A little bit of history was made in Tonga two weeks ago when FIFA delivered a FIFA Futsal and Beach Soccer coaching course for the first time. The combining of the two small-sided disciplines into a single course, which was attended by 20 local coaches, including many of Tonga's technical staff, between 12 and 16 May, was done with the aim of aiding the fledgling development of both forms of the game in the Pacific island nation.
And all who were involved left ready and prepared to begin implementing the Tonga Football Association (TFA)’s ambitious futsal and beach soccer development plans. Mr Kilifi Uelele, Tonga Football Association Technical Director said: "The course was a successful one with the both new forms of football introduced to Tonga.
"The Tonga Football Association and the participants are interested and very motivated to take these disciplines to the players. We have selected a sub-committee to drive Futsal and Beach Soccer here in Tonga to continue the sports' growth."
The futsal practical was held at the Indoor Stadium and beach soccer took place at Halafuoleva beach, which are both within close proximity of the Tonga Football Academy. Mr Uelele also said the Tonga Football Futsal Court has been approved as part of FIFA Goal programme, and construction is expected to begin in June.
“Because Tonga is really at the beginning of developing both futsal and beach soccer, FIFA felt this was a practical way to deliver the course,” explained FIFA instructor and OFC Futsal and Beach Soccer Development Officer Paul Toohey. “We had three days of futsal and two days of beach soccer, which meant made a start at developing the Tonga Football Association programme in both disciplines.”
Tonga is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Oceanian counterparts Samoa, where futsal has already been successfully introduced, and the country’s interest in beach soccer was confirmed last year when TFA technical director Kilifi Uele attended a FIFA seminar in Tahiti. And though the world governing body remains keen to promote the two disciplines individually, combining the two – both of which are renowned for enhancing the technique of participants – made for a common sense solution in a country in which both remain in their infancy.
As Toohey said: “While we are always hoping to develop futsal and beach soccer as sports in their own right, we also focus on integrating futsal into existing programmes and extending the football season. Hopefully, we can take a look at the TFA development centres and the centres of excellence and how we can include more futsal in their activities, and also share ideas on what is required to create sustainable competitions for all age groups and abilities.
“I’m yet to come across a football loving community that doesn’t adapt to futsal. For me it’s a natural fit if you love and have a passion for football. Very quickly you start to see not only the technical and tactical benefits, but also the sheer joy everyone gets from the game.
“With beach soccer the enjoyment factor is equally important. We saw last year with the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Tahiti and what that did for the football loving community as they followed the Tiki Toa (Tahiti’s beach soccer side) and the tournament itself. So we can see that futsal and beach soccer are already a big part of Oceania’s football culture and something we can all aspire to without it being a faraway dream.”