It has indeed been a while since I’ve written anything sport related on this blog – normally these days, no news is really so substantial that it can’t be expressed in less than 140 characters. However, this one is a bit different!
I’ve been an FA Futsal Reporter for nearly a year and a half now and it’s something I’ve loved doing. Going up and down the country to watch such a gripping and fascinating sport take place on a Sunday afternoon, interviewing plenty of friendly folk on the way and then seeing my match reports online on englandfutsal.com is always a great feeling.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a complete restructure going on at The FA, which I’m somewhat in the dark about, that has meant that all my superiors have now left the organisation. All the people who told me what to cover and who paid my expenses have departed over the last four months or so and this has meant that I am currently out of a job (of sorts at least – I still pour pints and clean toilets in order to fund my student lifestyle). If I had a few hundreds pounds spare in the bank then I would happily cover the FA Futsal Super League in my own time because it is something I truly enjoy doing – but alas, my disposable income is essentially non-existent.
Hopefully, there is still enough interest in futsal on a regional level to fill the voids left by the likes of Simon Walker, a thoroughly nice chap who I wish all the best success in the future. But at the moment at least, my role as an FA Futsal Reporter is at an end… cue the violins.
There’s been plenty of great memories – the first ever game I watched was in Swindon between Oxford City Lions and Middlesbrough, where I saw arguably the greatest futsal player in England, Lucas Toti, in action and he completely astonished me with his technical ability. I had to walk up the side of dual carriageway for 15 minutes in order to get to the game but it was certainly worth it. Other notable moments include chatting with Chema Jiminez and Ernest Cardona following Baku United and Birmingham’s progression to the Futsal Super League finals, getting several free mars bars at the FA Cup Finals 2015 just for having an ‘access-all-areas’ pass, watching the most brutal games in the form of Maccabi vs FC Siauliai and meeting plenty of decent fans along the way, all of them sharing passion for futsal and one day hoping that it will gain mainstream recognition.
Best of luck to all the Super League and Division 2 sides this season – hopefully I will be match reporting at the games again soon! Good luck also to the seven teams in the National Ladies Futsal League which kicked off last month, which is another step forward for English futsal in this country.
If you’re still reading at this point, make sure you buy yourself a copy of Futsal Pro Magazine! Look out for the second edition too, which is steadily coming together.
With the scarcity of football currently available in that annoying period between an international tournament and the start of the domestic season, it leaves me with seldom topics to explore for writing articles. It got me wondering how I actually got involved with sports writing in the first place. As a stereotypical male, I naturally liked football during my early secondary school years (although when I started properly watching the beautiful game, I wasn’t that interested in women, alcohol, wrestling or whatever else males were supposed to like at that age) but after realising I wasn’t very good actually partaking in a kicking-a-ball-around-a-pitch scenario, I decided it wasn’t the career for me. Up until the age of 16, I always thought I was going to be a musician. My parents had shelled out vast amounts of cash on piano and guitar lessons and I was fairly decent at that, often playing the odd classical piece in several local concerts. Nevertheless, that dream died when I achieved a C in my music GCSE – a grade which I didn’t consider good enough in order to pursue music making as a career.
I wrote my first article for my previous blog, BeeTeeSports, three and a half years ago. I’m not quite sure how I got involved in the whole blogging shenanigans but I recall that I used to fancy myself as a writer. My first article was a preview of an upcoming Champions League game between Tottenham and AC Milan, a match that clearly excited me enough in order to write both a preview and review for it, scrawling illegible notes throughout the match and wondering how I could incorporate humour into them at the same time – one of the qualities that I still think is important in order to create an entertaining article, as long as the issue isn’t too dour. If you wish to read my first ever article, you can do so clicking here, where I’m sure you can find an abundance of successful stand-up comedian potential.
After accumulating a few thousand views on BeeTeeSports over a year which gradually increased the size of my ego, I started looking for opportunities to expand my audience, which I managed to do by getting a place on the writing team for transfersblog.com in July 2012. The task was simple: find interesting transfer stories/hearsay from various different sites, rewrite them and then post to the website. Although this was initially stimulating to begin with as I felt like a professional journalist, it began to get progressively more tedious, especially when there was a certain lack of transfer news to write about during the spring and autumn months. I think I wrote over a hundred pieces for the website before finally calling it a day – wanting to be more challenged as a writer.
I wrote sporadically for several other publications before finally being approached by Mark Godfrey, who had a website called The Football Pink. This turned out to be one of the bigger breaks of my career since it was the first time I actually had been able to earn money from writing – something that had become an ambition of mine when I initially entertained the thought of football writing as a career. Mark had managed to assemble a team of creative types to write for his website before suggesting one day that The Football Pink should become a publication available for purchase. Without trying to sound like a try-hard from an Oscar-winning acceptance speech, I felt very privileged to become part of such a project, since I considered myself to be one of the youngest and least prolific writers among those chosen. The sales of the first issue meant I managed to earn £6, which doesn’t seem like much but was more than a sufficient amount to spend on a day’s supply of alcohol. The article that I had written was complaining about how mediocre England was as a footballing nation, something that I enjoy writing about for the mere sadistic pleasure. The Football Pink has since evolved dramatically and has recently released its 5th edition on the subject of war, where I have written a piece on Crimean Football… ORDER IT NOW> http://footballpink.net/2014/07/31/out-now-the-football-pink-issue-5/
Once I moved to Nottingham in September 2013 I suddenly discovered a lot more journalistic opportunities, largely thanks to university staff such as Andrew James, a commentator for BBC Final Score. I had the opportunity to experience non-league football at Ilkeston’s New Manor Ground with the journalist Rod Malcolm, who I met at an NUJ (National Union of Journalists) meeting. One of the bigger chances I had to make my way up the rungs to success was becoming a cameraman for Mansfield Town Football Club, being handed the role of shooting footage for their Youtube channel. Their media officer was a chap called Mark Stevenson, and a few exchanged emails later I was on a bus heading straight for Field Mill for a quick chat about the position. This was one of the first instances where I had to encounter Nottinghamshire public transport, which lead to an awkward situation between me and the driver as I wasn’t quite familiar with the procedure of getting on a bus. It slightly differed from the process of boarding a London bus since I actually had to have interaction with the man behind the wheel. I was interviewed in this cosy looking room overlooking the stadium as I blagged the role by pretending I had in-depth knowledge of HD Video Cameras. Alas, Mark S. was an incredibly strenuous man to communicate with and I never got round to filming anything for Mansfield as my dates were constantly being rearranged, so in the end I just gave up on the ordeal in bone-idle fashion. Not for the want of trying though.
It was a few months after the Mansfield fiasco that I heard about a position being offered by the FA as a futsal reporter. I originally had no idea what futsal was and got it confused with fussball, the popular table football game probably found at your local arcade. It turned out that futsal, in simplified terms, was a 5-a-side, indoor variation of football with a smaller goals and a heavier ball. After a bit of extensive research and a few draft match reports I was given the job, coincidentally the first job I have ever been given – I wasn’t really into the whole part-time retail working life until recently. The brief involved travelling to far and wide regions of England, writing match reports for Futsal Super League games and interviewing the managers at the end, which was right up my alley.
My first match I got to report on was in Swindon, a two-hour coach ride away from London, for a game between Oxford City Lions and Middlesbrough. Swindon was quite a deserted town and the Swindon Futsal Arena was in the middle of nowhere, about a half an hour walk from the coach station. There’s nothing quite like walking down the grassy, muddy side of a motorway in semi-formal attire, not being totally certain that you’re heading in the right direction, that makes you think that you’re actually putting effort in for something you love doing. The match finished 9-2 to Oxford, a pretty thrilling match, although it was rather difficult to write all the important information down while simultaneously concentrating on such a fast-tempo spectacle. Since working for the FA, I have also travelled to a dodgy area in Birmingham (where I thought I might get violently assaulted, it had that sort of atmosphere), a quite pleasant area in Sheffield and also the brilliant St George’s Park for the Futsal Super League Grand Finals at the end of May. It was also thanks to my futsal reporting career that I managed to get my first sport’s article published in print, which was a preview of the aforementioned Grand Finals. If you happen to have a programme from the event, you’ll be able to find my name on the back cover… fame at last! To view some of the pictures I took at the event, click here.
At the present moment I am still working with the FA and The Football Pink, as well as writing the occasional article for other various websites. I’m also part of the Futsal Focus team, a website that will soon be up and running after obtaining quite a vast following on Twitter and Facebook. The last year or so I think I have developed well as a football writer, all that’s needed now is a few hundred more followers, a wider vocabulary range and more money. Onwards and upwards!
On the 31st of May, I travelled to St George’s Park in Burton (England’s national training base for football) on behalf of the FA to report on the most significant English futsal games of the season in the Futsal League Grand Finals. Participating on the day were Baku United, Helvecia, Loughborough and Manchester Futsal Club. It was an entertaining afternoon with goals galore as Baku triumphed for the second consecutive season and remained England’s futsal champions.
Below is a gallery of some of the photos I captured throughout the semi-finals, final and third-placed play-off. Admittedly it’s not like me to dabble in the realm of photography but since I have a fairly professional camera at my disposal, I decided to give it a go. Any feedback is appreciated since sports photography is a lot trickier than I anticipated.
In my first instalment of the #ThrowbackThursday series, I have decided to cover one of the most exciting games of futsal I’ve seen so far this decade (note: I didn’t actually watch this live but there was a full re-run of the match available on Youtube which has since been removed). Futsal is naturally much more exhilarating than football; the fast paced movement, decision-making and showboating is admirable in the 5-a-side game and all of these qualities are very much on-show in this particular match. But enough of me being nostalgic. Here is my match report for the 2012 World Futsal Cup Final, played in Thailand.
Brazil secured their fifth World Cup title following a 3-2 victory over Spain and brought an end to their 109 game unbeaten run after extra time.
A late strike in the 50th minute from Neto was the difference between the two world futsal giants as the South American’s defended the title they had won in their home country four years ago.
The match proved to be a very evenly contested affair with both side’s tactical strategies working to full effect. The intense playing style of Venancio Lopez’s side against the more stylish football deployed by Marcos Serato was testament to the biggest match in world futsal.
In the opening stages, Brazil seemed to be lacking the confidence that had seen them score 42 goals throughout the tournament as Spain maintained intense pressure. The first chance of the match fell to the eight-time European Champions, a quick passing move between Ortiz and Sergio Lozano opened up space allowing the number nine to strike, but it was well blocked on the line by Brazil captain Vinicius.
With the first half being dominated by the Spanish but with a lack of end product, Marcos Sorato called a time out and his side immediately readjusted. Ari was the main orchestrator in the upheaval of Brazilian tempo, and his flurry of shots towards the end of the half signalled new attacking intent by the reigning World champions.
The second period saw the introduction of Falcao for Brazil, who announced his arrival in the early seconds by attempting an audacious lob from the halfway line, which went just over the bar. But an attack five minutes later would prove to be more successful. A swiftly taken corner by Brazil’s top scorer Fernandinho found Neto who rifled a left foot strike past the helpless Juanjo in goal.
Spain responded quickly however, and within six minutes they had scored twice in quick succession to secure the lead. A fearsome shot from Miguelin forced Tiago to parry, but Torras was quickest to react to the rebound as he slotted past the helpless keeper. The Brazilian shot stopper was at fault just under a minute later, Aicardo’s optimistic attempt to beat the goalkeeper at the near post proved successful as Tiago failed to adjust his feet correctly, with the ball consequently bouncing off his boot and into the net.
The World Cup seemed destined for European soil with three minutes to go, Torras nearly scored his second of the match when his shot hit the crossbar, but the perseverance of the current world champions proved superior to Spain’s aggressive closing down strategy in the match’s dying embers. With Serato choosing to fly the keeper, Brazil managed to construct a 17 pass sequence which ended with a long-range Falcao effort finding the top corner.
Chances were at a premium during the extra time period and the final seemed destined to host a penalty shootout for the third tournament in a row but for Neto’s eventual winner. The number 11 flicked the ball over Fernandao’s leg before taking a few strides and planting the ball in the bottom right corner to send a sea of yellow of green into jubilation.
Spain 2-3 (a.e.t) Brazil (HT: 0-0)
Spain goalscorers: Torres 30′ & Aicardo 31′
Brazil goalscorers: Neto 25′, 50′ & Falcao 37′
1. CRISTIAN (GK)
9. Sergio LOZANO
13. RAFA (GK)
1 GUITTA (GK)
3 FRANKLIN (GK)