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Futsal on the rise in Canterbury as men win national title

Monday, December 15, 2014
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Who knew Canterbury was a futsal powerhouse?

Mainland Futsal became the first team south of Auckland to claim the national men's title last weekend, beating Capital 7-6 in the final.

By Brendon Egan, The Press

Futsal is a five-a-side variant of football, which is played indoors.

Mainland were worthy winners of this year's silverware, winning 14 of their 16 games over the three round series.

Capital raced out to an early 3-1 advantage in the final, but Mainland recovered to lead 6-3. Mainland were in control at 7-4 late in the game, but Capital set up a frantic finish, netting twice in the last 15 seconds.

Coach Ronan Naicker, who is also Mainland Football's futsal development officer, said it had been a consistent team effort over the competition.

"This year, it was a unified squad and everyone was pushing in the same direction, which is massive.

"We've got the talent here. It was a matter of putting them together and understanding each other."

Brazilian Ezequiel Junior, who missed the first tournament, was deadly in front of goal, scoring a league-best 19 goals.

Goalkeeper Atta Elayyan was a standout during the campaign and was rewarded with New Zealand Football's futsal player of the year award.

Fellow Futsal Whites Ryan Batty, Daniel Burns and Hamish Mitchell had also been integral to Mainland's success.

Naicker said interest in futsal was on the rise in Christchurch. Competitions are held in the city at Bishopdale YMCA and Catholic Cathedral College on Wednesdays and Sundays.

A competitive senior league ran on Sunday nights over eight-week terms. There were about 250 registered players in Christchurch.

Naicker said greater amounts of secondary school students were becoming involved.

"Futsal is fairly new to New Zealand, but it's growing," he said.

"A lot of the top players in the world - [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi and Neymar - all played futsal at a young age."

The most important elements in futsal were pace, skilful dribbling and pinpoint passing. Naicker said futsal helped teach football players the benefits of having a strong first touch.

The Canterbury secondary school tournament will be held over February 14-15, before the national school championships in Wellington from March 26-27.

Cashmere High finished fifth in the senior girls' competition at nationals this year, while St Andrew's College placed sixth in the senior boys'.

For highlights of the final click here.

FUTSAL: A BEGINNER'S GUIDE

- Futsal's name loosely translates to 'room football'.

- Developed in Uruguay and Brazil in the 1930s and 40s.

- Played by two teams of five players, including a goalkeeper. Rolling substitutions.

- The sport is played on a hard court surface, without rebound walls or netting.

- Games usually consist of two 20-minute halves.

- Futsal is played with a smaller ball, with less bounce than a football.

- Brazil are the most successful country in the history of the FIFA Futsal World Cup, winning five titles, including the most recent in 2012.

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