The new-look New Zealand Football Futsal National League kicks off on Saturday with all teams set to enjoy the comforts of home after a key change in the format.
Previously, the country’s showpiece domestic competition took place across three series with each held in one location. But the league has been expanded for its seventh edition, allowing matches to be played in every region for the first time.
New Zealand Football Futsal Development Manager Dave Payne is pleased to be able to bring the rapidly-growing small-sided sport to more people all over the country.
“We’re excited this year to see the league move another step forward with the expanded format across all of the regions,” he says.
“For the first time, all teams will host matches with many federations building activity around the main events. Our focus is to deliver the most professional product possible, raising the standard for the teams and creating futsal awareness across New Zealand.”
The 2016 competition will be the most accessible ever with the home-matches format being supplemented by free spectator entry and live online streaming of nearly every game.
“Futsal is one of the most exciting sports to watch,” says Payne, who recently witnessed play of the highest standard in travelling to Colombia for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.
“This year we are opening the doors to all matches for free, we want to give as many people as possible the chance to experience live futsal at its best. But beware, it’s addictive!”
Sides in the upper North Island have the honour of opening the revamped Futsal National League with the inaugural ‘Northern Division Home Series’ set to take place this weekend.
Northern Futsal, AFF Futsal, WaiBOP Futsal and Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay will all be involved and the action will be shared across two venues – Rotorua Energy Events Centre and Massey University in Albany.
Central-Hawke’s Bay and WaiBOP will do battle over two games in Rotorua, as will Northern and Auckland in Albany.
Auckland will have a target on their backs as defending champions and have a proud record to protect after claiming the title in three of the past six years.
Their ranks again look formidable with coach Nathan Robertson leading a squad that includes captain Marvin Eakins, the talismanic Dylan Manickum and goalkeeper Elias Billeh – all established members of the Futsal Whites national team.
They will therefore go in as favourites against Northern but the hosts will also be in a confident frame of mind as five members of the 14-strong group starred for the federation’s U-19 team in winning their age-group at the National Youth Futsal Championships in July.
The youthful exuberance of those players – Mitchell Verry, Eden Caudwell, Max Kwan and the Twigg brothers, Art and Sam – will be a driving force while a pair of imports add some foreign flair in Irishman Barry Grehan and Jean Claude Tahireve from Vanuatu.
There will be just as much talent on show in Rotorua, where Futsal White Brayden Lissington will lead his WaiBOP charges out against Central-Hawke’s Bay as player-coach.
Lissington is still on a futsal high after representing his country at the FISU World University Championship in Brazil during July and following that with an appearance in the Professional Futsal League (PFL) All-Star Showcase the next month.
He earned his spot among the stars in Florida after being selected in the #PFLNext competition and received court time with the likes of Falcão and Ricardinho – regarded as the Pelé and Maradona of futsal.
Lissington won’t be among such exalted company in the WaiBOP squad but has plenty of ability at his disposal nonetheless, including captain Sam Masterson and promising up-and-comer Logan Wisnewski.
They will be facing a Central-Hawke’s Bay outfit that features a couple of notable names from the football scene in that part of the country with coach Chris Greatholder and captain Ethan Dent both having previously starred for Napier City Rovers in the 11-a-side code.
The key figure is likely to be Futsal White Tai Barham, who will support Dent – a former Futsal Development Officer for Central Football – as vice-captain.
Four other teams – Central Futsal-Manawatu, Capital Futsal, Canterbury United and Southern United – will take part in the National Futsal League and will have their first turn in the spotlight when the ‘Southern Division Home Series’ takes place over the weekend of October 15 to 16.
For the full NZF National Futsal League draw please click here
Live streaming will be available at the following link:
Squads for Futsal National League – Northern Division Home Series
Northern Futsal: Mitchell Verry (GK), Nikola Velkovski, Oban Hawkins, Barry Grehan, Naji Ghamri, Abdallah Amleh, Elliot Cooper, Eden Caudwell, Max Kwan, Art Twigg, Sam Twigg, Jean Claude Tahireve, Sam Emami, Leyvaine Davids (GK)
Coach: Felipe De Marchi Bernardi
Assistant coach: Ouadhah Ragued
Manager: Kevin Forde
Assistant manager: Aidan Wong
AFF Futsal: Elias Billeh (GK), Victor Ganescu, Rudy Mozr, Bakr Al-Saudi, Sander Waterland, Adam Paulsen, Marvin Eakins, Stephen Ashby, Jimmy Banks, Adam Scott, Myron Manickum, Dylan Manickum, Aalok Paudel, Lewis Guy (GK)
Coach: Nathan Robertson
Assistant coach: Alejo Perez Leguizamon
Manager: David Manickum
WaiBOP Futsal: Harry Porritt (GK), Brayden Lissington, Sam Masterson, Hamish Utteridge, Mahmood Alfarraji, Bahram Ahmadi, Dominic O’Sullivan, Jake Bayliss, Liam Steffert, Logan Wisnewski, Jacob Robb, Jonathan Tobias, Subesh Naidu, Patrick Steele (GK)
Coach: Brayden Lissington
Manager: Anthonni Hall
Assistant manager/physio: Elly Tobias
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay: Daniel Robinson (GK), Ethan Dent, Tai Barham, Harrison Gregory, Luke Maynard, Brigham Fraser, Josh Bowie, Luke Morgan, Bjorn Christensen, Dylan Cozens, Rudi Bauerfeind, Campbell Whitworth, Aidan Robson, Liam Shackleton (GK)
Coach: Chris Greatholder
Assistant coach: Mark Cozens
Manager: Shelley Bowie
Physio: Alex Gairdner