They stumbled into futsal just 10 months ago but 16-year-olds Jan Fischer and Harvey Mills are already stamping their marks on the game.
The Auckland pair are the youngest of seven new caps in the Futsal Whites and are looking forward to matching their skills with Australia’s 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup-bound Futsalroos during the Trans Tasman Cup at ASB Stadium in Kohimarama which starts tonight.
Their shared introduction to the game came about purely by accident.
“We were both playing outdoor football for East Coast Bays and there was a futsal open day at Massey University,” Fischer says.
“We went along and I got signed up for a national league team because one of their coaches was there, then Harvey came on board about a month later.”
They may be inexperienced but the duo are clearly not lacking in talent after beating out dozens of other players for their spots in the side following training camps held in Auckland, Timaru and Wellington during the year.
“It’s something I stumbled into again,” says a humble Mills.
“Originally I was left out of the first camp because of an injury so it was a bit of a shock when I got called up in the second camp and then into the actual team but I must have done something right.”
With their roots in football, the pair say effectively switching between the two codes comes down to adjusting their techniques.
“Because each game requires different skills you have to just tweak your technique a bit,” Mills says.
“You have to be a lot quicker and the movement is different in futsal, that’s the big thing, the speed of the ball is a lot quicker and has to be a lot sharper. It’s more unforgiving. You can get away with a lot more in outdoor. You can afford to make more mistakes and you can carry one or two players. In futsal you just can’t have that. Everyone has to be on the same page, the same wavelength.”
For Fischer, the switch means taking the basics of football and making minor adjustments.
“Things like, in futsal you never stop the ball with the outside of your foot, it’s always sole controlled. When you are going from futsal to outdoor it’s a lot easier than going the opposite way. That’s why you see a lot of the South American countries developing their players through futsal, because it’s more technical and more of a thinking game.”
While both admit to being nervous ahead of their first internationals, they are pleased to be facing such highly-regarded opposition and believe they are ready to be competitive.
“You can’t get much higher than playing for New Zealand,” Fischer says.
“Obviously, we’re playing Australia and they are at that World Cup level so these are good matches for us to see where the international standard is at.”
Mills is confident they will be able to bridge that gulf.
“We expect that step up because our coach Scott Gilligan has also been the coach of Australia so he knows how they are playing,” he says.
“He knows the level we need to train at, how to counter their attacks and defences and he’s taught us how to cope with them. It’s just matching their level that is our goal really.
“If we can compete at one game, or a couple of games, and get a good result we can really prove we can match that level. And that is what we are aiming for, trying to qualify for the World Cup in four years’ time.”