AUCKLAND – Futsal Whites coach Scott Gilligan has named a 12-man squad to travel to Papeete where the final match of the three test international series is the feature of the opening ceremony for the Festival des iles.
The festival is a celebration of futsal and is the culmination of a competition that involves over 700 teams across various men’s and women’s age categories from the five archipelagos that make up French Polynesia.
Australian-born Gilligan is familiar with the host territory and has acted as a technical advisor to the national futsal team in 2008, which coincided with a fairytale campaign in Tahiti’s debut performance at confederation level.
“Tahiti holds a special place in my heart and I am thrilled to be able to take the Futsal Whites to where I regard as my second home,” said Gilligan.
“My experience in 2008 was probably the best I have had in my coaching career, Tahiti had never played futsal before and the majority of the national squad was from a tiny island called Rapa which is populated by just 500 people. The dream run ended with Tahiti finishing with a silver medal in Fiji.”
Tahiti is currently ranked second in Oceania after silver medal performance at the OFC Futsal Championship in Fiji in 2011. The two sides met in the semi finals of that competition with the match ending 3-3, only for New Zealand to suffer the heartbreak of a penalty shootout loss. Tahiti eventually lost the final to the Solomon Islands who qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup.
New Zealand last played at international level in the ASB Trans Tasman Cup which was held in Auckland in September last year. It was the first time that a FIFA-sanctioned futsal international was been played on New Zealand soil with ASB Stadium in Kohimarama hosting the matches.
Gilligan has named three new-caps in the squad with Mainland goalkeeper Atta Elayyan, Central Futsal Hawke’s Bay’s Daniel Ball and Matthew Edridge of Capital Futsal receiving their first call-ups.
“I was impressed with Daniel during Series One of the ASB National Futsal League and I brought him in for a couple of training sessions after a solid Series Two and he picked things up very quickly. I am confident he will improve and be an asset to the team,” Gilligan said of his new cap.
Elayyan was part of the wider squad during the ASB Trans Tasman Cup while he waited for his New Zealand citizenship to be processed, and is selected in place of long serving gloveman Clayton Chappell.
“New Zealand is blessed with very good goalkeepers. Atta has shown great improvement and he now has the opportunity to show what he can do at International level,” said Gilligan.
Edridge has come into reckoning following the recently completed series three in Wellington, following injury to Northern’s Jan Fischer who was originally named in the travelling squad.
Gilligan has trimmed his squad by four from the 16-man squad that played against Australia six months ago.
Miro Major, Mickey Malivuk, Harvey Mills, and Michael Sannum will not travel across the Pacific with Ball coming in for Jakub Sinkora, who is listed as a non-travelling reserve.
The tour follows the conclusion of series three of the ASB Futsal National League held in Wellington at the ASB Sports Centre in Kilbirnie from March 23 to 24. Northern won the title defeating Capital 2-1 after extra time in a thrilling finale to the national league.
The Futsal Whites will also have an eye on the 2013 editions of the ASB Trans Tasman Cup and the OFC Futsal Championship – which could involve teams from the Asian Football Confederation – scheduled for July in Wellington and Auckland respectively.
Futsal Whites squad for Festival des iles
1-David PLOWRIGHT (Capital Futsal)
12-Atta ELAYYAN (Mainland Futsal)
7-Marvin EAKINS (captain, Auckland Football Futsal)
8-Daniel BURNS (Mainland Futsal)
2-James VAUGHAN (Auckland Football Futsal)
3-Dylan MANICKUM (Auckland Football Futsal)
10-Lucas DA SILVA (Capital Futsal)
14-Tai BARHAM (Central Futsal Hawke’s Bay)
16-Bakr AL-SAUDI (Auckland Football Futsal)
21-Matthew EDRIDGE (Capital Futsal)
11-Daniel BALL (Central Futsal Hawke’s Bay)
13-Elliot COLLIER (WaiBOP Futsal)
Dave PAYNE – Head of Delegation
Scott GILLIGAN – Head Coach
Stephen HERON – Physio
Festival des iles
Tahiti v New Zealand
Match One: Friday, 29 March, 8pm (Mar 30 NZT)
Match Two: Sunday, 31 March, 5.30pm (Apr 1 NZT)
Match Three: Tuesday, 2 April, 8.30pm (Apr 3 NZT)