A ground-breaking period for futsal in this country has continued with the naming of both male and female U-18 national teams.
Each squad includes ten of New Zealand’s most promising young futsal players and both will compete in the upcoming OFC Youth Futsal Championship, set to take place at Bruce Pulman Park in Auckland from October 4 to 7. There is plenty to play for in the inaugural outing for the two new national teams with berths at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina on offer.
The men’s team will be coached by Marvin Eakins – also interim player-coach of the Futsal Whites and the futsal development officer for Auckland Football – while the women’s squad will be led by Ronan Naicker, futsal development officer for Mainland Football. Eakins will be assisted by fellow Futsal White Bakr Al-Saudi while former Football Fern Tania Neill will assist Naicker.
As it is the first time either side will be competing against other nations, the players are very much going into the unknown but there is some international experience in the female group, albeit in football rather than the small-sided game.
Goalkeeper Rylee Godbold, Macey Fraser and Grace Wisnewski were all members of the New Zealand squad that recently qualified for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup while Jenna Dodd has also represented her country at secondary school level.
“I’m very happy with the balance of the squad, which is full of talent and potential,” Naicker says. “It’s important to note we have identified a number of talented players across the country and, while we can only name 10, the future is bright for the programme as a whole.”
Naicker hopes the professional habits and winning mentality of those players who have tasted international football will rub off on the rest of the group.
“We are venturing into the unknown so any experience on the international stage is welcome. They’re coming off a successful campaign so hopefully they can carry that confidence into our squad,” he says. “However, it’s important we remember this will be a new experience for all of the players and we need to focus on the group as a whole.”
Selection for both squads was based on performances in the national league and age-group competitions and, with regulations dictating only ten players could be named, Eakins says whittling the numbers down was hard.
“The most challenging part was not being able to select the usual squad of 14 and that has meant some very good players have missed out,” he says.
Although both teams are age restricted, most of the male line-up has already starred at senior level for their federations.
“For example, Logan Wisnewski was a standout for WaiBOP in the national league last year,” Eakins says. “The balance of the squad is flexible and it will need to be with the small numbers. Each player brings key strengths relative to their position and will all play an important part in our success.”
As a Futsal Whites veteran, Eakins has been involved with the international scene for a number of years and still has to pinch himself at the remarkable progress that has been made in that time.
“To now have a clear pathway with the U-18 teams through to the Futsal Whites and Futsal Ferns is only going to create more growth and opportunities for players wanting to play at the highest level,” he says.
“Looking back to when I started my career to the opportunities now, it’s hard to believe we have come this far as a futsal nation already. What I am looking forward to over the next couple of months is seeing all of the New Zealand representative players going out on the court and believing we can achieve great things.”
New Zealand U-18 Women’s Futsal National Team
Rylee Godbold (WaiBOP Futsal)
Ella O’Connell-Biddlecombe (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Abigail Murphy (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Jenna Dodd (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Macey Fraser (Canterbury United Pride Futsal)
Emily Gillion (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Grace Wisnewski (WaiBOP Futsal)
Lily Fisher (Canterbury United Pride Futsal)
Tilly James (Central Futsal – Manawatu)
Hannah Reddy (Northern Football Federation Futsal)
Head Coach: Ronan Naicker
Assistant Coach: Tania Neill
Team Manager: Lauren Harkerss
New Zealand U-18 Men’s Futsal National Team
Patrick Steele (WaiBOP Futsal)
Chris Preece (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Ethan Martin (Central Futsal – Hawke’s Bay)
Logan Wisnewski (WaiBOP Futsal)
Adam Paulsen (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Michael Plim (Capital Futsal)
Aidan Robson (Central Futsal – Hawke’s Bay)
Oban Hawkins (Northern Football Federation Futsal)
Sam Wright (Capital Futsal)
Arzan Todywalla (Auckland Football Federation Futsal)
Head Coach: Marvin Eakins
Assistant Coach: Bakr Al-Saudi
Team Manager: Todd Bryant