A new beginning: Coach Joshuah Vaz and boys look to ‘punch above the weight’ in international futsal

NEW DELHI: India is entering new territories in international futsal. History will be made on Saturday, August 12, 2023, when India take on hosts Bahrain in an international friendly.

The Indian Futsal Team head coach Joshuah Vaz, who himself has been involved with the sport for over a decade, will have the honour of guiding the Futsal Tigers on the court.

“This will be a historic moment for everyone who has been working for the correct form of futsal to be played. We never gave up on the dream that AIFF will one day take up futsal,” said Vaz to AIFF“ There have been a few private competitions and naysayers, but we stuck to the resolve that we will grow futsal through the correct channels, through AIFF.”

Vaz also extensively thanked the AIFF management for extending its wings to encompass futsal under its banner.

“The AIFF is doing a great job with the club championship, and now I hear that there are plans to make it a longer league. If we can take futsal across India, I think the interest in the sport will also grow exponentially and create a lot of job opportunities,” he said. “I would like to thank Mr Kalyan Chaubey (AIFF President), Dr Shaji Prabhakaran (AIFF Secretary General), Mr Vijay Bali (AIFF Executive Committee Member), and Mr Ranjit Bajaj (Team Manager) for taking an active interest in the sport and helping us take the baby steps towards making this big.”

Vaz, who is a Level 2 futsal coach, has previously played in the I-League, but took up futsal in 2019, followed by participation in the Futsal Club Championship, where he operated as the player-cum-coach at Mohammedan Sporting.

While the best performers of the Futsal Club Championship were selected by the AIFF scouts for the national team camp, the 33-year-old has been training the players in Amritsar for the last four weeks.

“We do not have a long legacy in futsal, so the first couple of weeks of the camp were all about adapting to different aspects of futsal,” said Vaz. “This is an extremely fast and tactical game, so your decisions must be lightning quick. Most goals in futsal come from set-pieces, so we did a lot of set-piece training as well, along with various combinations of rotation.”

India’s two international friendlies against Bahrain on August 12 and 14 are just the beginning of a bigger picture that Vaz and his boys are trying to paint on the new canvas of futsal. The Indian Futsal Team are also set to AFC Futsal Asian Cup 2024 Qualifiers, later this year, where they have been drawn against hosts Tajikistan (October 7), Myanmar (October 9), and Palestine (October 11).

“We have of course watched a lot of videos of our opponents. First, Bahrain, and then Tajikistan, Myanmar, and Palestine. They are all good teams that play at a high level. We are an unranked side right now, but I think in terms of physicality and fitness, we are just as good as any of them,” said Vaz. “The area where we really need to level up is tactics. The two matches against Bahrain will really give us a good idea of where we currently stand against teams of this level. 

“What I can assure is that we will strive for results. We are not going there to be punching bags for the others. We will try and punch above our weight and give ourselves a chance to qualify from our group,” he said.

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