Fastest-growing sport holding nationals here (NZ)

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newswire.co.nz

The excitement of the ASB Futsal National League hits the capital this weekend, as Wellingtonians get their taste of New Zealand’s fastest-growing indoor sport.

Wellington’s Capital Futsal will battle it out with six other federation teams at Kilbirnie’s ASB Sports Centre to find the national champions.

On Saturday, teams will play out their final round-robin matches, with the playoffs to be held on Sunday afternoon.

Auckland side AFF East City are seen as favourites to take out the title, having gone through undefeated after two rounds.

However, Capital Futsal will be eager to triumph on their home court.

“We managed to beat East City in the semi-final last year, so given we reach the final stages of the competition, we’re confident of repeating history,” says Capital Futsal manager Chris Plowright.

The Wellington side are in fifth place after two rounds.

They finished runner’s up in last year’s inaugural tournament behind Sydney-based Maccabi Hakoah.

However in Auckland, Capital Futsal showed steady improvement and they aim to win all of their round three matches.

A positive outcome of this weekend’s tournament is that the region’s growing number of young futsal players will be able to view the sport at the top level.

Capital Futsal’s hard-working squad has a number of current and former Futsal Whites, who are New Zealand’s national futsal side.

An eclectic range of skills will be on display, with players of Japanese, Serbian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Iranian, Australian, Brazilian and Argentinean heritage taking to the court.

Originating in South America during the 1930s, futsal comes from the Portuguese words futebol de salao, meaning indoor football.

The sport teaches the imaginative skills made famous by Brazilian players in particular.

Brazilian Enrico Meirelles, who plays for Capital Futsal, says developing futsal will be vital for future New Zealand football success.

“Futsal teaches you more skills because there is less space,” he says.

“So you touch the ball a lot more than on a big field. You’re not 50 metres away waiting for your turn with the ball.”

Footballing icons such as Pele, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have all acknowledged its positive role on their own football development.

“Everyone in Brazil starts with futsal. At school we don’t have big fields to play football, so we play futsal in the gym or on the courts.

More people play futsal in Brazil than football,” says Enrico.

His real passion is teaching. He has earned a coaching licence from the Brazilian Association of Football Coaches, as well as a degree in Physical Education from Estacio de Sa University.

The Brazilian has teamed up with Wellington Phoenix players Daniel and Diego to train children at Wellington’s Samba Futsal Academy.

The Academy holds coaching sessions with 6-13 year olds of all levels of ability. Its mission is to improve the futsal skills of young New Zealanders.

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