Hanh Tran: “I have a passion for providing a voice for women in sport”

Hanh Tran is a familiar voice across Football Victoria, having served as the original Series Futsal women’s broadcaster. Hanh has become well intertwined within women’s football across the state.

An advocate for women’s football, she has effectively singlehandedly shone a spotlight upon women’s futsal.

Throughout her established commentary career, Hanh has had broadcast involvement in finals, cup competitions and League matches across both indoor and outdoor women’s and men’s football competitions.

Speaking to Soccerscene, she discussed topics including being a commentator, what her dream is as a commentator, and the changes she would like to see in Australian womens football.

Tell me about yourself as a commentator.

Hanh Tran: I have been commentating on women’s soccer for a little over 5 years.  I first began commentating on woman’s futsal for the Series Futsal Victoria Women’s league, played at Futsal Oz.

At the time the Men’s competition had weekly commentators calling their game and the women’s did not.  I was also a player for the women’s league at the time.

I felt that the woman needed a voice to help boost and build their game, so I then made the initiative to jump on the mic and give commentating a try with the encouragement from owner Peter Parthimos I was in the box commentating my first week after.

In the beginning, it was all voluntary work and was more than happy to provide my time each week as it was something that I loved doing and the players enjoyed watching the game with commentary on it.

In late 2019 Football Victoria held an information seminar for women in media. This opened a huge door for me to help bring my commentating to a new level and provide me with a new challenge.

I was invited to join the Football Victoria commentary team for the upcoming 2020 season of NPL and NPL Women’s.

Unfortunately, due to COVID, I couldn’t make my debut to call the NPLW games that year. Fast forward to 2021 and I have been on the roster for most of this season calling the NPLW games.

I have a passion for providing a voice for women in sport, where at times there has been a male broadcaster calling female games. I feel the industry is in the progression of providing opportunities for diversity.

Growing up, I played every sport that was provided to me and loved being part of the community of sport.

When I watch I hear sports on the TV or radio, I’m so intrigued by the commentators and the way they capture the audience and entertain us in their own unique way when calling the game. I’m always listening out to different techniques and phrases that they use.

I remember watching the Matilda’s vs Vietnam in the Olympic qualifying match and made myself a personal goal to one day commentate a Vietnamese vs Australia football game.

Being from a Vietnamese background, that would be a dream come true. To represent Vietnam, Australia and be the voice for women’s football.

I want to be the pioneer of a Asian background and be a role model for future generation of commentators and media personnel.

What is something with women’s football you’d like to see change?

Hanh Tran: I would love to see more promotion and increasing the exposure of women in the media and to boost diversity in the industry.

I found there was a lack of content to champion and showcase the female players; and most of these outlets were hosted mainly by men.

More games being streamed, especially VPLW. More podcast, reels, panel shows. Pre game and post game interviews.

Advertisement of the players and their clubs, introductory videos of the clubs and teams, similar to USA college basketball and NFL and side line reporters.

What are your thoughts on the Nike Cup competition?

Hanh Tran: Love to see a VPLW team to get to the finals. One of the best quality games we’ve seen in a long time. 2 penalty shoot outs and 3 games going to extra time. They’ve been very close games.

Great exposure to smaller clubs that normally don’t get much limelight. FV have invested time and energy this year to make the cup stand out for the womens game.

Where would you wish to see growth within football in Australia?

Hanh Tran: More investment in the A league and growing the women’s game. So much support goes to the Matilda’s, but then no huge return of money invested in the A league.

Need more growth and international players come to the A-league to grow the game internationally to make it more entertaining.

Similar to what cricket did with the Big bash. Try something fun and exciting to bring in new and young viewers.

90 minutes is a long time to concentrate on a game that is low scoring, something that can bring in new football fans to watch the game.

A more sense of community and excitement, or collaboration with the men’s games, more double headers. The All-Star game was a hit against Arsenal, that will draw in more viewers and spectators.

Peter Parthimos talks origins of Futsal Oz and its current status

Futsal in Australia is a sport that despite its chaotic, fast-paced and unmissable nature, tends to get misaligned within the plethora of sport the nation enjoy upon a commercial scale.

Participation is immense across multiple sporting organisations who operate indoor futsal competitions. Futsal Oz in particular, is the pinnacle of the latter.

Regarded by many as the premier futsal competition across the country, talent from futsal-rich nations across the globe now reside within clubs participating in both of the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.

Futsal icon Falcão, Brazilian and former Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa, “The Doctor” Andre Caro – are just some of the many icons within the sport in whom have taken to a futsal court founded by Parthimos. With newly-founded talent emerging, the sport is on the precipice of unimaginable heights.

Peter Parthimos embodies futsal through his instinctive and optimistic nature. The Futsal Oz founder has spearheaded the growth of the indoor variation of football to unparalleled heights in Melbourne.

His ambitions surrounding the sport are on the verge of coming to fruition. But before we showcase where exactly futsal within Australia may be steering, Peter took us on a comprehensive journey immersed in the origin of Futsal Oz, its current status, and development he has overseen throughout his tenure as a founder.

What is the origin story of Futsal Oz?

Peter Parthimos: In 2003, at the age of 29 – after a five-year hiatus from both outdoor and indoor football – I was invited by my friend Evan Robotis to join a social futsal team. Despite initial reservations about the rock-hard size three ball I remembered, I quickly fell in love with the game, intrigued by its potential and the joy it brought me.

After a match, my curiosity about the league’s structure led to disappointment upon discovering the lack of professional organisation and support. This realisation sparked an idea: We approached current indoor providers and the governing body to develop the sport. Unfortunately, none shared my enthusiasm. Consequently, in 2004, we registered the business name Futsal Oz.

Our first steps included securing a venue, and by chance, my old high school in Brunswick High School had a suitable gymnasium with a full-size basketball court.

After almost two years of negotiations with the relevant standing committee, we established our first Social and Junior Leagues in 2006, and in 2007, we launched the V-League Premiership, now known as Series Futsal Victoria.

Our team’s dedication and hard work paid off. In 2008, we opened the purpose-built Brunswick Futsal Stadium on Victoria Street, allowing us to run futsal leagues seven days a week and developed the culture we know today.

In 2013, we opened a second futsal stadium in Mt. Evelyn, and in 2014, we opened a third stadium in Thomastown.

At this stage, Futsal Oz and Series Futsal had grown into a thriving community, driven by the vision to elevate futsal to a professional level and share its joy and potential with others.

How did Futsal Oz reach its current distinguished current day status?

Peter Parthimos: Futsal Oz’s journey to where we are today has been marked by dedication, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Here’s a look at how we got here and where we stand today for those unfamiliar with Series Futsal and Futsal Oz.

In 2007, the V-League Premiership, now known as Series Futsal, was established. The opening of the purpose-built Brunswick Futsal Stadium in 2008 marked a significant milestone, enabling us to host leagues seven days a week.

These facilities provided top-notch venues for players, fostering a vibrant futsal community and enhancing the overall experience.

Series Futsal has grown into a premier futsal competition, attracting top talent and offering a highly competitive platform for players all over Australia.

Futsal Oz has introduced various initiatives, including professional coaching, youth development programs, and extensive media coverage, further popularising the sport.

In 2015, we started developing our own software sports management system called WeFroth. This enables players, managers, parents, and fans to see all tables, fixtures, and team and player statistics live – goal for goal.

WeFroth is a complete sports management system that can run any sport – including features such as live scoreboard, point of sale, inventory control, and rostering.

Upcoming features include messaging services, online shopping, and a dynamic website designed for user friendliness.

This project is very exciting and offers new franchises the opportunity to set up their very own Futsal Oz franchise via subscription. This is the future of sports management, and we are at the forefront of this innovation.

Futsal Oz and Series Futsal are at the forefront of the futsal scene in Australia.

We operate multiple futsal stadiums, including those in Brunswick and Thomastown, each equipped with high-quality courts and amenities.

Comprehensive leagues cater to players of all ages and skill levels, from grassroots to elite competitions.

This includes Social Leagues, Junior Leagues, and the prestigious Series Futsal. We are committed to nurturing young talent through our youth development programs, offering quality leagues, coaching, and structured training sessions.

Futsal Oz is a hub for the futsal community, providing a platform for players to connect, compete, and grow. We host regular tournaments, events, and social activities to foster a sense of community.

We offer extensive media coverage of our games and events, including live streaming and commentary, ensuring that futsal reaches a wider audience.

Our vision is to continue elevating futsal to new heights, with innovation of our software with plans for further expansion, franchising and collaboration with governing bodies, creating pathways to FIFA-hosted competitions and leagues, enhancing player development programs, improving refereeing and ongoing community engagement.

Did Futsal Oz experience setbacks throughout the pandemic?

Peter Parthimos: Despite being heavily impacted during the COVID-19 period, Futsal Oz had to realign its vision and direction, leading to further develop software that can include new private ownership and making available the dream for enthusiast just like myself to run and operate their very own Futsal Oz via a software subscription which can be done from any part of the world.

We have done all the development from start to finish, which will allow a smooth operation for anyone who wants a career as a Futsal Oz owner.

Futsal Oz and Series Futsal have evolved and become synonymous with quality, passion, and growth in the futsal world. We remain dedicated to advancing the sport for all who love and play it, both as a junior grassroots sport and for social league enthusiasts.

What is an aspect of the business you are most proud of?

Peter Parthimos: I am grateful to be able to discover and develop talented people on and off the court, seeing players come in as a junior and developing into leaders, some working alongside me and other leading their clubs.

I am also grateful of the amazing community we have discovered over the last 20 years, we have seen couples get together, we have seen their children develop and without doubt we have seen unbelievable respect for all cultures from all walks of life.

I speak on behalf of my wife, Effie, that we are both very grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to raise our own children, Evangelia, Elias and Nicholas in the Futsal Oz environment and business whilst pursuing my dreams and goals.

As difficult as this may have been at times, I always had my family close by. Overall, I am extremely proud of the Futsal Oz family we have all discovered.

George Katsakis: Back in his element

George Katsakis’ 38-year coaching resume places him as one of NPL Victoria’s all-time greats.

From his playing career into the early stages of his coaching where he worked up the ranks at many clubs, there was always a passion for coaching at the highest level.

Of course, it’s his 18 years at Heidelberg United that cemented his legacy as one of the greats, where he won the 2017 NPL Victoria Men’s Coach of the Year award and spearheaded Heidelberg United’s golden era.

The golden era involved winning a coveted NPL Australian championship, a National Premier League title, a Charity Shield, a Dockerty Cup triumph in 2017 and securing a treble of NPL Victoria Premierships in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

In 2015, he led Heidelberg United to the FFA Cup Quarter Finals stage after a fairy tale run and managed to reach that same point two more times in 2017 and 2018. One of the most special cup moments for the Bergers was the 2017 FFA Cup run and the famous 1-0 win against Perth Glory at Olympic Village in the Round of 32.

In an interview with Soccerscene, Katsakis discusses his fantastic start at Bentleigh Greens, his philosophy on player development, the future of coaching in Australia and the attributes he had to become such a successful coach.

You joined Bentleigh Greens in March – it was a shaky start, but you have settled the ship. What brought you back to coaching through Bentleigh Greens?

Katsakis: This is my 38th year in coaching at all levels so first and foremost, I was missing it. I know it was only a short break, but I suppose what really inspired me to get back into it was the chain of events and the way I was released from Heidelberg that really made me think about where I am in football and where I need to be.

Obviously, I’m always aspiring to be at the top level but with Bentleigh Greens, I know the history of the club, I know their achievements over the last decade if not more and had some great teams, some great coaches.

After their phone call, they were convincing to me that they were looking to get promoted and back to the top flight, and I thought it was a no brainer. It inspired me to take a team that was struggling and hopefully steer the ship to a promotion or to a lot of improvement.

At the moment all we can say is that we’ve improved dramatically. Myself, the experience has come in and settled things that were not previously addressed earlier on and now obviously the results are flowing. It’s been a great transition for me.

In terms of player development, how do you go about that as a head coach? 

Katsakis: I think this is a great topic at the moment in Australian football. A lot of my emphasis at Heidelberg over the last 18 or so seasons was to try and introduce a pathway to players through the senior team but also paying a lot of attention to our u18 and u23 programs.

It was important to blend what I could foresee being the future of the club with the senior players, try and bring them in through that avenue and make sure they’re steered one by myself and my assistants and two and very importantly, by the senior players.

One of the fundamentals of kids developing is their environment and the people around them. If you have got the right group, as I did at Heidelberg for many years, there will be success.

I had a group who bought into our culture and accepted the fact that young kids were going to come through and help them through that development. There’s quite a few that I can possibly name that have taken the next level and next step.

Looking at the current coaching ecosystem, do you see players transitioning well into coaching and do you see coaching improving in the future?

Katsakis: It’s exciting because I now know of maybe 10 or more young aspiring coaches that are coming through. A classic example is certainly Andrew Cartanos, but I also have to mention the likes of Nick Marinos who’s taken the reigns at Port Melbourne, Luke Byles who’s become my assistant, Steven Pace is at Eltham Redbacks. So there’s quite a few coming through.

It’s great because they’re just added value, away from their coaching they can actually relive their football through those youngsters, and it makes them understand what it takes to make it at the top level.

After all the success at Heidelberg United, for any aspiring coaches, what were the attributes you had that made you so successful as a coach?

Katsakis: When I first got into coaching a very experienced coach from England said a couple of things to me that I took on board. The most important thing for me is to be humble and to understand that at any point in your coaching career, whether you’re a 20, 40 or 70 year old, you’ve got to be able to accept the fact that you’re going to learn every day.

Every day there is something new that you’re challenged with as a coach and accepting the fact that you keep learning until the day you retire, I think is very important.

We all learn from each other and generally in life as well as in football, we’re not born to know it all. Accepting that your philosophy, or someone else’s philosophy, or their techniques, or the way they coach, or their persona, whatever they bring to the table. If you can take a little bit from everyone’s leaf and add it to your booklet, it’s probably the most important part of coaching.

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