Analysis | SPORTS

Sheldon Chanel: It’s Time To Do More For Futsal

Suva’s dismal outing at the OFC Futsal Champions League in New Zealand over the weekend has brought into sharp focus the amount of attention football’s abbreviated code receives in Fiji.
10 Dec 2019 15:18
Sheldon Chanel: It’s Time To Do More For Futsal
The Vodafone Fijian futsal team during the 2019 OFC Nations Cup in New Caledonia in October. Photo: OFC Media

Suva’s dismal outing at the OFC Futsal Champions League in New Zealand over the weekend has brought into sharp focus the amount of attention football’s abbreviated code receives in Fiji.

The Capital City side finished 5th in the competition, winning their final game 3-1 on penalties against Vanuatu’s D’York Street.

But that result doesn’t give you the full story.

Suva, coached by Vishal Nadan, was shambolic in pool play and failed to register a single win, conceding 37 goals in five matches.

Some results included a 10-1 thrashing by eventual-winner Kooline of the Solomon Islands, an 8-1 defeat to Tahiti’s AS Pirae and a 12-1 demolition by home side AFF Futsal.

The poor results follow a similar outing by the Hussein Mira Sahib-coached national futsal team at October’s OFC Nations Cup in New Caledonia, which was a World Cup qualifying event.

There, Fiji failed to progress from pool play with defeats to Tahiti (11-1) and the region’s futsal trailblazers, the Solomon Islands (4-1).

These results paint a grim picture of the state of Futsal in the country, despite the sport’s growing popularity.

Where regional rivals Tahiti and the Solomon Islands are surging ahead, Fiji is lagging behind and missing out on opportunities to gain crucial international exposure.

The Solomon Islands beat New Zealand at the Nations Cup to qualify for their third World Cup in a row.

The region’s dominant force

The ‘Kurukuru boys’ are the region’s dominant force in futsal, and beat New Zealand on a consistent basis despite the latter’s superior resources and advanced sporting infrastructure.

The natural skills of the Solomon players is a factor, but the game also gets a great deal of support by the Solomon Islands Football Federation.

The country has a thriving futsal league at youth as well as the national level, giving the Solomon Islands a strong player base to select from.

Coaches in Fiji, by contrast, are forced to select football players because the Fiji Football Association is yet to establish a national futsal league.

Football is a far more tactical and physical game than the largely quicker and skilled-based futsal.

These players spend the entire season in football and switch once a year, often only having have a few months to adapt before a major competition.

Fiji had only one specialist futsal player – Vineet Nadan – in the squad at the Nations Cup, which could perhaps explain why the team did not live up to expectations.

When a futsal court was constructed at the FIFA-funded Fiji FA Academy in Vatuwaqa, Suva, some felt the game would get more recognition and support within the country.

But that has hardly been the case so far, with Fiji nowhere near the levels it should be aspiring to reach.

Futsal is like the 7s of football.

Imagine if the Fiji Rugby Union stops paying any attention to 7s rugby, like the Fiji FA appears to be ignoring futsal.

Edited by Leone Cabenatabua

Feedbacksheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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