The seventh edition of the NZF National Youth Futsal Championships is set to take place with over 700 players gathering in Palmerston North from Friday, each harbouring hopes of catching the eye and one day wearing the silver fern.
The biggest event on the New Zealand futsal calendar will run over three days this weekend with nearly 60 teams from each of New Zealand Football’s seven federations battling it out at Central Energy Trust Arena.
A national title is up for grabs in four boys’ categories – U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-19 – and two girls’ competitions, U-15 and U-19. Some of the participating teams will also get the chance to take on opponents from across the ditch with several teams from Australia in the mix.
“The National Youth Futsal Championships are the flagship futsal event for us,” NZF Futsal Development Manager Josh Margetts says of the competition, which is also supported by Sport Manawatu and the Palmerston North City Council.
“This is the one event where we can test how our player, coach and referee development programmes are performing, as well as provide a quality environment to perform within.”
The tournament is a key part of New Zealand Football’s player development pathway for futsal and that aspect has become even more pertinent for this year’s edition. News of a Futsal Ferns women’s national side and U-18 national teams, both male and female, was officially released this month, giving the young stars taking part in the championships every reason to try to impress.
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Futsal Whites captain and Auckland Football Futsal Development Manager Marvin Eakins will be on hand in a talent identification role as the process of ear-marking players for the newly-established national teams steps up a notch.
Eakins is looking forward to seeing who puts their hand up to be involved.
“The youth nationals are a great opportunity to see the best players in their age groups representing their federations in a competitive environment,” he says.
“National events like this are crucial for providing players with an opportunity to showcase their abilities. With four New Zealand teams now in place, we will be looking out for players who look like they can perform at an international level. Futsal-specific habits, as well as the ability to make effective decisions on the court consistently, are some of the attributes that can make a player stand out.”
While there is now more reason than ever for each player to impress, the talent identification process has already been ongoing for a long time with all New Zealand Football futsal events closely monitored for the past two years, as well as regional input being provided by the federations.
Eakins believes the introduction of the new national teams is a very exciting development for futsal in this country and is the result of a huge amount of effort behind the scenes.
“The launch of the Futsal Ferns and both U-18 sides is a testament to the growth of the game in New Zealand, which has not happened by accident,” he says.
“The systems New Zealand Football has put in place have created an environment in which the game has flourished thanks to the great work of our passionate futsal people around the country. Establishing a clear pathway is an amazing outcome with aspiring futsal players now able to strive to represent their country.”
Margetts says the continued popularity of the National Youth Futsal Championships is further evidence of the outstanding work being done to help achieve New Zealand Football’s goal of making futsal the nation’s biggest and best small-sided sport.
“Seeing all the federations represented at the championships is indicative of the amount of attention that each of them has put into growing the indoor version of the beautiful game,” he says.
“Week-in, week-out, we are now seeing countless hours of development work and training going in from the staff, volunteers, coaches, referees, parents and players. It will be fantastic to see it all come together under one roof this weekend.”
NZF Futsal National Youth Championships
Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North
Friday 14 July to Sunday 16 July
LIVE streaming of selected games is available here
The full draw and results are available here
To follow all the action please visit www.facebook/NZFFutsal