New Zealand is being represented by two sides, both male and female, in the city of Goiânia and those players will make history as the first from their country to wear the silver fern at the event.
New Zealand Football has teamed up with University and Tertiary Sport New Zealand (UTSNZ) to make the teams’ participation possible and Sarah Anderson, Executive Director for UTSNZ, is pleased to provide such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“International opportunities like attendance at world university championships provide a way for national sporting bodies to develop athletes and staff on the global stage,” she says.
“But they also provide unique opportunities for athlete students to gain a sense of pride in representing their respective universities and lifelong learning experiences from both a sport and cultural diversity viewpoint.”
The event is likely to become a key step on New Zealand Football’s futsal development pathway and one eye has been placed on the future with the squad selections.
“We’ve created a pathway that provides students with the opportunity to play futsal through college and then into the tertiary space with the ultimate goal of representing New Zealand at the World University Championship,” says New Zealand Football Futsal Development Manager Dave Payne.
“But events like these also further create awareness of the sport for those who may want to take up futsal at university level, which is an important part of our futsal development plan.”
The action in Brazil is sure to be of a high standard – some teams even feature professional players – and the New Zealand sides are unlikely to be among the favourites for the silverware.
The women’s team is very much heading into the unknown and blazing a trail for female futsal in this country.
“It’s really exciting because it’s the first big futsal tournament that a women’s team from New Zealand has ever been involved in,” skipper Hannah Kraakman says.
The women have been drawn in a five-strong group with Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan and Bolivia – opponents they know little about with the obvious exception of the hosts.
“Brazil are the reigning champions and have got some of the best female futsal players in the world. That will be a really tough game but it will be interesting to see how we go against them,” Kraakman says.
“The dream goal is obviously to win the tournament but our main ones are to firstly win a game and then look to get out of the group stage.”
To make sure the side is up to it, coach Nic Downes put his players through a pair of tough games against age-group boys teams in the build-up to the championship.
“Our final week has been really good and we’ve had two challenging games in there, hopefully just to get them aware of what the intensity and pace is going to be like,” he says.