Aucklander Arzan Todywalla scores as Soccer Sensation
History was made three weeks ago when four teams from New Zealand qualified for the World Futsal Championship to be held in Orlando, Florida in July.
The country was represented by five teams at the Craig Foster international in Gold Coast, Australia.
In all previous attempts, no Kiwi team had won any title. This year, of the five teams from New Zealand, four claimed trophies in their respective age groups.
The Craig Foster international is Australia’s largest Futsal tournament and a regional competition with an international reach.
It boasts of participation from the Oceania and Asia regions with over 135 teams playing a total of 400 games.
There is a representation of age groups, cross genders, in addition to Youth (U19) and senior teams. The winners of each group are invited to represent their club against the best Futsal clubs in the world the Word Futsal Championships.
The Trophy is awarded to the region or club that accumulates the most points throughout the competition.
This year, it was more of New Zealand winning the championship rather than individual age group teams achieving glory.
Futsal is a variant of the age-old ‘beautiful game,’ and is played on hard court with a smaller, harder ball.
Given its mainly indoor nature, it is played over a smaller area than a football pitch, delimited by lines but without the walls or boards used in indoor football.
These conditions make the format exceptionally fast-paced and demanding, with short bursts of intense play.
There are only five players active at any time, one of whom is a goalkeeper.
This means energy-levels need to remain super high amongst players.
Substitutions are permitted every five minutes.
The uniqueness of the format is in the combination of the surface, the ball and the rules.
These three factors bring out the players’ ability to improvise, be creative, and show mastery over technique and ball control, that too within confined spaces.
Decision-making has to be spontaneous and almost as reactive as movements using muscle-memory.
Coach and former Futsal White Bakr Al-Saudi believes these aspects of the format moulds footballers to become better “all-rounders” of the original game.
To contain the opposition from scoring in a game like Futsal is no easy task.
However, the senior women’s Auckland Futsal Federation (AFF) team, captained by Hannah Kraakman and coached by Nic Downes, edged Morten Bay 1-0 in the finals.
AFF’s Under 16 women’s side beat FFSA South Australia in a penalty shootout.
AFF player Petra Buyck won the overall Golden Boot for female competitions, with one of her goals touted as a wonder goal that took the U16s through the final.
The side was Captained by Kate Duncan and coached by Rhys Greensill.
The East Auckland Boys
Auckland’s East City U16 Boys, captained by Declan Peach and coached by Campbell Strong, beat Brisbane Elite 6-4 in a tough and physical encounter.
The fourth win for New Zealand was the climax of the competition as East City’s Under 19s boys pipped last year’s winners Galaxy FC 2-1 to take the top spot.
This team is coached by Al-Saudi and captained by teenage Kiwi-Indian sensation Arzan Todywalla.
Todywalla had an unfortunate exit from the tournament, suffering a hairline fracture during an unsportsmanlike slide tackle by an opposition team player.
However, he had a strong mental resolve and stayed on with them team until their moment of glory.
Al-Saudi is an open admirer of Todywallas skill, attitude and team spirit, labelling him the ‘Powerhouse’ of the team.
The teenager’s goal is to play for the New Zealand Futsal team at the 2024 World Cup, at which time he will be 22 years old.
Given the progress to-date, the dedication and commitment to the sport, as well as the unwavering support of his parents Viraf and Pearl, Arzan appears well set on this mission.
An old-timer with East City club, Al-Saudi acknowledged all the support, saying, “A huge credit goes to the parents and volunteers of the East City Futsal Club that enabled the trip to happen for all of us.”
Arzan and Al-Saudi both talk of a ‘Futsal Family’ of support and understanding.
The bonding and positive spirit shared between players, parents, coaches and management goes a long way in player participation and sport development.
New Zealand Football plays its part by providing the framework and all the support within its means.
The format of the championship and the nature of the wins reaffirms the spirit of Futsal being a team sport.
Funding, an issue
Despite its huge popularity its funding framework is still under development.
This means the financial ability to compete at international events comes from parents of players and well-wishers.
East City Futsal Club would like their teams to compete against the best in the world and has already started to canvas sponsors and plan fundraising events to cover expenses nearing $3000 per player.
There is no doubt Futsal has a big future in New Zealand.
- The Women’s Team: Champions at Craig Foster international
- Arzan Todywalla about to strike the ball at the Craig Foster International