. "In futsal they're very skilled, all of them, they play at a high level. We just won the Nordic championships as a club team, we are Danish champions and we've done very well in the Champions League. So as a futsal team, they're very good."

And Holden isn't worried that a strong performance by his players could see them get poached by outdoor teams.

"I don't think so. Their love is for futsal, and they've chosen to play futsal," he said. "I wish them the best, but I'm sure they'll be futsal players when they come back from this trip also."