OMAGH Futsal Club was founded just over six months ago and today they face their first real test when they host Northern Ireland champions, Belfast United, in their maiden competitive fixture.
The Tyrone side will entertain the team who are currently sitting joint top of the NI League standings with a goal difference of +98 from 11 games this afternoon at Omagh Leisure Complex.
And while few will be backing the newcomers to cause an upset ahead of the eagerly anticipated encounter, Omagh’s Spanish coach, David Alonso is taking a philosophical approach to the game.
“They are the stronger team, but I’m really positive, always. I do football for a long time and coaching since I was 18 and I’ve never lost a match before it started,” mused the Madrid native.
“It’s going to be a big challenge and the minimum we can do is try to earn their respect, but we haven’t lost the game yet! It’s a good draw for us because we’ll see what level we are at.”
Having already tested themselves against several NI League teams since their formation and having impressed with wins against World United and Derry Eagles, Alonso and his team know they are making progress.
And that forward momentum is something he and club chairman Martin Cassidy want to maintain as they prepare to enter the league next season.
However, changing the mentality of people in Tyrone and Northern Ireland in general, so they will embrace Futsal as a sport, rather than seeing it as a poor man’s indoor soccer, is something they have been working on achieving first.
“We want to be one of the stronger teams in Northern Ireland, but it’s going to take hard work and time because there is no understanding of Futsal. People don’t respect it yet, but when they try it that changes,” observed Alonso, who also coaches Ballinamallard United’s under-15s and the Fermanagh Super Cup NI squads.
“It will be a slow process but in Futsal you need skills, you need both legs and it makes you more confident with the ball, it makes you better at football.
“I’ve played Futsal all my life and my father is 75 and so has he, which shows how long we’ve had Futsal in Spain.
“It’s not like we have the grassroots here, it’s something alien, something from outside and people can be a little defensive about that, but once they open their minds and get over that, they can see why it helps.”
Slowly, but surely, David and Martin have started to change peoples’ minds about the sport, growing their fledgling club from five players at their first training session on October 2, 2017, to around 28 now.
Such is their growth that they have entered two teams in the first round of the NI Cup, with the Falcons entertaining the All Blacks on Wednesday.
But David, who played fourth division football in Spain and National B team Futsal for his country, knows they still have a long way to go.
“It’s a challenge – when you’re at the bottom of the pile, the only way to go is up,” he acknowledged.
Today’s game kicks-off at 3.30pm, while Wednesday’s encounter with the All Blacks will begin at 8.30pm.
IT’S been something of a rollercoaster season for Jamie Harney but the accomplished defender is hoping to sign off...
AFTER a dozen years of trying, Harry McConkey eventually got his hands on the Umbro Cup last weekend. The...