As New Zealand experiences immense growth in futsal at all levels across the country, AFF Futsal representative Maxine Cooper has put football aside to solely focus on the game she loves in a bid to wear the Silver Fern.
The 21-year old Wellingtonian relocated to Auckland in 2014 to study at the University of Auckland and turned out for Eastern Suburbs AFC in the Lotto Northern Regional Football League.
In 2015, Cooper plyed her trade with Wellington United, so it is no surprise that the weekly flights to the capital city took a toll on her, resulting in dropping the sport and focussing solely on the indoor version of the game in 2016 and beyond.
“When I started University, playing both football and futsal got to much,” explains Cooper.
“The reason I have gone with just Futsal is because it takes everything I liked about football and combines it into one game.”
“I love the speed of futsal and the skill involved. It’s a much faster game than football. The ball speed is faster, everyone is sprinting faster and you have to think a lot faster on the ball.”
This weekend, Cooper will go head to head with the best female talent in the country at the New Zealand Football National Women’s Futsal League and she hopes Auckland can come away with a gold medal, something she last achieved with the Auckland U-19’s in 2014.
“Obviously we’d like to win. We’ve been training hard and we’ve got an awesome squad. It would be really cool to finally win, considering we come second a lot.”
Since Cooper’s last national title with AFF Futsal in 2014 she believes she and her fellow team mates have developed as players both tactically and technically under the guidance of coaches Nic Downes and Marvin Eakins.
“I think I speak for most of the girls who have been playing for a while now, that we’ve developed a deeper understanding of futsal and what it’s about.”
“We’ve transferred from just solely football players to futsal players. We understand the combinations more, and have a lot more skills and plays up our sleeves that we can use.”
“I also think futsal as a whole has got significantly bigger, there’s so many girls playing it now and the skill level has massively increased which is so noticeable at every tournament.”
Futsal doesn’t stop for Cooper and many of her team mates after the National Women’s Futsal League with the National University Futsal Championships in April and a Futsal Ferns side being established in the not so distant future.
“After this I have uni nationals, so hopefully University of Auckland can beat AUT and making the Futsal Ferns would also be a massive goal for me this year.”
The National Women’s Futsal League takes place from February 24-26 in Wellington, with AFF Futsal being drawn with Mainland, Central Futsal Hawkes Bay and Northern in pool B.