Auckland Football Federation Futsal crowned national champions after losing final
The taste of success was bittersweet for the Auckland Football Federation's (AFF) women's futsal team at the New Zealand National Women's Futsal League in Wellington last week.
AFF were crowned national champions in the competition despite losing the final.
Futsal is generally played indoors on a gym surface, with a smaller goal and smaller and heavier football used by two teams of five.
In slightly bizarre circumstances, the AFF Futsal team contested the final against an invitational Australian team, meaning they had already won the national title by beating out the other New Zealand teams.
The tournament featured six other teams from across the country including Northern Futsal, WaiBOP Futsal, Capital Futsal, Central Futsal Manawatu, Central Futsal Hawkes Bay, and Canterbury United Futsal Pride.
In just the second year of the National Women's Futsal League, AFF have made the final both times, losing to Central-Manawatu on penalties last year, and losing to Bayside Pirates from Australia 4-3 this year.
Tournament MVP and joint top goal scorer Maxine Cooper said the team wasn't aware they were national champions until the following day, with the disappointment of losing back-to-back finals still ringing in their minds.
"It was mixed feelings," Cooper said.
"We were stoked to get there, and beat Manawatu in the semis, but obviously really gutted because it feels like we just can't seem to win a final."
Coach Nic Downes, who informed the girls they had the national crown, said it was an interesting way to end the tournament.
"Straight after the match, everyone was pretty gutted because it was a final and we just lost," coach Nic Downes said.
"Even though we walked away with the silver, we're still national champions, so for some who have been in the game for a number of years now, I think they're pretty stoked."
Along with the National Women's Futsal League, New Zealand Football also announced this year that it would be introducing the Futsal Ferns - the first women's national team.
Cooper, who chose to abandon football and focus solely on futsal two years ago, said the announcement of a national side would give the game a huge push throughout the country.
"I definitely think that will drive a lot of people to focus solely on futsal," she said.
"There's finally something to work for, and it's growing so much so I think you'll see more and more women making that decision."
For the AFF Futsal team's next season there's still one more achievement to tick off.
"We'd really like to win a final, at some point in time," Downes said.