Twelve boys will put Marlborough on the map this week when they represent the region in the New Zealand Secondary School Futsal Championships.
Futsal is a five-aside form of indoor football developed in Brazil and Uruguay in the 1930s and 40s. It was introduced to New Zealand in 2009 and the following year Marcello Pinheiro, originally from Brazil, started teaching young boys in Blenheim how to play.
Aged 14, 15 and 16, they are all students at Marlborough Boys' College now and will fly to Wellington for the two-day 2014 NZSS Futsal Championships.
It will be the first time Marlborough has played on the futsal competition courts, Marcello says. That excites team manager Philip Morris, who says it will put Marlborough on the national scorecard and give the boys an official ranking to build from.
The 12 players from Marlborough going to the championships are Martin Delgado, Braeden Hook, Jack Morris, Nick Stanton, Cameron Spence, Sam Knobben, Lucas Lopez, Patrick Schnarre, Lee Schubert, Alex Duley, Caleb Downs and Harrison Pine. They will take turns filling the five-member team.
On Thursday the team is scheduled for four 40-minute games on one of the 20-metre by 40m courts at the ASB Stadium in Kilbirnie, Wellington. That multi-court setting alone will create a huge buzz, Marcelle predicts.
The compact size of a futsal court means games are fast and frantic, he says. Dangerous play is forbidden, though, and having "fun" is the universal mission.
Fun is included in the Marcello's coaching methods. He holds indoor training sessions twice a week and outside on a third day.
"We've gone to Whites Bay with some parents and had a great time; training and playing for fun ... like on the beach. That's the greatest thing, having fun."
A futsal ball is smaller and has less bounce than a conventional football and the small playing space encourages players to improvise and develop unique ball-control techniques.
At the championships, Marlborough has to play against a team from Auckland Grammar, one of the top schools in the national futsal programme. "We could be demolished," Phil rues, but Marcello believes something positive will come out of it, whatever the score.
It will be valuable for the boys from Marlborough to observe first-hand the techniques used by skilled players, he says.
He and Phil hope Marlborough's entry in this year's NZSS Futsal Championships will encourage other schools to start their own teams.
The sport is recognised internationally and embraced by the New Zealand Football Association, Phil says.
Both men are grateful for the support from the community, helping the boys raise about $2500 to attend the championships in Wellington. There have been raffles and car-washing ventures and on Monday money will be donated to the team from each $20 pizza and fries dish purchased from 5.30pm at Dodson Street Beer Garden in Blenheim.
- The Marlborough Express