Deaf Sports Events24th March 2014
England Take The Spoils In Inaugural Deaf Futsal International Against Wales
England and Wales Deaf Futsal teams met for the first time in a friendly international at the House of Sport on Cardiff
The fantastic indoor arena facilities at the Cardiff House of Sport, next door to the Cardiff City Stadium, was the venue for the first ever international match between England and Wales Deaf Futsal teams. A fast and skilful format of football, Futsal is contested between 5 players from each team, one of which is the goalkeeper. The game requires high levels of ball control, fitness and spatial awareness. It is often played at a fast and furious pace, making it an ideal spectator sport.
Having recently played a series of games during their respective qualification rounds for the European Championships, both teams came into the game disappointed to have missed out on qualification. A world-wide craze, Futsal is not new to the UK, but it is still in its infancy with many of the players on display pulled from the 11-a-side version of the game.
Under the watchful eye of experienced FAW referee Ian Townsend, England kicked off, only for Wales to break quickly before a minute had elapsed on the clock, with Wales Captain Harry Allen given an easy tap in to score the first goal of the game, following an initial parry by the England keeper, Scott Coalwood. A series of chances followed as the teams tested each other out, trying to set the rhythm of the game, with fast fluid movement off the ball.
Four minutes in, Wales took what looked like a handsome 2 - 0 lead with Gareth Denmead setting up Adam Llewellyn to score from close range. With no limit on the number of substitutions, players were replaced with no break in the play, thereby maintaining an exhausting pace to the game. Within seconds of the re-start, England had pulled a goal back through the lively Oliver Manoochehri, from the St Johns Deaf FC.
In a game of thrust and counter thrust, coaches urgently thumped the floor with their feet to get the attention of their players, a means of communication also used by the players during free kicks and corners to make sure everyone was in the right place and knew who they were marking. Hand signals were common place, but not in the same way that we see on our televisions with the top 11-a-side teams, sign language being used by a lot of the players to give their instruction to their team mates or to show their support.
Following a further cagey period, Gareth Denmead was to get his reward for a strong start to the game, when he was set up to score by Craig Chaplin from the Bristol Deaf FC, re-storing Wales’ two goal lead. With England increasingly taking a greater share of possession and seeming to set the pace of the game, their second goal looked inevitable and it came from their highly experienced and influential Captain John Atkinson 12 minutes into the half, bringing the score to 3 - 2 to Wales.
With no lack of commitment from any of the players, Futsal is not just a game of skill, physicality also playing its part especially with the man to man marking that is used for large parts of the match. Following one hefty challenge, Wales’ talisman Harry Allen picked up a minor injury and the remaining 5 minutes of the half saw England score three goals, to take a 5 – 3 lead at the break. The first came from their lithe and energetic number 9, James Clarke following an assist from Jon Atkinson, who would himself go on to complete a first half hat-trick, with two goals in the 17th minute. Assists for Atkinson’s goals came from the busy Marios Costi and combative Alistair Dalziel respectively.
With an ever increasing watching crowd, Wales emerged for the second half in determined style, with Captain Allen pulling his team together for an up-lifting talk before the half got underway. Having agreed a pre-planned start to the second half, Adam Llewellyn took a long range shot from the half way line with the second touch of the half, a shot that could only be knocked down into the path of Harry Allen who scored his second of the match.
Maintaining a strong start to the second half, Wales drew level when James Paull set up his Captain for another calm and polished finish to complete his hat-trick with 18 minutes left on the clock. However, despite the best Welsh efforts, it was the England Captain John Atkinson who was to put England back ahead just over a minute later, James Clarke with the assist. From this point on, and with Captain 'Fantastic' Atkinson driving his team forward, England were to take control of the game.
A second for Oliver Manoochehri, to make the score 7 – 5 to England was followed by three more goals from John Atkinson, bringing his personal tally to seven for the match. His sixth goal from the penalty spot, proved the quality of his striking ability, with a shot that left the Welsh keeper, Dylan Roberts, no chance as it fizzed into the net.
With 44 seconds left on the clock, the hard working Gareth Denmead scored his second of the game, to bring Wales a little closer on the scoreboard at 10 – 6, only for James Clarke to round off a strong personal performance with his second of the game with just 10 seconds remaining, making the final score 11 – 6 to England. Worthy winners after maintaining their high tempo for the full 40 minutes, England will have returned home feeling slightly flattered by the final score.
Losing Captain Harry Allen commented on the game, “I am gutted for Wales, but proud of my team. It is hard to take, especially as we were 3 - 1 up in the first half. I feel it was a much closer game than 6 - 11.”
Welsh coach Memnos Costi was also disappointed in the score but delighted that the game had been played. “I am gutted for the Welsh team, but on a positive note we have learned a few things to make us better in the next game. Both teams know each well but it was good to play against each other.” Head coach Ashley Thomas was disappointed with the result, but recognised that the Welsh team had played little more than a handful of games together before this game, so there was a lot more to come in the way of future development.
Winning Captain, John Atkinson was understandably delighted with his team’s performance. Involved in Futsal for a number of years, John is keen to see Deaf Futsal grow in the UK so that the home nations can compete on the international stage. “I would like to see more England Deaf Futsal Clubs across England,” he told me. “It would help the GB team at the Deaflympics. In terms of fitness, speed and skills, Futsal is a good start before playing football.”
With a word for any deaf youngsters out there playing sport, England striker James Clarke had this advice, “Be the best you can be and follow your dreams. It’s important to maintain commitment.”
These remain early days for Deaf Futsal in the UK, but this game demonstrated the quality of the players available to play at this top level. Both team captains are keen for deaf youngsters to get involved and anyone interested is encouraged to contact their closest Deaf Football team who will be able to help in finding the nearest deaf Futsal teams.
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Article by Sarah Lawrence
posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events
24th March 2014