Southland's first representative futsal team finish NZ Futsal Championships with confidence boosting win
Southland's first representative futsal team to compete in an official tournament finished their debut NZ Futsal Championships campaign with a morale boosting win in Palmerston North recently.
The under-14 combination of promising footballers playing the popular indoor version of the sport, edged a Northern Football Federation team 5-4 in the playoff for 13th, overturning a 4-3 halftime deficit.
Ethan Ellis scored a double, while Cameron Johnson, Devin McFadzien and Raphael Burnett got on the scoresheet as the southerners kept their opponents scoreless in the second half.
The team of 13 and 14-year-old players also including Charlie Samson, Sam Thomson, Joshua Kotkamp, Kavindu Bhagya, Robbie Cole, Jack Day and Raphael Meurier under the watchful eye of coach James McFelin ended the tournament with the confidence boosting victory, after they suffered two heavy defeats in the group stages.
Friday was a long day for the squad after their original flight out of Invercargill on Thursday was cancelled due to bad weather, meaning that they left Invercargill early on Friday morning, with a short turnaround before suffering heavy defeats against Capital and Bay of Plenty on the same day in Palmerston North.
They produced a more competitive performance in a local derby against Football South, going down 5-3 on Saturday in their first playoff game, before they picked up their first win of the tournament against Northern on Sunday.
According to Southland Football development officer Luis Paiva, interest in the sport has grown, with the number of teams competing in Southland up by more than 100 per cent, going from 32 teams in 2016 to 70 teams in 2017.
"Futsal has had a massive boost this year," he said.
Next term Southland Football will kick off a futsal competition for primary and intermediate schools, with a demonstration match featuring the under-14 on the cards, to showcase the sport to the wider Southland community.