Courtesy: NZ FootballFutsal Ferns lead launch of three new national teams
More talented Kiwis will soon get the chance to compete on the global stage in the rapidly-growing sport of futsal after the establishment by New Zealand Football of three new national teams, including a Futsal Ferns side for the country’s elite women.
Male and female age-group U-18 squads will also be introduced, complementing the existing Futsal Whites national men’s side and meaning a clear player development pathway to senior international level will now be available for both genders.
The introduction of the new teams arrives after a period of huge growth for the indoor small-sided game since it was brought under the umbrella of New Zealand Football in 2010. There has been a 340 per cent increase in playing numbers in the past six years with over 22,000 futsal players now registered and the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council officially recording futsal as having the largest percentage growth of all its codes throughout that time frame.
While all areas of futsal have flourished, the women’s game has experienced a particularly high rate of development with a 23 per cent rise in participation since 2015.
“With the rapid growth of futsal in New Zealand, especially in the women’s space, it is crucial to offer a complete player pathway for the women involved in the game,” says New Zealand Football Chief Operating Officer Dave Payne.
“The standard of the National Women’s Futsal League has progressed dramatically and this will continue to be a main focus for New Zealand Football as we look to strengthen the Futsal Ferns programme. We believe we have a strong talent pool to select from and, based on the ongoing talent identification so far, are very confident the Futsal Ferns will be competitive on the world stage.”
The group of players who make up the inaugural squad are set to create history but it will not be the first time New Zealand has been represented at women’s international level. A national side was put together to compete in the FISU World University Futsal Championships in Brazil a year ago and even earned the country’s first-ever point at a world event with a 2-2 draw against Kazakhstan, as well as taking a shock two-goal lead over defending champions Brazil before being defeated.
While there is currently no FIFA Women’s Futsal World Cup in place, the freshly-established Futsal Ferns will not have to wait long to make their mark with a three-match international Trans-Pacific Series against New Caledonia already lined up. These ground-breaking fixtures will take place in Tauranga from September 12 to 14 as exhibition matches as part of the AIMS Games, a nationwide event that brings together intermediate-aged children to compete in a range of sports.
Both U-18 national teams will also soon be in action on home soil at the inaugural OFC Youth Futsal Championship, hosted in Auckland from October 4 to 7. There is plenty for the teams to play for as that tournament doubles as the qualification process for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Player development is always at the forefront of our decision making and these national team programmes will offer our talented youth players another opportunity. It is extremely exciting and we are looking forward to seeing how this pathway is able to positively influence more junior and youth players to pursue futsal,” Payne says.
“The standard of the National Women’s League, university and youth championships is a good indicator that regional federation day-to-day development is rewarding us with a national talent pool.”
While the new national teams will be a key focus for New Zealand Football’s futsal department moving forward, the Futsal Whites have far from been forgotten and will join their female counterparts in taking on New Caledonia three times during the AIMS Games.
The AIMS Games themselves are a further example of the spread of futsal across the country with the number of girls teams doubling from last year and the boys growing by 30 per cent. More teams have come out of regions that had not previously been represented, indicating the game is gaining momentum in areas where it had earlier struggled to get a foothold.
In addition, the NZF National Youth Futsal Championships continue to attract huge numbers with over 700 players set to converge on Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North over three days from this Friday for the 2017 edition of the tournament.
“With the introduction of the new national teams, the talented young players that emerge from tournaments such as these now have a clear pathway right to the top and a range of opportunities that have never been on offer before,” Payne says.
“It is incredibly exciting for everyone involved and will stand the game in good stead as New Zealand Football continues in its aim of making futsal the nation’s best and biggest small-sided sport.”Upcoming Futsal National Teams Events
Futsal Ferns vs New Caledonia
September 12, 13, 14
ASB Baypark Arena, Tauranga
Futsal Whites vs New Caledonia
September 12, 13, 14
ASB Baypark Arena, Tauranga
New Zealand U-18 Men and New Zealand U-18 Women
OFC Youth Futsal Championship (qualifiers for 2018 Youth Olympic Games)
October 4 – 7
Bruce Pulman Park, Auckland
Posted by Luca Ranocchiari