"I want you to use the sole of your foot," says Scott Gilligan as one of his opening instructions to a bunch of 25 aspiring futsal players yesterday.
"The more control you have, the more you can look up and find someone else. If you trap with the sole, you don't need to look at the ball because you always know where it is. If you trap it like a football, with the side of your foot, it's going to go away."
The Futsal Whites national men's team coach was in town running training sessions at St Paul's Collegiate School and Fraser High School as part of a nationwide tour to promote the sport and upskill players.
A five-a-side, indoor version of football, played over 20-minute halves and with a size-four ball filled with foam to lower the bounce, futsal is rapidly taking off.
"The stats prove that you get six times more touches on a futsal court than you do on a football field," Gilligan said. "That means you've got more opportunity with the ball in a game."
Gilligan is Australian, growing up playing football from seven years of age, and futsal from nine. He is now on the lookout for talent to join his ranks, with both the 2016 and 2020 Futsal World Cups in mind.
"That's what the problem is in the Futsal Whites at the moment," he said. "We've got this older age-group and we've got this younger age-group, and there's not a lot in between," he said, adding that a national under-19 side will soon be created.
"A lot of the young kids coming through are really good technically, but they're not old enough to physically break into that side. So the focus for me with this type of programme is the 2020 World Cup." because they're playing futsal matches."
The futsal national league is currently taking place and the Futsal Whites will kick into gear again next year. Having won the Oceania champs for the first time this year, New Zealand will look to defend that title, in New Caledonia, although this time the tournament will include four Oceania teams and eight from Asia.
Before that the Futsal Whites will play a series against China, and later in the year have their annual series against Australia before a four-nation event involving Australia, England and Malaysia.
Gilligan said teaching youngsters the game, which requires quicker thinking and moving than football, will help develop the likes of a Marco Rojas and get kids away from playing the hoof-it-away style.
"The first step for me is the 6, 7, 8-year-olds that play football now ... we've got them playing this small style of game, but give them a futsal ball. That's the only change I'd want to make. Still play on grass, not a problem. But the parents that say 'good kick Johnny' and it goes 30 metres and goes out, they can't do that with a futsal ball. So they are going to learn to pass, to dribble, rather than just kick it."
Gilligan said the football powerhouses around the world were putting a big emphasis on futsal.
"If we're going to look for the next Ronaldo or Messi, we need to embrace it," he said.
"In Brazil, until you're 14 you play futsal. You learn it as part of the curriculum in school. There's 36 million players playing futsal, eight million play football."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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