Remembering Atta

2 Oct 2021
  • Atta Elayyan was a goalkeeper for New Zealand’s national futsal team

  • He was tragically killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings

  • Members of the NZ futsal community paid tribute to him at Lithuania 2021

“This Futsal World Cup was a big, big dream of Atta’s,” his best friend and fellow goalkeeper Elias Billeh told FIFA.com. “We would be up at night, until I don’t know what time, talking about what it would be like to be there.” Atta Elayyan never got the chance to go to a FIFA Futsal World Cup™. He was among the 51 people tragically killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings in March 2019 – six months before the OFC Futsal Nations Cup, a qualifier for Lithuania 2021, began.

Atta Elayyan with New Zealand futsal team-mates.

Atta was, however, between the posts here – at least spiritually. Matt Fejos, a pioneering futsal coach, Brayden Lissington, Atta’s former Futsal Whites team-mate, goalkeeper Fraser Hunter and Mitch Thomasen travelled to Lithuania and laid an Atta No1 jersey in the goalmouth in a moving tribute to a man who meant so much to many. “I cried a lot when Elias showed me it, but it meant so much to me,” Atta’s widow Farah told FIFA.com. “It gave me that reassurance that it’s not just me and his family that will never forget Atta. He still has a lot of people who love him and remember him. “I really wasn’t expecting such a tribute. The Futsal World Cup is about the games. And it’s not an event in New Zealand, but a world tournament. To see that people were paying tribute to Atta was beautiful. It was painful to see at the same time, but it was really beautiful.”

Matt Fejos, Brayden Lissington, Fraser Hunter and Mitch Thomasen with Atta Elayyan's shirt

“Futsal meant a lot to Atta. He was always talking about this year’s tournament. He was such a busy man, always had so much going on, but he always really dedicated to futsal. I loved to see how dedicated he was. He was always trying to improve, watching videos and trying to get better at something. “I used to take our baby to watch Atta. She doesn’t remember, but I know her presence meant a lot to him. In the future I’ll be able to show her the photos [of the tribute].” Futsal really did mean a lot to Atta. He didn’t need it. A highly successful businessman and app developer, he played futsal because he loved it. Through it he forged dreams and made friends.

“We got to know each other through futsal,” explained Elias. “We started out playing against each other and then in 2013 he was called up by the Futsal Whites. We built a really strong relationship that turned into a brotherhood. I considered him to be my brother. I believe he considered me to be his brother. “The Futsal World Cup was his number-one goal. We always talked about it. He was doing everything to be there. It’s nice to see that, through the tribute, he was. “We have a small futsal community in New Zealand, but we have a bloody strong one. For people, going to a Futsal World Cup should be the big thing. But for them to want to go to continue Atta’s legacy, that’s just awesome.

“Atta was never the guy who wanted the limelight. He was such a positive, enthusiastic person who was always there for others. He had such a big heart for everyone. I think Atta would be looking at it in his own quiet way, really chuffed, thinking ‘These guys are crazy doing this for me’. “What Matt and Brayden and the lads did for him was awesome. Atta’s legacy continues.” “I’m sure he would be happy and proud of himself,” said Farah. “And he’d be proud of and grateful to his team-mates for showing that, no matter what, he lives on with them.” RIP Atta Mohammed Elayyan.

Atta Elayyan with his family.