Just days away from Gibraltar’s first competitive international futsal match on home turf (even though there won’t be any turf to speak of) Karl Zarb Secretary of the Gibraltar Futsal division spoke to Stephen Ignacio.
Mr Zarb has been one of the key promoters of the sport in Gibraltar. Organiser, administrator, and basically the hands on of futsal in Gibraltar his presence at the sports hall every weekend ensures the somewhat difficult task of keeping fustal running on a week to week basis. Whilst fustal has as yet to reach the popularity levels of 11 aside football, its growth during recent years have seen four divisions formed which have seen numerous players pass through its ranks. Mr Zarb gave his insights into the sport and the significance of seeing the one of the group matches in the UEFA Euro preliminary round qualifiers host in Gibraltar, a first for Gibraltar.
On Saturday Gibraltar takes on Montenegro in its first international futsal preliminary round qualifier to be played at home. How important is it for futsal in general that this group matches have been brought to Gibraltar?
Futsal, altough relatively unknown to many, is currently the fastest growing sport worldwide and hosting such events locally is extremely important in promoting the sport and increasing awareness and participation at all levels. It is also the first competitive international match to be hosted in Gibraltar and a great chance for us to show our home crowd and Gibraltar as a whole what futsal is all about and that we can also compete at that level.
Both Montenegro and Sweden, in futsal terms, are newcomers into the scene, not having been playing for long, even though longer than Gibraltar. They nevertheless have very good records in the international front. How do you see the matches against Montenegro and Sweden?
Expectations locally are always going to be high but realistically we have to understand that Montenegro and Sweden and two very strong and experienced nations in futsal and ranked much higher than us, therefore we have two very tough matches ahead of us. We’ve been training extremely hard for the past three months, both on and off the pitch and I am sure that the players and coaches will give 110%. We will be looking to put in two good performances and hopefully cause an upset, but for this we need our home crowd to fill up the Tercentenary and get behind our players, they are our 6th player.
The latest friendly match against Switzerland saw two very different matches being played. In the first Gibraltar struggled losing 13-0 whilst in the second match they performed better even though they lost 5-1. How did you see Gibraltar’s performance?
The matches against Switzerland served as a preparation for the big event, they were an opportunity for the coaches to try different tactics, players, formations etc that’s what friendlies are for. We played two very different games with different tactics, formations, combination of players etc, the first match did not go as planned. Thankfully we were quickly able to put it behind us and concentrate on our second match in which we saw a much better performance from the team, playing a completely different style of futsal and despite the defeat, we took a lot of positives and most importantly, moral was re-instated immediately. That was the type of performance we were expecting and that we hope we can match against Montenegro and Sweden this weekend.
Considering the outcome how do you see Gibraltar’s chances?
Realistically we all know what our expectations and chances are, we face two very tough matches this weekend and will be hoping for two good performances. What is certain is that the team will give 110% and with the support of our home crowd you never know, we might cause an upset like we did against Switzerland in 2015.
What will bringing these international matches do, do you hope, for Gibraltar’s futsal scene?
Hosting these type of matches and events here in Gibraltar is very important on all fronts and especially for the future of local futsal if we want to continue developing and progressing at both club and international level. It’s the best platform to prove how popular futsal is becoming and to promote and create the required awareness to increase participation and standards at all levels.
I would like to take this opportunity to urge local supporters to come down to the Tercentenary Hall on Saturday and Monday and get behind the team, they are our 6th player. Tickets can be purchased from the GFA office in Irish Town, priced at £5 per match and all proceeds are being donated to local charities.
Gibraltar will kick off the tournament on Saturday at 1900hrs with their first group match against Montenegro. The importance of a home crowd has been continually highlighted in recent days by players, coaches and GFA officials. Whilst the tournament takes place during a weekend, with the rest of the football season still continuing as normal, the international matches, especially the ones in which Gibraltar is playing, is hoped will attract larger than normal crowds to watch. The matches are also being seen as an indicator on the support Gibraltar has from the local market even when entering the competition as the underdogs and the most likely to not qualify past the preliminary group stage. The numbers watching will be an indicator for future matches as Gibraltar hopes to attract more international matches to the Rock.
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