Is it time for a national agenda regarding Futsal?

Futsal has played a role in the development of famous football players. Is it time for national agenda regarding this format of the game?

Futsal has played a huge role in the development of some of the most famous football players on the planet. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar are three of the biggest names in game, who all honed their skills playing the small-sided game.

Even in Australia, one of our top talents – Celtic and Socceroo’s Tom Rogic – was an avid player throughout his youth. The country is currently without a national team for men or women, and those within the game argue that without a national agenda for futsal, Australia may fail to develop players of this calibre going forward.

According to former Futsalroo and South Melbourne Legend Fernando de Moraes, one of the biggest benefits to player development is the number of touches on the ball they receive, and this is an essential part of developing a complete and technically talented footballer.

“I’d say futsal isn’t important. It’s essential. It has to be a part of their development. The technique developed from playing futsal, you won’t get that in outdoor football. The technical skills, the small touches of the ball, the quick thinking. In the full-sided game, you don’t get enough of that sometimes,” he said.

Anthony Grima, head of commercial and futsal at Football Victoria, is at the heart of the development of the game within Australia. He believes that Australia needs a national road map for futsal to get the best out of the game.

“A roadmap for Futsal is crucial for the future success of the sport in this country. It would lay the foundations for the sport nationally and provide an aligned Futsal framework for all states and territories to follow,” he said.

“Priorities such as governance, grassroots and pathway programs, player, coach and referee development, Futsal national teams, a national Futsal League and more.”

De Moraes believes without a path for young players to compete against the best opposition, the game is losing out on developing players. Football Australia’s former iteration of a national futsal league, the F-League, is now defunct.

Fernando De Moraes playing in the F-League

“It all starts from if you don’t have a professional or national league, even a semi-pro league. If you have a pathway for the kids who want to join futsal in competitions around the country, these amazing kids can succeed. But obviously, there is no pathway for them. They get lost,” he said.

De Moraes is no stranger to international futsal, having been capped 29 times by his country. In the past futsal has operated on an ad-hoc basis, with national teams suffering from a lack of support and organisation. National teams were sometimes organized as representative sides without recognition from the professional bodies in Australia, especially for women.

“It was always a get-together one or two months before the competition, we’d train together maybe two times, and then we’d go overseas to play the tournament. To have a program, so you can organise sooner, get yourself ahead, and develop players would be brilliant,” de Moraes said.

According to Grima, the sport has suffered without a centralised and focused vision, however, success can be created by listening to the stakeholders of the game.

“There has been a lack of certainty over what role governing bodies should play in Futsal and what leadership they should provide,” he said.

“After the extensive consultation we did here in Victoria in 2019 with the game’s stakeholders – and getting a deeper understanding of best practice principles – it is clear that the sport must be aligned.”

Grima explains that while the game faces issues, Football Australia, and the state federations, have signalled improvements in the games pathways, while calling for a national agenda for the sport.

“I am delighted that Football Australia included futsal in Principle IV of the recently released XI Principles – for the future of Australian football. They call for the establishment of a national agenda for futsal and beach soccer and to investigate the creation of new products to grow the game. This is fantastic to see,” he said.

“Here in Victoria, like Queensland as well, we recently announced our futsal strategies and have stepped up our dedication to unite the sport and invest in the resources needed to govern Futsal in our respective states. Other states including NSW and ACT have long been dedicated to Futsal.”

The Futsalroos are currently inactive. Grima thinks there is a huge opportunity to launch a women’s national team under Football Australia.

“The FIFA Futsal World Cup is being held this year in Lithuania, it would have been great to see the Futsalroos participating,” he said.

“I believe there is a huge opportunity ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to introduce a national women’s team for Futsal as well. What a great legacy hosting the World Cup would bring here for Futsal as well.”

De Moraes believes that with the support of the state federations, futsal could become a huge part in developing players for the national team.

“Futsal is a great sport to develop players in this country. The amount of talent that gets lost and doesn’t end up playing because of a lack of opportunity is a missed opportunity. To make futsal a part of football, with the federation’s support, would be great to see.” he said.

Football Tasmania launches Coaching for Women Scholarship program

Football Tasmania Scholarship

Football Tasmania has announced the launch of their Coaching for Women Scholarship program, an initiative which reaffirms the state’s recent focus on female participation within the sport. The program is an important step towards growing participation across all areas of the game for women and girls.

The Scholarship aims to address the lack of female representation within the state and wider country’s coaching ranks, with women from clubs and associations with states encouraged to reach out and apply.

At least five female coaches will be provided with Scholarships and the subsequent opportunity to complete the Football Australia ‘C’ Licence course. This will consist of at least one participant from each region – North West, Northern Tasmania and Southern Tasmania.

Each Scholarship includes a $1,200 contribution towards the course fee for the FA ‘C’ Licence course. Additionally, successful applications will have their attendance to the 2021/22 coaches conference included in the Scholarship.

Going forward, coaches will receive continuous support from Football Tasmania’s Coach Development Manager, David Smith, and Female Development Officer, Debra Banks. The successful Applicants will be required to complete the Scholarship within 18 months and attend the 2021/22 Football Tasmania State Coaching Conference.

Furthermore, an opportunity will be potentially offered to participants of the Scholarship program to travel interstate as an assistant coach at the Girls National Youth Championship in 2022.

Plans to increase participation across all areas of football are what is driving the initiative behind Football Tasmania’s Women’s Scholarship program.

The state’s governing footballing body is seeking to increase female participation to at least 30% total, whilst raising the number of active coaches and referees with accreditation by 15%.

With this program, Football Tasmania have recognised the significance of the raising awareness of and strengthening of the pathways for players, coaches and referees. As a result, strong and effective relationships with clubs can be better maintained in order to deliver tangible value for all stakeholders. Moreover, initiatives that subsequently recognise and reward achievements and successes in the game at all levels can champion the game for the state as a whole.

For those interested, the application form can be accessed here.

Melbourne Victory W-League head coach Jeff Hopkins: “There are so many positive things happening in the game right now”

Hopkins spoke to Soccerscene about success in a season upended by the pandemic and the future of the W-League and women's football in Australia.

Jeff Hopkins coached Melbourne Victory to the most dramatic of wins in this years W-League final – a goal directly from a corner kick, in the dying seconds of extra time.

He speaks to Soccerscene about success in a season upended by the pandemic, his storied career throughout England, Malaysia and Australia as a player, plus the future of the W-League and women’s football in Australia.

Q: It must have been an ecstatic feeling to win the final the way you did.

Hopkins: Leading into the final, the week we had before that, was the game in Sydney which was a rearranged game that ended up being a decider (for the league title). We were on a real high leading into that game, on a run of wins, to have lost that, it was an emotional rollercoaster. To get ourselves up for the weekend to go to Brisbane, win that game, and the way we won the game in the final made it even more special. Leaving it until the last seconds of the game, when everyone thought we were going into penalties and the game becomes a little bit of a lottery, so to win it as we did was amazing. The harder something is to get the more special it becomes, and it was definitely the case in that game.

Q: How did you become involved in football, and into coaching?

Hopkins: I was brought up in the UK, came from a family with two older brothers, both of who are involved in football. My older brother was a professional at Bournemouth, and my other brother came through the ranks and was a schoolboy with Plymouth, so it was in the family and the blood. I played as a professional for 17 years before coming to Australia, after a year playing in Malaysia. In my last year of playing, I played in the NSL with Gippsland Falcons and progressed into coaching from there. As I was progressing through my middle to late years in England I was very interested in coaching and got into it, and started my coaching qualifications over in the UK with a couple of UEFA badges and finished it up while I was over here. I played as a professional for 18 years so it was a natural progression for me to go into coaching.

Q: How does winning the W-League final as a coach rank up against your career achievements, which included 16 caps for Wales?

Hopkins: It’s right up there. What I am doing at the moment, and it’s something I put everything into, this year was really special. We worked with a really special group of players and in really difficult circumstances with COVID hanging over us, and the uncertainty from week to week, not knowing what is happening with playing and training. I rate what we have done this season so highly, and it’s a testament to the people who are at the club and the playing group that we got through it and won the final.

Q: How important is the expansion of the W-League?

Hopkins: I think it’s something we have been waiting for a long time and it’s a natural progression for the league. To grow the league to maybe 12 teams would be excellent, it’s something we’ve been talking about and hopefully heading towards this season. Starting to work towards a full and home and away season gives the league more credibility. I think we are heading in the right direction, I think it is important for the game in this country. Leading into 2022 there is a great opportunity for us to grow the league and the participation levels. We’ve got our place to play in that picture as well. We’ve got to be a place in that pathway for young girls to look to get to that next level, and we are part of that pathway and a stepping stone to fully professional football, representing the Matildas and playing in world cups and Olympic games. It’s important there is a credible league for young girls to come into and aspire to their level. It’s important we make the league as strong as possible.

Q: Do you think the long off-season is a detriment to the league?

Hopkins: At the moment, hopefully in time will change as the league grows, we spend more time away from the players than with them across the year and it becomes a little bit of the problem. COVID added to that problem. There were options for players to play overseas and come back and play in the W-League with good opposition. But at the moment players are limited to the NPL competitions which are improving year on year. It is a problem because we then have to monitor our players in different environments and you lose track and control of your players. Over time we can make the league longer so we have more control, but also coaching in the NPL is improving so players are getting into better environments when they aren’t with us.

Q: With the new broadcast deal, the existence of the A-League and W-League is guaranteed for the next five years. How important is the security this has created?

Hopkins: The television deals all over the world drive the football leagues, it allows clubs to get out there to the general public. There are plenty of different components of football, especially in terms of getting the fans to see the product. The TV deal is important, and it’s great we have a free-to-air component so everyone can see it. As the game grows it’s important we get our product out there in the best way possible, and as many ways as possible. I think this deal is a big step forward for the game. Everyone in the game can see that and is happy with the work that has been on this TV deal.

Q: Do you think the deal will increase the professionalism of the W-League?

Hopkins: As the game grows, and the league grows and we head towards a longer season, the environments will have to grow. There is a lot of things happening in the game now, the growth of women’s football, and the women’s World Cup is going to massive as well. Companies wanting to jump on board, sponsorship, there are so many positive things happening in the game right now. The TV deal is a part of that, and the more money that comes in the game, and the women’s side of things will allow to do a bit more, create better environments. It can only make the game better.

Q: Will the Women’s World Cup be a catalyst for the W-League to reach new heights?

Hopkins: It definitely will. There is a massive opportunity to grow the game on the female side of things as we get closer to the excitement that it will generate. If the Matildas can do well at a home World Cup it will be a massive boost for the game. Participation levels will go up, and it’s a great opportunity for us in this country to showcase women’s football, but what we are doing in the W-League is a big part of that as well. The Women’s World Cup is a massive opportunity for us, and an opportunity we are all behind and pushing in the same direction for the women’s side of the game. It isn’t just a competition that will come and go, we are going to push hard to drive the game on, and when the competition is over we are hoping we will be in a much better place.

Dave Beeche appointed as new CEO of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

FIFA has named Dave Beeche as the new CEO for the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

FIFA has named Dave Beeche as the new CEO for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

Following the announcements of Host Cities and FIFA Chief Operating Officers earlier this year, the addition of Beeche is another step in the tournament’s preparations, where he will oversee its delivery throughout the two host countries.

Beeche will begin in his role from June 14, 2021 – we are now just over two years away from the World Cup’s commencement.

Originally from New Zealand, Beeche has 15 years’ experience leading high-profile commercial and non-profit organisations in the sports, events and tourism sectors. His previous leadership roles have seen him deliver successful major sporting events in both host countries, while he worked alongside current personnel involved in the upcoming women’s rugby and cricket World Cups when he served as the CEO of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015.

“I am honoured and excited to be given the opportunity to lead the delivery of such a significant tournament, especially at a time when there is so much focus globally on the development of women’s sport and, more broadly, the empowerment of women,” he said.

“I look forward to working with both member associations and the Host Cities to not only deliver an outstanding tournament that showcases the world-class talent in women’s football, but leave a lasting positive legacy for women’s sport.”

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura also spoke regarding the appointment:

“We are delighted to welcome Dave to the FIFA team to head up our newly created offices in Australia and New Zealand,” she said.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup has gone from strength to strength with new levels being achieved on and off the pitch in France 2019. We are looking to continue this growth and set a new benchmark for this fantastic tournament in 2023 together with our hosts Australia and New Zealand.”

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is the ninth edition of the tournament and will take place in Australia and New Zealand from July 20 to August 20 2023. It will also be the first edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to feature 32 teams.

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