The Maccabi NSW Futsal team heads to Vietnam this weekend to represent Australia in the qualifying tournament for the 2012 Asian Champions League, to be held in Abu Dhabi in May.
Maccabi Futsal club has had many highlight in recent years, including Jarrod Basger’s selection as a Futsalroo, our under-12s winning the NSW Super League, and wins for our opens side in the F-League, New Zealand national league, NSW Super League and at the European Maccabi Games in Vienna.
“This is the biggest challenge Maccabi Futsal Club has ever had,” said Gareth Naar, who will coach the side in Vietnam.
Team manager Peter Grunfeld added: “Here’s another great opportunity presented to these boys through Maccabi sport. A lot of these guys started their careers with Maccabi, and they can do their stuff on the international stage now and get a great chance to experience a different level of competitive sport.”
Maccabi Futsal Club was selected to represent Australian club futsal after winning the inaugural F-League competition. Their first task will be to take on the champions of Vietnam and China.
“We go out not just representing the Jewish community, but Australia and the futsal community,” Gareth said.
“There are definitely some nerves, and I think the guys are all realistic in terms of the challenge. But we’re up for it.
“At the Maccabiah in 2009, we held our own against the Israeli national side for a half, and we’re much better now and have learnt a hell of a lot under Steve Knight.
“And we also know it’s also a bit like the FA Cup – where minnows from lower leagues take on the giants. Anything can happen on the day.”
The challenge is a big one – up against players who play in high stakes leagues. The Vietnam club comprises the bulk of their national side, which lost 4-3 to Australia recently, while the Chinese champions have qualified via a 40-game league, during which they train six times a week.
Gareth, who has been part of the futsal club since day dot, says the challenges Australia’s representatives face should prompt Australian football to “boost the profile of the sport”.
“It’s amateurs against professionals, we realise that,” Gareth added.
“Given the current state of play with futsal in Australia, where it’s a really small sport for what it could be, we’re dealing with competition at a much higher level – but we’ll all come out better for it.
“We realise there are some very big differences to how we deal with the sport and how they do.
“Our boys play for the love of the game and we’ve got to respect their choices, but how can we train four or five times a week with guys contracted to outdoor clubs?
“Our goal is to really boost the profile of the sport in this country and in Asia. Hopefully our governing bodies can use what we’ve done as a platform so we can compete as I believe we could and should be.