Canberra has a long and proud affinity with the Futsalroos, the national Futsal team of Australia, with several prominent personalities involved in squads over the course of the last twenty years.
Goalkeeper Angelo Konstantinou was selected for two FIFA Futsal World Cups, held in Thailand and Colombia, whilst Daniel Fulton graced the green and gold as well amongst a plethora of other talented individuals.
The latest Canberra-based player to join these ranks is Boomerangs FS star Nick Rathjen. Rathjen is well-known in local Canberra football for his stand-out performances in the heart of the Gungahlin United engine-room in their successful National Premier League (NPL) program.
His displays in the holding role, breaking up attacks and picking precise forward-oriented passes, seem tailor-made for the Futsal pitch, and its little surprise that Rathjen credits the small-sided game with aiding and developing his all-round skills and abilities.
“I think futsal has been the key factor in my overall development in the past decade and has helped me to hone the skills that I find most useful on a football pitch,” Rathjen said on the eve of the Futsalroos AFF Tournament opener against Timor Leste.
“Futsal forces you to improve your ball skills and reading of the game, both of which translate perfectly into the outdoor game. The role I play at Gungahlin now is the role I’ve played on the futsal court for as long as I can remember.”
For Rathjen becoming a fully-fledged Futsal international has been something of a watershed moment for a player who, because of the nature of his role, can sometimes go under the radar of most football watchers. Connoisseurs of the game though realise just how valuable a player of his ilk can be.
“It’s feels surreal. It’s something I’ve dreamed of achieving ever since I first played the sport and I am very humbled to have the opportunity to represent our country,” Rathjen commented.
“I’m expecting the tournament to be a good challenge, particularly the group stage games against Vietnam and Myanmar. We have a strong squad and I expect that we will compete well against all the opponents we face. Success would be finishing in the top three of the tournament, which would qualify us for the AFC tournament in Kuwait later this year.”
Fulton, a Futsalroo of some class, played an integral part in Rathjen’s early Futsal career, introducing him to the game in 2012, meaning his progress to the elite level has been almost a decade in the making.
“I first played futsal in a class run by Daniel Fulton at my high school. From there, I was introduced to the Boomerangs FS senior squad and played my first game of futsal in the 2012 F-League,” he revealed.
“I’ve played with Boomerangs in the NSW Premier Leagues and the ACT Premier League in most of the years since. In 2018, I had the opportunity to play with East Coast Heat at the AFF Futsal Club Championship in Indonesia, which was a great experience and my first time playing overseas.
“I haven’t played a huge amount of futsal over the past two years with the COVID pandemic but have played a bit socially in the Canberra leagues.”
Make no mistake, the Futsalroos are heading to the AFF Futsal Championship to do one thing – win. And Rathjen is adamant just how important a successful and thriving national team is to the country.
“The Futsalroos is absolutely critical to futsal in Australia,” he states. “The opportunity to represent the nation gives players something to aim for and helps to drive interest in futsal for all age groups. Many players in Australia, including myself, were inspired by past Futsalroos teams.”
Australian fans can watch all the action live & free on the My Football YouTube Channel.
Each match will be played at the Huamark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, with Australia’s group stage fixtures set for April 4, 5 and 6.
April 4, vs Timor Leste, 4.00pm AEST / 1.00pm Local
April 5, vs Myanmar, 2.00pm AEST / 11.00am Local
April 6, vs Vietnam, 2.00pm AEST / 11.00am Local