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Tuesday, 01 May 2012 18:55

Heart plans multi-sport future through futsal

Written by  Ante Jukić
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    With all of the hype surrounding the A-League Grand Final and Ange Postecoglou’s ensuing signing for Melbourne Victory, important steps in the development of the Australian game were quietly taken across town.

    Melbourne Heart recently made a giant leap in its continued development, with the inception of its own futsal offshoot.

    Speaking to Heart football operations manager John Didulica at the club’s offices in Bundoora, he described the move to have a futsal program as pivotal to their footballing and cultural make-up.

    “One of our key values is authenticity, and that can mean a lot of things, but what it meant to us was doing things in a way that speaks to football people,” he said.

    “Eighteen months ago we spoke with Cobras (Futsal Club, based in Bulleen) about some involvement because I always wanted a futsal platform within the club, and its another area for fans to engage in. We said we’d keep in touch and when they were serious about getting into the F-League, we gave them our full support to get it across the line.

    “All of the clubs are very thinly resourced and you can’t just bring teams to life, so we’re partnering with Cobras and they’ll drive everything operationally and logistically.

    Didulica views it not merely as a cosmetic branding, but a consequence of Heart’s current circumstances and nevertheless an extension of the club’s core beliefs.

    “I think for now it’s still baby steps at every level for us, so it’s far better to be doing it as it stands now than to be not doing it at all. This is the perfect vehicle in which to do it and I’m looking forward to it.

    “It’s not just a branding, because we’re actually going to develop some joint synergies. Player selection, coaching and player interaction are important and (jokingly) I’ve always left the door for our South Americans to get on the teamsheet.

    “From there we can gauge how successful it is. I know our fans and supporter groups have been in contact with the futsal team, and hopefully they’re going to be able to get across to games, but we’ve identified what the key points of interaction will be for this season. If we can get it done properly we can drive it further.”

    Heart organised trials last Sunday afternoon in Mitcham, in preparation for the second F-League season, which commences in June.

    The 2011 F-League season, taken out by Maccabi Hakoah, was based solely in New South Wales, but with Heart and Vic Vipers Futsal Club joining Saint Albans, this year’s edition sees two weekends out of six played in Melbourne.

    “History is working against the clubs in the A-League, because they were after all started as franchises, and what I wanted was for our club to be more organic when we started out,” Didulica explained.

    With clubs such as Barcelona, Flamengo, Panathinaikos and more recently Bayern Munich developing multiple sporting functions, Didulica considers the decision to be a natural progression, not only with respect to Heart’s philosophy, but also its very legitimacy as a football club.

    Despite such a move being unheard of in Australian sporting circles, with an increasingly Americanised professional structure, the football department at Heart feel it important to solidify its burgeoning identity through futsal.

    “While we’re never- well for the foreseeable future – we won’t have 50,000 per week and the back page of the Herald Sun, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do things like elsewhere, and that’s why the futsal team was an important part of that. Anyone who’s a student of football will know what a big deal it is to have a futsal team,” Didulica said.

    “Other people say it’s a waste of time, but anyone who knows their football knows that around the world clubs have futsal teams and in Asia, futsal is massive.

    “We see ourselves as part of the AFC so anyone who understands the landscape will see this as a no brainer. The question they should be asking is when we’re going to get a basketball team.”

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