ALMATY – The athletes and management of Kairat mini-football club (MFC) were warmly welcomed at Almaty airport after their triumph in Tbilisi at the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Cup.
The rapturous welcome was comparable only to that organised in honour of the heroes of the Summer Olympics of 2012. Children with posters of Kairat MFC training school lined up in the lobby and the junior national team of Kazakhstan came to congratulate their older friends on the victory.
“They should get into the spirit of winners,” former Kairat striker Vladimir Nidergaus said.
And, of course, there were many relatives, friends and fans of Kazakhstan’s—and now Europe’s—leading club. The appearance of Head Coach Ricardo Cámara Sobral (Cacau) caused delight. He raised the UEFA Cup, the players appeared after him and the gathered crowd exploded with chants of “Champions! Champions!”
Deputy Mayor of Almaty Zauresh Amanzholova, head of the Department of Physical Culture and Sports Khairbolat Khaidarov and Vice President of the Football Federation of Kazakhstan Alexander Mazmanyan congratulated the winners.
At the impromptu press conference, Coach Cacau, team captain Dinmuhambet Suleimenov, goalkeeper Leonardo Leite Vieira de Mello (Higuita), forward Joao Dos Santos Núñez (Joan) and Football Federation Vice President Mazmanyan answered journalists’ questions. “It is a historic moment in my career. I want to thank all the people who trusted in this project, especially our vice president, the one who hired me. I want to dedicate this win to everybody in Kazakhstan. I am excited to be in our first final. My team played really well technically and tactically. All my players were like warriors. It is what I wanted. We have beaten the best team in the world, a team that has won everything in the last two years,” said Coach Cacau. On behalf of the team he expressed gratitude to President of the Football Federation of Kazakhstan Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, Mayor of Almaty Akhmetzhan Yessimov, the management of the club, fans and all citizens of Kazakhstan for their invaluable help and support.
On April 29, Kairat defeated their rivals, Dynamo, of Moscow, in the UEFA Cup final held at the Palace of Sports in Tbilisi.
The game ended with a score of 4-3 and Kairat became winners of the highest trophy in continental mini-football for the first time. The Kazakhstan players had already had a sensational victory over Europe’s former top team, Barcelona, in the semifinals.
Dynamo beat Georgia’s Iberia-Star in the second semifinal. In the game for third place, Barcelona won 4-1 against the Tbilisi team.
President of the Senate of Kazakhstan Kairat Mami congratulated the Kairat players on their victory.
“Congratulations to Almaty MFC Kairat and all Kazakhstan fans on a victory in the game against Dynamo for the UEFA Cup! This is a long-awaited and truly heroic victory for our club,” he said.