The coach of the national men’s futsal team is impressed with the North’s interest in the sport – an indoor derivation of soccer.
In fact, Kyt Selaidopoulos sees possibly big things ahead for futsal in the North.
“They can be the leaders in futsal in our country, and they’re on the right track,” Selaidopoulos said during a recent stop in Hay River. “They have the Arctic Winter Games where they have futsal.”
The sport of futsal needs a leader, he said. “And if it’s the northern part of the country, why not?”
On Sept. 29 and 30, Selaidopoulos assisted with the Hay River Regional Futsal Camp, which looked at players from around the South Slave in advance of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Hay River and Fort Smith.
Before coming to Hay River, he made stops in Whitehorse and Yellowknife, where he held identification camps for the national futsal team.
It was his first time in the NWT.
Selaidopoulos, who is from Montreal, said futsal is growing across Canada.
“It’s at the beginning stages,” he said of futsal in the NWT. “But pretty much across the country we’re at the beginning stages. Yes, the bigger provinces have a bigger pool of players where they do a little bit more, but everybody is pretty much at the same level, give or take, in building futsal in their own provinces or in the territories.”
Selaidopoulos, who played on the national team in 2004, considers the sport to still be in the beginning stages even though it has been around for years in Canada.
It began in Uruguay in the 1930s.
Selaidopoulos believes it is growing in popularity in Canada because it’s a “spectacular” game.
“There’s a lot of goals. There’s a lot of action. It’s very quick,” he said. “It’s very similar to basketball or hockey.”
Selaidopoulos noted that futsal is a sport in the Youth Olympics, and FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, is trying to get the game into the main Olympic Games.
“So far they haven’t succeeded,” he said. “But I think in the future with the sport growing across the world and with every country putting in time and trying to make it better, I think it’s going to happen.”
Selaidopoulos said his identification camps are looking for players for the national team to prepare for qualifications for the 2020 Futsal World Cup.
In Yellowknife, he saw 18 players.
“Some of them need to work a little bit, but again it’s a mentality,” he said. “We have to build a culture into these players to understand that we’re just starting and people need to be ready whenever they get the call, because the call could come at any time. So when you show up to a national team camp or an ID camp, you need to be ready to perform.”
In Hay River, he was just helping out with the selection process for the Arctic Winter Games
“I won’t be selecting players,” he said. “I’ll give my advice, but I’ll leave that to the coaches.”
In Hay River, Selaidopoulos also showed the difference between soccer and futsal.
“The technical side of it is very different,” he said. “It’s not like soccer. So I try to give them the difference so they can understand what futsal really is and just give them pointers that can help them with soccer, too.”
One of the biggest differences is the futsal ball is smaller and heavier, and therefore does not bounce as much. The rules of the game are also designed to speed up the pace of play and place emphasis on ball control and movement.
Yellowknife’s Gina Michel, head coach of the NWT’s juvenile girls’ team for the Arctic Winter Games, ran the Hay River Regional Futsal Camp for boys and girls around the South Slave with most from Hay River and Fort Smith.
From regional camps, players will be invited to the territorial trials Dec. 7 to 9 in Yellowknife.
Michel welcomed the assistance of Selaidopoulos at the camp in Hay River and with evaluating the talent.
“We thought what better than to get the national coach to come and help us,” she said.
Michel noted she has seen a phenomenal improvement in futsal talent over the past few years in the South Slave.
Michelle Staszuk, a longtime soccer volunteer in Hay River, also welcomed the visit by Selaidopoulos to Hay River.
“This is a really excellent opportunity for Hay River,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see the level of instruction they’ve been getting, especially explaining the differences between futsal and indoor soccer.”
Staszuk said it has been a fun experience for the young players.
One of those players is Alexandre Hubert.
“It was really good, because it’s fun to have new coaches,” said the 10-year-old of Selaidopoulos’ visit to Hay River. “My dad coaches me lots. But it’s fun to have other coaches to see their strategies.”