Andre Caro: Meet ‘The Doctor’ of Futsal in Australia

Andre Caro, or ‘The Doctor’ as he’s known across his social media channels, has accumulated over a hundred thousand followers on Facebook and Instagram – a popularity that is matched by his passion for futsal.

Growing up in Brazil, the 31-year-old fell in love with the small-sided version of the game – beginning to play the sport when he was just five years old.

After years of playing at a good level in Brazil, for renowned futsal clubs such as Pulo Futsal Campinas, he moved to Melbourne at the age of 20 to initially study English for six months.

“The week I arrived in Australia I got my first job at Futsal Oz and that was my only job for the next 10 years,” Caro told Soccerscene.

“I was a junior coach, I ran futsal competitions, I still played in a top team and I helped organise major tournaments like the junior Futsal Oz nationals, which had over 140 teams in it.”

Alongside this role, Caro continued to build up his social media profile to help promote and spread awareness of the sport of futsal in Australia. Across his channels, he regularly posts skills videos, coaching drills and a wide range of other content including podcasts with key futsal figures.

“The whole idea of growing my social media was that futsal was not talked about in Australia for a long time,” he said.

“When I came here 11 years ago, no one knew about futsal. The only way to get the word across was through growing my social media.”

His strong knowledge of the game would also catch on substantially with an international audience, which led to a recent opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“I got an opportunity through my social media content last year. The senior head coach at Al Nasr Futsal Club in UAE, Rafael Fogageiro, asked me to become his assistant coach and also to become the head coach of the U20’s for a season.”

Overall, it would be a successful experience for Caro.

Al Nasr would end up finishing second in the UAE Futsal League, with the club winning the Etihad and Presidents Cup in the same season. The U20 team also finished second in the UAE League and won the Presidents Cup.

The 31-year-old explained that he learnt a lot in his time in Dubai, enjoying the challenge.

“It was just about working for a professional club again,” he said.

“Everything that comes with working in that professional environment, the pressure to perform and win. If you lose a couple of games, you could lose your job. We were lucky we had a very successful season and won a lot of trophies.”

Caro winning silverware in UAE.

Eager to return to Australia after the overseas coaching stint, he decided to begin his own futsal academy ‘Caro Futsal’ and get back to coaching kids, which is his main passion.

“Basically, I wanted to go back and start coaching kids and give back to the community,” he said.

“So, I got back in June this year and started my own academy. It’s been a good start even though we’re during covid – it’s just growing every day.”

Coaching thousands of players throughout his time in Australia, Caro finds joy in watching these individuals grow, but claims more must be done by administrators for the sport to flourish.

“We currently don’t have a national futsal team, FA cut the funds in 2019,” he said.

“There is currently no official national futsal league in Australia.

“The number of people playing futsal is always increasing, but the main issue is there is no real pathway to the national team or to an official national league.”

When it comes to a national league in Australia, Caro believes a conference type model should be an initial starting point before progressing further in the future.

“I think because Australia is a big country it will be hard to have a national league,” he said.

“We should be concentrating on starting a conference type league, where we have a strong state league in each state and the winners get together once a year or a period of four weeks for example.

“Because it will be hard overall as there’s not enough money for teams to travel around.

“I believe a conference system in Australia will be the best way to start and later on we could be looking at a fully national league.”

For now, however, ‘The Doctor’ is just looking forward to getting back onto the futsal court as Melbourne emerges from its sixth lockdown today.

“I can’t wait to get back out there and play,” he said.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

National Futsal Championships to return in 2022

Football Australia has announced today the return of the National Futsal Championships (NFC) in 2022.

Football Queensland (FQ) will host the 2022 championship, followed by Football Victoria (FV) for the 2023 edition.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson looks forward to growing futsal’s footprint in Australia after outlining a vision for a national program.

“As part of our clear strategic agenda, we outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with our Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner,” Johnson said.

“With the culmination of this process, we are delighted that Football Queensland and Football Victoria will be hosting the National Futsal Championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

“There is a clear appetite throughout Australia for football to increase its imprint through futsal and beach soccer. Queensland and Victoria now have the opportunity to showcase this and bring it to life over the next two years, in a way never seen before.”

By granting the hosting rights to different cities, Football Australia believes the NFC will be a national tournament.

The Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre will host the relaunched tournament on the 5th-9th of January 2022.

“The National Futsal Championships are a highlight of the Australian football calendar, and we are excited to stage next year’s event at the state-of-the-art Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

Anthony Grima, Football Victoria’s Head of Futsal, believes the announcement was a step towards achieving FV’s futsal strategy.

“This is a huge win for Futsal in Victoria and one for me that should be dedicated to the many amazing individuals who are at the heart of the Futsal community here in Victoria,” Grima said.

“Hosting the NFC will leave a lasting legacy for Futsal and football in Victoria and inspire and enable more people to take up this amazing sport.”

The recently announced Home of the Matildas features a international sized futsal pitch, and it could host the championship.

Kimon Taliadoros, CEO of FV, said this news ensures that Victoria remains the home of sport.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the people of Victoria. By hosting the National Futsal Championships, we will further enhance the state’s ability to host events and tournaments and support the Victorian economy by bringing interstate visitors back to Melbourne to experience the wide range of products, services and experiences that this great state has to offer,” Taliadoros said.

“Futsal has been on the national agenda for some time now, with Football Australia recently having released the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian football.’”

The return of the NFC will allow a pathway for players to compete against the best talent Australia has to offer.

Football Victoria CEO Kimon Taliadoros: “We have a demand for playing football exceeding the ability to provide opportunities”

Kimon Taliadoros played for some of Australia’s biggest clubs in the National Soccer League, and joined Football Victoria (FV) as president of the federation in 2015 before becoming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in February of this year. He spoke to Soccerscene about the challenges he has faced so far at FV, increasing participation in football, and how sport serves as an escape for many in our community.

Q. What challenges have you faced as CEO of FV?

Taliadoros: Football has the most significant challenges, however the most significant opportunities, because we part of the global game. Within Victoria, we have an extremely competitive marketplace with Melbourne effectively being the hub for Australian sport, and Australia’s national sports – cricket, AFL, basketball, and netball. The extremely competitive local market competing for resources, support and athletes remains the ongoing challenge for football.

Q. How can FV further engage upcoming athletes to win them over to football?

Taliadoros: We believe that if we can attract people to try football in any of its numerous formats – small-sided, full-sized, social football, futsal, boys, girls, men, women, people of all backgrounds and genders – and we can produce an enjoyable game day experience we can continue to develop that relationship with the sport, that will turn into a lifetime engagement with the sport in a number of different ways – as a player, as an official, as a volunteer or as a fan. We hope to engage with someone who enjoys the benefits of a lifetime relationship with football.

Q. How important is having pathways for inclusion in football?

Taliadoros: It is critical that football is accessible for all. It is Football Victoria’s obligation to ensure that it is available to everyone. From a gender perspective, we set ourselves a target of 50/50 participation by 2027 back in 2018, and we committed to achieving that not only from a playing perspective but also from a refereeing, coaching and administrative perspective. At the very heart of our purpose is to ensure the football experience is available to everyone who lives in Victoria.

Q. Phil Brown mentioned increased participation in Powerchair Football is a goal for Capital Football, does FV have any similar goals?

Taliadoros: We intend to expand all our programs in Victoria until we meet demand, including for blind football, AAA, women and girls, wheelchair and power football. This satisfies the goal of being accessible, which is a really important word, ensuring it is available for all. This covers a range of criteria, including the format, the cost, and the convenience. This has been the heart of our role as Football Victoria, as custodians of the game, and it remains our goal.

Q. The price of playing football in Australia is often discussed, how can we make it cheaper to play?

Taliadoros: It is a significant challenge for the football ecosystem. The football economy has historically relied on a user-pay system, so the grassroots has subsidised the football economy in Australia. There are two ways we can try to address the pricing issue. The first is to increase the supply of football, which would lead to a reduction in prices through more football more often, more clubs, and more facilities. The second element of that is being able to generate a football economy that results in the professional game being able to contribute to the development of football in much the same way as cricket, AFL, and NRL – the most popular professional sports in Australia – invest significantly in their communities.

Q. How do we achieve that?

Taliadoros: It’s the growth of our key brands. Our Socceroos, Matildas, our underage teams, and the FFA Cup. All those commercial brands and assets that are critical to being able to generate a commercial outcome that can be invested in grassroots to further develop and grow.

Q. Does the disruption from lockdowns have the potential to drive up prices and make football more inaccessible?

Taliadoros: Not necessary, the disruption may have an impact on clubs from an income perspective. From a sports perspective, the demand is high at all levels, increasingly so from a community sports perspective. Community sport is increasingly being recognised as essential to our social fabric, so that has resulted in a very strong interest in participation. I wouldn’t have thought that would have been an impact on cost, but certainly, it would have affected families in certain ways.

One area that has been affected, because it has had such a significant effect on small businesses, is the strain on clubs who typically rely on small businesses for sponsorship and support. There has been an impact on clubs from a revenue perspective. The other area we have seen impact is the number of volunteers. They have come in fewer numbers, which means the demands around COVID Safe community sport are considerably greater, so there has been an additional strain on clubs to put on their community football.

Q. We are seeing how important sport is to society, is football an escape for people in these times?

Taliadoros: Without a doubt. We know this because we’ve had three lockdowns, and for every lockdown we’ve had this year in Victoria, we’ve had constant demand on our communications that clubs are provided with the latest information to enable them to get back to playing as soon as possible. This is essentially driven by their players, their coaches, and their local communities. We have very strong evidence that community sport from a football perspective has a greater demand now, perhaps even more so than ever before.”

Q. What will be the biggest challenges for FV this year and going forward?

Taliadoros: Our biggest challenges remain the same as they have been for the past five years, and even before that. We have a demand for playing football exceeding the ability to provide opportunities. This generally means facilities, which is a challenge. The second greatest challenge is to ensure that we can drive effective take-up and participation from women and girls. We need to leverage the incredible Matildas, the home of the Matildas that is being built out at La Trobe, and the Women’s World Cup arriving in two years. Those are the two greatest challenges that will remain for Football Victoria.

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