NZ futsal team looking to cup
Futsal Whites captain Marvin Eakins is leading the national team to their goal of qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup in 2016.
The Royal Oak athlete, along with Mt Albert’s Ouadhah Ragued and Mt Eden’s Bakr Al-Saudi, is competing in the Oceania Confederation Futsal Invitational Championships running until tomorrow at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere.
It is the first time the event has come to New Zealand.
Futsal is a smaller version of the world’s most popular sport played on a court about half the size of a regular football field, with a smaller ball and only five players on each side.
The New Zealand team is yet to qualify for a world cup.
Oceania Football Confederation futsal development officer Paul Toohey says international competition can only be good for the New Zealand team.
Futsal is going from strength to strength in the Oceania region with more than 23,000 players in New Zealand alone.
The boom happened largely after Football New Zealand took futsal under its wing three years ago.
Futsal is now incorporated into football development programmes and attracts players from all fields, he says.
‘‘It’s all changing. People are starting to see it’s not just something to do when it rains. We’ve got a lot of specialist futsal players coming through.’’
In Europe, the game is professional which means tough competition at the world cup, Toohey says.
To get to that level, New Zealanders need to grab every opportunity to face international competition.
‘‘The whole idea of the tournament is to give the players the experience they need. They need to have as many games as possible.’’
Game on: Marvin Eakins leads the Futsal Whites who are competing at the Oceania Confederation Futsal Invitational Championships.
Go to centralleader.co.nz and click on Latest Edition to watch highlights of the match between New Zealand and Vanuatu from the OFC Futsal Championship in 2011.