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What the future holds for futsal in Australia

The return of the National Futsal Championships is a huge boon, according to two people key to the development of the game within Australia.

The return of the National Futsal Championships is a huge boon, according to two people key to the development of the game within Australia.

Last month Football Australia announced the return of the National Futsal Championships, pitting states against each other in a tournament that has been on hiatus since the start of the pandemic.

The Futsalroos – the FIFA recognised national team for Australia – have competed at eight FIFA Futsal World Cups, and the game has a rich history and strong participation in Australia.

The 2019 National Participation Report, produced by Football Australia (FA), shows the game growing in participation by 36% – with 63,031 registered players. The National Futsal Championships will feature close to 1,000 participants from over 100 teams being involved from states and territories across the country.

James Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Football Australia, was pleased with the re-introduction of the National Futsal Championships and the reinvigoration of the F-League and looks forward to growing the futsal footprint in Australia.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

The 2022 and 2023 Championships will be hosted in Queensland and Victoria respectively – two states that have embedded futsal within their overall organisational strategies.

Trevor Edwards, Head of Futsal at Football Queensland (FQ), is the tournament organiser for the 2022 National Futsal Championships. He believes that FQ is seeing success in futsal because they have linked it with their football strategy in the state.

“We see it as a game in itself, but also linked in with the entire football family,” Edwards told Soccerscene.

“We are looking to develop the F-League in Queensland into a conference style where we have northern, southern, and central competitions in the state. That might take a few years to get to, but that is our target for futsal.”

Anthony Grima, head of Futsal at Football Victoria (FV), explains that it is essential for Australian football to develop futsal alongside the 11 a side game.

“After the 2021 National Futsal Championships were cancelled due to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on sport and the community, we needed to work together to regain momentum, and confirm hosts for the tournaments in 2022 and 2023 to ensure our community had a calendar they could work towards,” Grima said to Soccerscene.

“The tournament is the pinnacle event for Futsal in Australia and is the largest of Football Australia’s national tournaments.”

The National Futsal Championships is seen as a way to strengthen pathways for junior development, as well as grow the game within Australia.

“It is essential from a state perspective. We would like to see that continue and grow. In previous years since the national F-League became defunct, there hasn’t been a pathway for juniors to make the national selection for the Futsalroos. We’d love to see that pathway come back and develop,” Edwards said.

“Not just your pathway for national teams, but also pathways and processes for really strong grassroots participation, coach education, and referee education.”

The F-League, Australia’s last national futsal competition, ended in 2016. Grima thinks that a relaunched national futsal competition is vital to the development of the game in Australia.

“A National Futsal League is crucial for any country who wishes to participate and compete in international tournaments,” Grima said.

“In addition to the National Futsal Championships, state-based F-Leagues could potentially link up with a National Futsal League that links all the champions together and forms the pathway for both male and female players, coaches, and referees.”

In recent years, the small-sided game has been recognised for its ability to supplement player development for football and also increasingly as a sport in its own right.

In 2016, a game featuring legendary Brazilian Falcao and Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa drew a crowd of over 2,000 people in Melbourne.

With states collaborating towards a common goal, futsal will only continue to expand within Australia.

“There are many initiatives that we can plan to elevate futsal not just in Australia but on the world stage. It is clear that Football Australia, under the leadership of James Johnson, wants to grow the Futsal footprint in Australia,” Grima said.

“Futsal’s inclusion in the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian Football’ back in October outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with the Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner.”

Edwards shared the same view as Grima towards growing the game.

“As a whole, we are excited as Member Federations to be involved in the development of futsal. We are excited with the collaboration that is happening, and I hope we can keep pushing the sport together so futsal continues to grow in this country,” Edwards said.

When the National Futsal Championships kicks off at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre on January 5, 2022, it will have the backing of the entire football landscape.

Those involved in the game are committed to see it be a grand return for the tournament, to ensure the continuing growth of the game is not only maintained, but expanded and elevated in the months and years to come.

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S3 Ep 2 with Gary Cole interviewing Steve Corica

Corica FCA

Steve Corica is Head Coach of A-League Men at Sydney FC, where he narrowly missed out on three A-League Championships in a row, losing to Melbourne City in the Grand Final last season. What a remarkable start to his first senior head coaching role!

He played his junior football in Innisfail in North Queensland, before heading to the Australian Institute of Sport and playing just under 500 professional games in Australia, England and Japan.

Steve’s preparation for coaching began while he was playing, and he started to gain his coaching licences before taking on an assistant role with the Sydney FC Youth Team.

He served a seven-year apprenticeship at Sydney with the Youth Team and then as an assistant to Vitezslav Lavicka, Frank Farina and Graham Arnold before taking on the Head Coach role in 2018. He learned from each of these coaches and also learned, like most ‘he didn’t know, what he didn’t know’ when taking on the Head Coaching Role.

Steve believes that team and club culture are key to success. He understands that while he is the driver of the culture, that buy-in from all of the players is integral to behaviours being demanded from the playing group of one another.

Steve’s ‘one piece of wisdom’ was ‘to be yourself’. Know how you want to play, the style of football you want to play. Be strong when you do get setbacks, but believe in what you’re doing, stay strong and keep believing in the style of football you want to play.

Please join me in sharing Steve Corica’s Football Coaching Life.

Catherine Cannuli: “It wasn’t easy to pursue coaching as I felt like I was back at square one again”

Catherine Cannuli

June 1 this year saw long-time stalwart of the Western Sydney Wanderers – Catherine Cannuli – appointed to the role of Head Coach of the Women’s side for the upcoming 2021/22 A-League Women’s season.

In addition to having built up an impressive resume through her role as Women’s Technical Director at the Southern Districts Football Association, Cannuli has been announced as the latest addition to the Executive Committee at Football Coaches Australia (FCA).

Her landmark year of achievements thus far reflects her immense efforts in working to reach what she acknowledges as a personal high point in her coaching career. Cannuli’s success is undoubtedly a testament to her determination, but her transition from player to coach was self-admittedly challenging one.

The lack of clear routes towards securing coaching roles at all levels of the game has led FCA and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) to announce – within their Memorandum of Understanding strategies –all members of PFA’s Alumni will have their joining fee to FCA waived in an effort to provide additional support to aspiring coaches.

In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, Cannuli spoke on her efforts to reach the point she is at now in her career and highlighted the significance of this recently announced FCA and PFA Alumni partnership.

Coaching

It was announced in June that you were to become the new Head Coach of the Western Sydney Wanderers. What has that been like for you so far?

Catherine Cannuli: It’s been exciting and challenging. Obviously, with the current COVID-19 situation that we’ve been in, I probably had four or five weeks in charge as the head coach and then we went into lockdown. So a lot of it has been done from behind a computer. But it’s been a great time to be able to plan and make sure that everything was ready to go come first day of pre-season.

In terms of opportunities for females in football following the end of their playing career, can you give us some insight into what was going through your head as you were coming to the end of your playing time?

Catherine Cannuli: I really didn’t think about coaching straight away to be honest. I retired and I thought I was going to get my weekends back and be a normal person. My friends were always having a go at me for missing so many significant birthdays or weddings.

It was after being off for about six or seven months, and not having football, where I realised more than anything what it left in me as a person. Football’s been such a big part of my life. It took me some time to realise that I couldn’t be a player anymore, because the commitment at the time was really hard – juggling full-time work and doing everything that I wanted to do. I was at a crossroads in my career at that point. It was thinking ‘do I sacrifice another four years or do I just focus on work and preparing for life after football?’.

It was at that point that I got into contact with the Southern Districts Association and explained that I wanted to give back to our community and asked what I could do to get involved with the girls. I went down and did some sessions with the team at the time, and within six months I’d landed myself my first coaching gig. I took over the First Grade Women’s team there and that was it. I fell into coaching.

What was it like mentally traversing that transition period between playing and coaching?

Catherine Cannuli: It was clear, because everything that I’d spoken to the club about they were on board with what I wanted to do and the vision that I had for young girls in the South-West region. For kids in the Liverpool and Fairfield areas, young girls like myself didn’t have the opportunity to be mentored or be coached. They didn’t have an environment where they felt they’d be able to really excel.

For me it was pretty clear from day one that I wanted to make a change. It was hard to transition, because after my first couple of years in coaching I remember going back to some of my coaches that had coached me for a long time and apologising. Because I didn’t realise what it actually took to be a coach. As a player, you turn up; you train; and you go home. As a coach there’s so much planning going on in the background that players just wouldn’t have an idea about.

The transition was definitely difficult, but after my first 12 months of coaching, I chose to dedicate myself to it. I had a business at the time and I stepped away from it to be able to then go into coaching. At the time I was working at Westfields Sports High School and Southern Districts and learning my trade, and it wasn’t easy when I decided to pursue coaching as I felt like I was back at square one again.

But it was really important for me to experience it that way. Even now that I’m at the top of my game as the Head Coach of the Western Sydney Wanderers, I feel that as a coach it is really important that you learn your trade, go through different environments and see different things before you actually get there. It shapes you as a person and as a coach.

Cannuli

What have been your key learnings in your role as Women’s Technical Director at the Southern Districts Football Association?

Catherine Cannuli: I think that the main one has been learning to build an environment for not just your players, but your staff and everyone to excel in. I think it’s important that everyone knows what your vision is and what direction you’re wanting to go in within your program and your football. It’s important that everyone understands that if they’re on this journey with you, they have a clear understanding of what the message is and what you want to do.

Whether I’m at Southern Districts or at the Wanderers, having that clear message with your players and your staff of ‘this is what it’s going to take to be successful’, and that we can do it as a collective.

Sometimes you see people saying ‘it’s my way or the highway’, whereas with me it’s about bringing people on the journey with you and making them understand what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it.

Do you feel the partnership between FCA and PFA Alumni will aid aspiring female football coaches?

Catherine Cannuli: I think back to when I did my first C License and how far coach education and support has come. FCA have been a massive game changer in the coaching space, not only for females, but for males.

For any coach that aspires to be better and wants to be helped, even for those A-Leagues players wanting to transition out of playing into coaching, I think it’s important that there’s a mentorship and a process in what we want to do and how we want to do it.

Sometimes when we jump straight into the deep end it becomes difficult to have an understanding of what the role of a coach is. If you are a player, the role of a coach is a very different role to when you’re a player.

The partnership between FCA and PFA is huge. I’ve always said that football needs to come together and we need to work together as one. This is showing that together we can be stronger. And these partnerships are only going to allow our players and people to grow and further develop their skills in that space.

You’ve recently been announced as an addition to the Executive Committee at FCA. What initiatives will you be looking to drive as a part of your work there?

Catherine Cannuli: I think the main one is to give as much coach education as we can for all coaches. Giving all people from all different levels the number of resources that they can get onto. You can already see that with a lot of the workshops that we’ve been running. The numbers that we’ve been getting for these have been fantastic.

For me, the key thing with FCA is to drive its existence for people to understand that FCA is there and what it can do for coaches. Because I’ve already seen how it supported me over the last two years as a member. And I think, down the track, FCA is going to have such a significant impact on the coaching life. It’s going to be amazing to see where it’s going to be having known where it started.

FCA

What changes and opportunities for the women’s game are you hoping to see come to the fore leading into and after the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

Catherine Cannuli: The greatest achievement for me with receiving the opportunity to be the Head Coach of the Western Sydney Wanderers is that other females can look to this and say: ‘Hey, I can be a Head Coach at the A-League Women’s as well’. That’s the most important, that young female coaches can actually aspire to be a coach in the A-League Women’s.

The more that we see it on the TV and the papers that there are female coaches leading the way, there’s going to be even more opportunity for young females to come through NPL clubs and do coaching.

At the moment, the number of coaches in the female space in a professional environment is probably quite low. And that’s something that we need to keep driving change for; changing the dynamics around females not thinking that there are those opportunities for coaching when there are.

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