TR: Over the years the standard has had its ups and downs. A few different things have impacted directly and indirectly. Having separate bodies administering the sport definitely causes areas of the game to weaken yet allows others to strengthen. However I think the real contributor to the standard of play comes down to competition rules, game tactics and I think the most important thing I have noticed as a player is the standard of coaching and education as a Futsal player. Needless to say, at home in Sydney the standard of the senior game has been consistent and since playing my first comp game all the way back in the 2005-06 FNSW State League season it has been improving steadily. Over the years we have lost many talented players to fulfill their outdoor football dreams. Girls such as Joanne Burgess, Kyah Simon, Jenna Kingsley, Servet Uzunlar, Teresa Polias, Amy Harrison and Catherine Canulli are just a few examples. Although these types of players are hard to replace we have some very young, quick, fit and technically gifted girls coming through the ranks that also have a great level of Futsal knowledge. I feel the most recent FIFA Laws of the game (what we play under in the FNSW Futsal Premier League) have been an excellent contributor to reinforcing the purpose of Futsal and creates a much more attractive and exciting game of Futsal to watch and play.
FOz: What are you most looking forward to about the WFAFL Cup?
TR: I think I can confidently speak on behalf of majority of the girls here and say we are so pumped to have a tournament provided exclusively for females. However personally I am most looking forward to having about 90% of the countries best available and fit players in one venue at the same time! It has taken some time for any tournament to achieve this and that in itself excites me!
FOz: How do you see Futsal currently in Australia, How important is it for a Women’s National program to be created so there is a development pathway similar to the men’s?
TR: Unfortunately all I currently see is division. And it is hurting the forward progression as a whole for the sport within Australia. At the end of the day the people who suffer the most are the players. There isn’t much glory in being crowned champions of a tournament when you know you aren’t getting to play the best players the sport has to offer. That is what I really like about the concept of the WFAFL Cup. It’s a place where as players we can come together and try and bridge the dramas coming for the hierarchies of the sport and just play good Futsal with hopefully all of the best players the nation has to offer.
Like I mentioned before there is a lot of good but also a lot of not so good to come from all parties. It is vital for Australia to reignite a national women’s program. Not just for the simple fact “wake up FFA its 2012”. But for Futsal to have any further development in Australia we need to have elite pathways. We need to nurture the sport. We have seen how successful the Matildas have been in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and on the world stage. Is it co-incidence that many of our national representatives have come from Futsal? Has the outdoor women’s program been following the South American way of football without even noticing it?
After following the recent 3rd Women’s World Futsal tournament held in Portugal I noticed the AFC was represented by 3 nations; Japan, Malaysia and Iran. This tournament is being dubbed a prelude tournament before the inception of a Women’s FIFA Futsal World Cup hopefully in 3 years time. FFA should be looking at having a program going so that when the time arises to qualify for tournaments like these we already have an established core group of players who have international experience prior to the tournament and will be able to perform for Australia with the greatest chance of success. If we note back to when I mentioned the success of the Matildas at an AFC and international level, what would make Futsal any different? The Matildas are successful because we invested in equality earlier than other neighbouring nations and it appears it is easier to maintain a top ranking than it is to try and creep your way in as we have seen with the Socceroos and the Futsalroos.
At the end of the day we have a lot of talented players currently in the women’s age group and some fantastic juniors coming through. The only way we are going to retain players in the sport and to keep a strong Nationals tournament is to provide a pathway for players to be recognized and rewarded.
FOz: Enfield Rovers play in the Football NSW Futsal Premier League, which is regarded by many to be the best competition in Australia, how are the Rovers going this year?
TR: The league is great! Our competition is very unpredictable due to the amount of good players playing. Every team posse’s players with state level experience. Many of the clubs have Men’s players currently or previously in the sport giving back to the female game who have a wealth of experience under their belts as well.
We have only just passed halfway in the competition and we have seen some cracking upsets and results within the league. If you don’t show up on Saturday night ready to play your likely to get punished for it!
The women’s team had to rebuild slightly from last years Minor Premiership winning team as we lost a few players due to outdoor college scholarships, work commitments, and club movements. But when you lose some, you gain some and it took a while to get some rhythm back in the team. In turn we started the season slowly and were punished for some simple errors and had some tight losses. We are now currently sitting in 5th place. Sydney City Eagles (Parramatta Blues), Campbelltown Quake and Dural Warriors (Sydney Warriors) are all currently sitting above us. But there is plenty of fight left in this dog and we are at that point in the season where we have nothing to lose and we just play each round like it’s our last. We have the ability in the team to beat any opposition on our given day.
TR: We have a wide variety of players at Rovers but I think fans watching would be most excited by Sarah Yatim and her effortless silky smooth attacking style. At only 17 years old she has been stepping up and playing women’s since she was as young as 14 so she has grown to hold her own on the court. She is a pleasure to watch when she is in her element. And if nurtured properly she could be easily one of Australia’s best young talents. I would also keep an eye out for Niqui Caridad and Georgina Stylianou. In recent weeks they have really hit some form. Niqui has been one of the most consistent for us this season with a lot of ticker and will give you her absolute everything. Georgina on the other hand has a great balance of attack and defense and has the ability to pull something out of nothing.
FOz: Who do you think will be the team to beat the 2013 WFAFL Cup?
TR: From group A I think the team to beat will be Campbelltown City Quake. They are a team growing with experience year after year. They tick all the boxes of what a Futsal team should be; fit, quick, disciplined, strong on and off the ball, technical, clinical in front of goal and experienced at finals Futsal. The big thing for them is they play as a team and if you give them an inch they will take a mile. They also have the experienced head of Scott Gilligan (ex Futsalroo coach) overseeing the reigns as his son James leads the girls. Brisbane Futsal and Sydney Warriors will be dark horses of this group and Sydney Warriors Natalie Spirovski will definitely surprise opposition and be crowd pleaser. As her opposition I still get caught watching her thinking “what a freak of a player!”
From group B I think Parramatta Blues will be contending a top 2 group finish. They have a wealth of experience and are a very physically strong team. They will be hard to break down on a small court.
I’m not sure what to expect from the VIC teams but my knowledge of the other teams I truly believe this cup is anyone’s! The winner will be the team that has the most discipline and has the ability to use all areas of the court and finishes their chances.
FOz: What is the biggest obstacle women’s futsal players’ face?
TR: In Australia I believe one of the biggest obstacles is gaining equality at a national level from the official governing body of Futsal FFA as well as Futsal in general being seen as a sport in its own right. These obstacles then contribute to players leaving or losing interest in the sport. It also causes players to opt away from the governing body as privately owned organizations offer opportunities at all different ages for females and solely represent Futsal. This is where we experience a split in competition quality as our talent pool is spread far and wide. The other obstacles are funding, sponsorships, equality from referees when it comes to the physicality of the game. Yes, girls can also tackle firmly just like the boys! And the old saying “Women’s and Girls Futsal is boring and ugly to watch” – Something that occurs quiet regularly in outdoor football as well. To bridge these opinions we need to show that women can play quality attractive Futsal by the use of quality coaches that reinforce and teach Futsal skills, systems and tactics not outdoor on a Futsal court.
FOz: You attend the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Thailand as a supporter, how was that experience?
TR: It was unreal! I have never seen Futsal like it. I was lucky enough to see roughly 20 out of 24 of the participating nations play and just by watching I learnt so much more about the game. This sounds so dorky… (Laughs) I actually thoroughly enjoyed watching the countries warm up before their matches! Watching our boys play Italy and Argentina who are both ranked within the top 6 of the world really illustrated the difference between professional and amateur Futsal. The boys and coaching staff copped a lot of flack from people back at home about the results in both these matches but I think viewers were possibly focusing a lot of their attention on the mistakes Australia were making as apposed to how flawless the opposition were. They were complete freaks! The speed and accuracy of the game Australia’s opposition played with was faster than anything I have ever seen. I have watched plenty of Australian Futsal over the years; NSW Premier League, FFA Nationals, Vikings Nationals, F-league, I have even watched the Vikings Australian Men’s team play their AMF world cup qualifier in Malaysia in 2010 and none of these can match what I saw in Thailand. One of the guys I travelled to Thailand with can speak Italian. He passed the Italian team in the shopping centre and had a chat to them and after a giggle that yes you whooped our butts, the Italian players on their own accord reinforced positivity that even though that was the score Australia is coming back better and better every world cup. It’s no win but when the 3rd ranked country in the world is seeing improvements it speaks for itself. I spoke to an Italian fan in the stands and I explained to him the Aus boys were lucky to play 5 weekends of the year under the international stop clock rules, his draw nearly hit the floor. His jaw stayed down there when I explained the Australian budget for the entire World Cup campaign was less than what some of the Italian players get paid to play one season of professional Futsal. It was a real eye opener. But a fantastic experience that brought together a lot of Australia’s interstate Futsal community.
FOz: What’s one bit of advice you would offer junior girl Futsal players coming into the sport?
TR: My advice to junior girls and to junior girl’s parents is to play for a club where they are taught to play Futsal! Winning is fun but don’t make that your priority as a junior when they are the important years of development. I see too often in the young age groups a winning team is just a team with the biggest or quickest kid and the coaches instruction is “just give it to ______!”. Development is crucial for the child to progress through the age groups as they get older and if they aren’t learning Futsal skills and tactics and systems as they get older they will struggle to shine when they hit U16s, Youth Women and Women’s. But my biggest advice is don’t allow people to destroy your passion for the sport and ultimately play because you love it!!
FOz: Thanks for your time and Good Luck in the 2013 WFAFL Cup?
TR: Cheers guys! Thank you to the team at Futsal Oz! In particular Peter and Damian for believing in Women’s Futsal and a massive thank you to the Futsal Oz and WFAFL Cup sponsors for making this all possible. I really hope we don’t disappoint and this can be the start of something bigger and better!