The Futsal Whites squad will have an excitingly new look when it makes an eagerly-anticipated return to the courts next month for a three-game series against New Caledonia.
Interim player-coach Marvin Eakins has not been afraid to stamp his mark on selections during his short-term reign, bringing in five players who are yet to wear the silver fern for the Trans Pacific Futsal Cup in Tauranga.
That promising batch – consisting of Hamish Mitchell, Luke Maynard, Tom McGowan , Benji Lapslie and Jordi Ditfort – make up over a third of the 14-strong line-up but a healthy dose of experience remains on hand with the talismanic Eakins still lacing up his boots and fellow veterans such as Dylan Manickum, Kareem Osman and Lucas Silva also included.
Eakins, who takes over from previous coach Scott Gilligan for the New Caledonia matches, says the newcomers have been picked on merit and are capable of making an impact at international level.
“I’m really excited about the quality we have in the squad,” he says.
“We have depth in each position and a great mix of players who are experienced, as well as some newer faces to the team. All the new players have been selected because they are good enough. We have known about most of them for several years now and they are products of the exciting young players that are coming through off the back of each federation’s development system.”
The Trans Pacific Futsal Cup will take place as a series of three exhibition matches during the AIMS Games, a nationwide event that brings together intermediate-aged children to compete in a range of sports and which has seen huge growth in futsal.
The series will be the first time the Futsal Whites have been in action since a second-place finish at the 2016 OFC Futsal Championship and arrives at an exciting time for the small-sided code in this country. An inaugural Futsal Ferns squad has just been selected for a Trans Pacific Futsal Cup of their own and U-18 national teams of both genders will come together in Auckland during October for the OFC Youth Futsal Championship, which doubles as the qualification process for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The game has also experienced a rapid rate of progress at grassroots level with over 22,000 players now registered, meaning there is an increasingly large pool of talent to pluck a Futsal Whites squad from.
“The growth has been huge since New Zealand Football got behind futsal and having more people involved in the game can only be positive when looking for talent,” Eakins says. “What we are starting to see is players that have been playing futsal for a large part of their lives.”
Eakins therefore had many tough decisions to make when selecting his squad, a process that was based on performances in the main competitions on the domestic futsal calendar, namely the national league and university, secondary school and youth championships.
“Those events all provided the players with a good chance to show what they have,” Eakins says. “The livestreaming footage has provided the selectors with a good resource to look at players. The question we always ask is: ‘Will this player be good enough to play against international opposition?’”
Eakins will be supported by assistant coach Enrico Meirelles and team manager Todd Bryant and says their roles will be vital as he looks to balance his playing and coaching commitments.
“The only way this would work is to have the right support staff around me,” he says. “Having Enrico as an assistant coach is a big win as his experience and knowledge of the game will be crucial to our success. Todd stepping in as manager will make it easy for Enrico and myself to look after coaching and not have to worry about the administration side of the game.”
Futsal Whites squad for Trans Pacific Futsal Cup
Atta Elayyan (Canterbury United Futsal Dragons)
Hamish Mitchell (Canterbury United Futsal Dragons)
Marvin Eakins (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Lucas Silva (Capital Futsal)
Luke Maynard (Cental Futsal – Hawke’s Bay)
Tom McGowan (Canterbury United Futsal Dragons)
Dylan Manickum (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Kareem Osman (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Luc Saker (Capital Futsal)
Steve Ashby (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Jordi Ditfort (WaiBOP Futsal)
Josh Margetts (Central Futsal – Manawatu)
Benji Lapslie (Canterbury United Futsal Dragons)
Jono Steele (Central Futsal – Manawatu)
Head Coach: Marvin Eakins
Assistant Coach: Enrico Meirelles
Team Manager: Todd Bryant