Often the university’s standard bearer at national BUCS competitions, York’s Futsal Club, the longest established of its kind in the country, stand on the brink of yet another trailblazing season. The club have gained entry to the FA National League Play-offs, the feeder competition for the elite national league, which take place in late October and are becoming accustomed to mixing it with the very best.
One of only three universities who have made the play-offs, York must compete against four other teams for two available berths in the top flight. This division acts as a gateway to the prestigious UEFA Futsal Cup, which features the cream of European talent, but, as club President David Ambrozejczyk explains, the mentality for a much-changed squad is one step at a time.
“If we get through this play-off the benefits are huge. The FA National League is the qualification route for the UEFA Futsal Cup, which although is a distant ambition, it is crazy to think that a small sporting university like York could represent this country on the international stage. We will be one of only four universities competing in the league nationally [joining the University of the West of England, Loughborough and Bath], all of whom are renowned for their sporting pedigree,” he said.
Action from the Indoor Football event at Roses 2009. Photograph by Shaun Morton.
Although the club are daring to dream, a whole pantheon of opponents must first be overcome, starting with the play-off pool of Albert Park, Liverpool Futsal Club, East Coast Futsal Club and Oldham Athletic on October 31st.
“Liverpool and Albert Park [based near Middlesbrough] are established sides, but the big side here is undoubtedly Oldham Athletic. Although they are a new team in Futsal, the name itself is well known [the football side competing in Coca Cola League One]. Their Futsal arm boasts an England Futsal international and two players who have also played professional Futsal in Portugal,” said Ambrozejczyk.
Overcoming these talented opponents will merely open up further battles in the National League, which contains the aforementioned university teams and the likes of Helvecia, a team made up entirely of Brazilian Futsallers and current holders of the FA Futsal Cup. However, the potential rewards, notably the financial investment supplied by the Football Associations for equipment, kit and training facilities, are massive.
The challenge of hoisting the name of York University Futsal to the pinnacle of the game in England rests with a collection of players weakened by the departure of three key personalities from last season. Graduating from the university in the summer were Anton ‘Dreamz’ Murphy, who reliably provided attacking quality on the big stage, Dan Hyde, the former Nouse Sports Editor and a ‘wildly creative forward,’ and James Grey, the outgoing Captain who was the team’s most experienced and accomplished player.
Build-up play from Lancaster during this year’s Roses Indoor Football encounter. Photograph by Shaun Morton.
However, a formidable axis remains to supplement the freshers coming into the team, offering optimism to Ambrozejczyk. “Jack Crane, the first team Captain, is one of only three players remaining from the National Finals squad and is a defensive stalwart with UYAFC. Uncompromising and always dependable, playing as a second defender – probably the hardest position – he will act as the link between keeping it tight at the back, while also being at the start of all our attacking moves.
“Dom Henney, who is also Derwent firsts football Captain, has made the last man role, the most defensive role on the pitch, his own in the past year. Astute at reading the game, he will form a solid partnership at the back with Crane this year. Is also capable of a wonder strike!
“Ben Smith, the UYAFC seconds Captain, is something of a new recruit to Futsal – he began training with us towards the end of last year. He has adjusted well to the pace of Futsal, but this year will face a real test having to take on some of the load left by last year’s graduates.”
And this load is intense. The Futsal calendar for 2009-2010 is crammed with events at home and abroad, starting with the all-important play-offs in week three and continuing with two rounds of BUCS qualifiers. Round three and four come in the Spring Term, after an early January date in Brno, Czech Republic for the Nike GigaSport Cup. The summer features the IUTT Competition in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and the BUCS Finals, not to mention a college Futsal tournament. Strength in depth within the squad, hopefully provided by freshers, will once again be crucial.
“I think the biggest overall target this year is to win some silverware. York has the oldest University Futsal Club in the UK [eleven years] and in that time we’ve had our fair share of bad luck and near misses,” said Ambrozejczyk. “Hopefully we can get near to winning BUCS this year, but it would be great if we could win one of the tournaments we play in every year.
“We have to be at the top of our game to win at the FA National League Play-offs, but we have proved that we can mix it with the best – two top ten finishes at IUTT [an elite Futsal competition], where we have beaten Polish and Portuguese National Champions in the past, shows that York has a lot of talent.”
The University of York Futsal club are holding trials in week two on Monday [8pm-10pm], Friday [8pm-10pm] and Saturday [2pm-4pm]. “These are open to everyone and we’re looking for players in all positions as games start week three. The squad places are very much up for grabs, so competition should hopefully be abundant. If you’ve never played Futsal before, come along as it greatly improves your technique for football – the games mutually benefit each other,” added Ambrozejczyk.
Membership prices are also very small – you have the opportunity to play more than once a week for the whole year for just £10.
Further details can be found on the club’s Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/search/?init=srp&sfxp=&q=University+of+York+Futsal+2009-2010#/group.php?gid=125736888233&ref=search&sid=686755951.3123387293..1