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NZF: Futsal rolls on with return of national league

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Futsal has been on a huge roll lately with the return to action of the Futsal Whites and history being created by debut appearances for the Futsal Ferns and national age-group teams of both genders. The plethora of international activity arrives on the back of several years of remarkable progress at grassroots level and one of the main links between the those two aspects of the game returns this weekend as another Futsal National League season kicks off.

The country’s showpiece futsal event underwent an exciting expansion last year with the number of fixtures being increased and a key format change allowing for matches to be played in each region for the first ever time. Previously, the league took place across three series with each held in one location but eight different venues are now set to host matches, making top-class futsal more accessible than ever.

Adding to that ease of access is free spectator entry and live online streaming of nearly every game.

New Zealand Football Futsal Development Manager Josh Margetts is excited to bring more quality futsal action to the public so soon after New Zealand’s suit of national teams took the court.

"This league is one of our premier domestic competitions and is a key driver for the development of futsal across the country. Many of the junior and youth players in New Zealand see the Futsal National League as a future step in their progression through the futsal pathway," he says.

"The impressive following of the livestream audience proves that the wider futsal and football community are just as engaged in the exciting nature of the league. All eight teams boast impressive line-ups that could challenge for the title and will be sure to provide plenty of goals and entertainment," he adds.

"With the league being the main selection tool for the Futsal Whites, it goes without saying how important it is for the success of the national team. This helps to continue the impressive momentum that the futsal national teams have gained from their recent success in the Trans-Pacific Cup and OFC Youth Futsal Tournament."

New Zealand were largely triumphant in both of those tournaments, the Futsal Ferns and Futsal Whites both earning clean sweeps over New Caledonia before the U-18 women qualified for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games by becoming queens of their region and their male counterparts finished runners-up to a classy Solomon Islands outfit.

Most players from both men’s teams will be in action in the national league, which gets underway this weekend with matches in both the Northern Home Series and Southern Home Series. The games will be spread across two venues in the north - The Peak in Hamilton and Trusts Arena in Auckland - while Central Energy Trusts Arena in Palmerston North will host a pair of clashes between Manawatu and Capital.

The northern series brings together four teams - Northern, Auckland, WaiBOP and Hawke’s Bay - with each looking to begin their bid to steal the title away from Christchurch, where it currently resides after being won by the Canterbury United Dragons last season.

Auckland are likely to be more determined than most to do that after having to hand the trophy over to Canterbury last season. They have claimed three titles in the past seven years and again have a formidable line-up at their disposal, including player-coach Marvin Eakins and fellow current Futsal Whites Kareem Osman, Josh Margetts and Stephen Ashby.

The loss of Dylan Manickum - who is focusing on the ISPS Handa Premiership football campaign with Waitakere United - is a huge blow but has been off-set somewhat by two major gains as Brazilian Andre Luiz Pestana arrives from Canterbury and Sean McIntee also heads north after captaining Southern United last season.

Under the guidance of former Futsal White Ouadhah Ragued, Northern will turn to youthful exuberance to help them make an impact and appear to have a star in the making in Oban Hawkins, a member of the New Zealand U-18 squad. The skilful Twigg siblings - Art, Sam and Denny - are also likely to feature strongly while Jean Claude Tahireve provides some Vanuatu flair.

WaiBOP are likewise led by a player-coach as Brayden Lissington looks to inspire a group that includes U-18 internationals Patrick Steele and Logan Wisnewski, as well as one current Futsal White in Jordi Ditfort. Lissington also has international experience to pass on from his time in the Futsal Whites fold and will be looking to put his hand up for national selection again with a strong personal showing.

Hawke’s Bay also possess a pair of U-18 national team members in Ethan Martin and Aidan Robson while the know-how of Ethan Dent - a former Futsal Development Officer for the Central Football Federation - will come in handy.

Having lost a couple of Futsal Whites in Margetts and Jono Steele, Manawatu will lean on the experience provided by veterans Nathan Cooksley and Adam Cowan and are likely to need it against a Capital outfit packed full of notable names.

In addition to picking up Steele, Capital can call on fellow current Futsal Whites Lucas Silva and Luc Saker, as well as the talismanic Miroslav Malivuk and a sprinkle of up-and-coming talent in U-18 internationals Michael Plim and Sam Wright.

The two teams from down south, Canterbury United Dragons and Southern United, must wait another week to get their seasons underway on October 21 in Dunedin.

For the full 2017 Futsal National League draw please click here

Live streaming will be available at the following link:

https://livestream.com/accounts/10469815

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