Futsal youth ready to make history

A group of talented teenagers are about to make history as part of the first ever age-group national teams to represent New Zealand in futsal and their respective coaches are confident of making an impact at this week’s OFC Youth Futsal Championship, which doubles as the qualifying event for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

The New Zealand flag is being proudly flown at the tournament – held at Bruce Pulman Arena in Auckland over four days from Wednesday – by U-18 men’s and women’s teams and each will get their campaigns underway tomorrow morning with clashes against Tonga.

Also competing in the male event are Solomon Islands, American Samoa, New Caledonia, Samoa and Vanuatu while the women’s line-up is completed by Samoa and an invitational team from the Auckland Football Federation.

As it will be the first time any of the teams have appeared at international level, the Kiwi contingent does not know what to expect but have done all their can to prepare effectively in an intense build up over the last few days.

“It’s been good to have the girls together for a good period of time, we’ve had three days and six sessions so have covered what we needed to,” says women’s coach Ronan Naicker.

“It’s been difficult in that time to cover everything, especially as everyone has come in from different parts of the country. So a huge part of it was getting to know the girls and them getting to know each other.”

Men’s coach Marvin Eakins faced a similar problem and the Futsal Whites star was careful not to overwhelm his charges.

“As a coach, you really have to pick what you want to get across and what the key messages are in a short time frame,” he explains.

“It’s very easy to overload players and, having been there myself, a lot of information can mean you don’t end up taking anything in. So we’ve been really cautious about making sure we’ve picked out what the key things are and really tried to hammer them home.”

Audio

New Zealand U-18 Women’s Futsal National Team coach Ronan Naicker on the OFC Youth Futsal Championship

Both coaches have been pleased with the ease at which the players have gelled as a team, both on and off the court.

“It’s been really surprising to be honest, we expected a few hiccups when they first came together,” Eakins says. “Off the court, they’ve been brilliant and on the court we were really surprised at how quickly they figured each other out. It’s meant we’re further along than I thought we would be.”

Finding that sense of familiarity as quickly as possible has been vital to the plans of Naicker, who has placed great emphasis on developing combinations.

“That would be the biggest thing we’ve worked on so far,” he says. “In possession, there’s a lot of creativity and variables so it’s just about getting used to each other and getting that movement going.”

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New Zealand U-18 Men’s Futsal National Team coach Marvin Eakins on the OFC Youth Futsal Championship

Knowing so little about the opposition they will face, the New Zealand teams are very much heading into the unknown but Eakins is using his vast experience as a Futsal Whites international as a guide.

“We know what the island nations are traditionally like, both on the court and the football field. They’ve definitely got some pretty key strengths, particularly on attack,” he says.

“So we’re wary of that and we’re looking to be a really good defensive unit. But we’ve also got a few key attacking strategies that will help us create quite a few scoring opportunities.”

The winners of the men’s and women’s tournaments – with the exception of New Caledonia who are not an Olympic nation – will qualify for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

The two qualifying teams cannot be from the same member association so, if a country wins both the men’s and women’s events, that nation must nominate their preferred qualification team.

New Zealand squads for OFC Youth Futsal Championship

U-18 Women: 1. Rylee Godbold (GK), 2. Abigail Murphy, 3. Jenna Dodd, 4. Emily Gillion, 5. Grace Wisnewski, 6. Hannah Reddy, 7. Lily Fisher, 8. Tilly James, 9. Macey Fraser, 10. Ella O’Connell-Biddlecombe
Coach: Ronan Naicker

U-18 Men: New Zealand: 1. Patrick Steele (GK), 2. Arzan Todywalla, 3. Sam Wright, 4. Aidan Robson, 5. Michael Plim, 6. Adam Paulsen, 7. Oban Hawkins, 8. Logan Wisnewski, 9. Ethan Martin, 12. Chris Preece
Coach: Marvin Eakins

OFC Youth Futsal Championship Fixtures – Women
(Bruce Pulman Arena, Auckland)   

Tonga vs New Zealand
Wednesday 4 October, 11.30am

New Zealand vs Samoa
Wednesday 4 October, 2.30pm

AFF Futsal vs New Zealand
Thursday 5 October, 11.30am

New Zealand vs Tonga
Thursday 5 October, 2.30pm

Samoa vs New Zealand
Friday 6 October, 11.30am

New Zealand vs AFF Futsal
Friday 6 October, 2.30pm

OFC Youth Futsal Championship Fixtures – Men
(Bruce Pulman Arena, Auckland)

New Zealand vs Tonga
Wednesday 4 October, 10am

New Zealand vs Solomon Islands
Wednesday 4 October, 4pm

New Zealand vs American Samoa
Thursday 5 October, 1pm

New Caledonia vs New Zealand
Friday 6 October, 1pm

Samoa vs New Zealand
Friday 6 October, 4pm

Vanuatu vs New Zealand
Saturday 7 October, 10am

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