In the first of many interviews we hope to have here in Futsal4all, we are very pleased to kick things off with a long time NSW Futsal personality and a very strong advocate for the sport as a whole, Robert Varela.
Rob has over 20 years experience coaching Futsal in Australia, and continues to be a respected, influential and outspoken member of the Futsal community.
F4A : Rob first of all thanks for taking the time to answer our questions today. For the readers of Futsal4all who may not be familiar with you, what is your background in Futsal and how did you get started in it?
RV : After finishing my playing career with Melita Eagles and then Cumberland Utd in the South Australian State League I coached outdoor in Sydney for a couple of years.
I started coaching Futsal back in October 1985 at the Revesby YMCA. I was coaching Melita U13’s outdoor and we decided to play Futsal during the off season. We went on to win the competition easily, 6 players got into the NSW team and 3 travelled to Canada with an Australian team, and I have not looked back since.
F4A : You are known as a very passionate an involved proponent of Futsal, why Futsal over Football?
RV : I believe it is a more exciting game to play and watch. As a coach you can have an immediate effect on how the game pans out. Futsal is a very resilient sport; it has survived many rifts, poor administration and the ignorant rejection of many football coaches. I can see that as we continue to work to improve those areas, Futsal can ,and will, take its rightful place in the Australian sporting landscape.
F4A : What led you to becoming a coaching advisor to the Solomon Islands National Team during their World Cup Qualification phase?
RV : My involvement with the Solomons goes back to the year 2001 when we travelled to Honiara for the first time to formally introduce the sport to them. At the time the country had just come out of a very bitter civil war, the tension as they called it, and at the Dural Sport & Leisure Centre and Dural Baptist Church we used the sport of Futsal to bring people together in all aspects of human life: physical, emotional, relational and spiritual.
I have visited the islands several times to conduct coaching clinics and courses. I coached the Men’s team in the OFC 2004 qualifiers in Canberra, but the long term plan was always for the initial group of very talented kids we discovered during our first visit, to form the nucleus of the team in 2008.
RV : It is disappointing not to be able to finish off the job. In saying that, the coaching staff have all the right in the world to pick and choose who they want to assist them. I will still be barracking very hard for them and I am sure the boys will do their very best to make their nation proud.
F4A : How have you found the World Cup ‘Roller Coaster’ so far.
RV : The tournament in Fiji was very exciting. We knew we had a very good chance to make it to the World Cup, and once we got there it was a mixture of elation and relief about the fact that we had been able to repay the great support we received by expat islander in Suva and the people back home.
F4A : having been involved in Futsal fo so many years now, what is the best personal moment you’ve experienced in the sport?
RV : There have been many. Being able to help teams win National championships has been very satysfying and the results we have achieved over the years at Dural have also been a highlight.
Going through a tour of Brazil undefeated, 7 wins and 3 draws, with An australian U/14’s team back in 2000 is at the top of the pile.
F4A : Were there many names in that u/14s team we would recognize today, or have they all moved on to other things?
RV : Trent Monkerud has played with Western Raiders and Jay Digger with South Coast and Eric Simeoni played on briefly with Quake. Most of the others I have not seen around the courts except for a lad from ACT
F4A : From either a coaching or playing perspective, what was the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in terms of Futsal.
RV : Never to assume that there is no more to learn and to treat all players fairly, because we coach people first and players second.
F4A : Your track record with the Dural Warriors squads is amazing, in particular the Youth players for a number of years. Do you have a preference on coaching a certain age group, or is it just a case where the Youth team is the most obvious accumulation of many years of you coaching those players up through the grades?
RV : I enjoy coaching Youth teams because they are technically able to play a sophisticated level of game and their attitude is generally very good, by that I mean they are yet to reach the stage where they think no more coaching is needed.
F4A : Are you involved with all age groups for Dural now, or just concentrating on the more senior age groups?
RV : I am looking after the 12 Boys, Youth and Men as well as being there for all the other coaches if they need any help.
F4A : So given your exposure to the game from a coaching and player development perspective how do you currently see the overall state of the game in Australia, are we headed in the right direction?
RV : We need to decide on a style of play that suits us, demographically and culturally. The two best Futsal playing countries in the world are obviously Brazil and Spain; they both play a dimetrically opposite type of game.
We all admire the Brazilian ball playing wizardry. That style is honed upon many hours of contact with the ball on a daily basis from a very young age. It is a style which is very difficult to coach and nearly impossible to reproduce given the small amount of time our kids spend kicking a ball around compared to the Brazilian children.
On the other hand the Spanish play a very polished technical game underpinned by their ability to keep possesion at speed and under pressure, backed up with a superior tactical approach. That style, in my opinion, is much better suited to our circumstances and it is one that we can reproduce with our players.
The biggest hurdle we need to overcome in Futsal is not the lack of a National League, or more money in the sport or the players’ involvement with Football, they are all part of the icing on the cake. We need to convince our coaches, who are the ones to lead the charge in improving the playing standards, that what we know about Futsal is just the tip of the iceberg.
We all have the need, and the obligation, to continually educate ourselves and make ourselves into the best coaches we can be by being open to attaining knowledge and being proactive enough to put that new knowledge into practice. Our players will thank us for it.
F4A : Where to for you next in terms of your Futsal life? Concentrating on Super League duties or bigger plans afoot?
RV : Super League presents the challenge of trying to lift the Dural Warriors into the Premier League. We are under no illusions of how difficult a task that will be; there are many well credentialed clubs that will make life hard for us this season.Putting the final touches to a coaching book is also taking up a great deal of my “leisure” time. I think it will be finished in the next couple of weeks and I certainly believe that it could be of help to coaches of all levels.
I have recently been appointed Futsal Development Officer at Football NSW and that is keeping me very busy. That appointment has afforded me the opportunity and platform to share the ideas and knowledge that I have been fortunate to gather through my involvement with overseas courses and workshops.
Also I think I will have more opportunities to help reproduce what we have done in the Solomons in other parts of South East Asia.
F4A : The Coaching book sounds interesting, are you able to shed any more light on that at this stage?
RV : Basically it is a compilation of all the information I have gathered over the years, paying special attention to the stuff from the Spanish Level 1 course I did online and several online and live in workshops I have been involved in run by leading Spanish coaches.
The Spanish Level 1 course is their equivalent to our level 2 but it involves 200 hours of theory and 250 hours of practical work if you were to do it “live”. I have tried to convey as much information as I could in a very practical way with lots of diagrams and illustrations.
Getting a book published can be quite expensive so i have decided to put it out on a CD. Hopefully it will be well accepted by coaches and in the schools.
F4A : Congratulations on the Futsal Development Officer role. The Football NSW Futsal department has received quite a hammering amongst the very vocal NSW Futsal community over the past few years (be that fairly or unfairly), at times the initiatives from Futsal NSW have felt like a two steps forward two steps back situation. Can you let us know a bit more on what your role will involve, and can you see things improving there?
RV : We are looking at building on the work previously done in this area.
At the moment we are concentrating in running several Level 1 coaching courses prior to the start of the Premier/Super Leagues. I understand we are in the service industry and I will endeavour to make myself available to help out as much as possible in areas where clubs and coaches feel that they require assistance.
I see the passion shown by the Futsal people as a positive thing. In saying that, it needs to be tempered with knowledge of what drives certain situations and at times that knowledge is not displayed in some of the comments made.
In the past few days I have had the chance to chat informally with people from many clubs as they drop into the office. That is good, but the only way to keep people happy is to provide the best possible service we can; and as they say “the proof will be in the eating of the pudding”.
F4A : Thanks again for your time Rob. Good luck to all of your teams in the upcoming Super League season, we hope it is a successful one for you.
Note : This interview made the news page of Futsal Planet (http://www.futsalplanet.com/news/news-01.asp?id=9557)