Sport

Teenaged futsal player Zahli Currie on international competition and the Deadly Dancers. By Vivienne Pearson.
Credit: VIVIENNE PEARSON

Zahli Currie, 18, futsal player Australian Under 19s team

Futsal is a compact version of soccer. It’s played inside on a basketball-sized court with a smaller, heavier ball. There are a few different rules that make it a really fast game. Everything is quick, that’s why I like futsal better than anything else.

I first heard of it when I was in Year 8 at high school. Soccer had been a big part of my life so when my school needed a team I got a few of my friends together. We weren’t that good but it was really fun. I started playing more and then I got into a national team.

The Under 19s Australian futsal team competed in July in the USA nationals. I was expecting to win more games than we did; it was crazy seeing how big futsal is over there.

You have to have this high level of fitness. I was soccer fit but I wasn’t futsal fit. Sprinting for 25 minutes straight takes a level of fitness that a lot of people don’t have.

Every time I finish a futsal competition, I rave about it. I hang out for every time I get to play because there’s not a lot of futsal at my level around my area. The team I play for is based around Port Macquarie so, leading up to nationals, I was travelling over five hours every weekend [from the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales].

I can only travel so often to Port Macquarie but I have the best coach in Brian Hedge, a support teacher at Mullumbimby High School. In the lead-up to competitions, he’d train me at 7 o’clock and then I’d start my day and he’d start his day at school. I have amazing coaches in Port Macquarie, too. Mick Day, who covers futsal all over the NSW North Coast and coaches the top women’s team in Australia at the moment, took me under his wing and brought me into the world of high-level futsal.

They invited me for the women’s team for the same tour next year but I’ll probably not be able to go. I’d love to, but I just scraped enough money together to go this year. There was a lot of fundraising involved and all my family helped, especially my grandfather, Ron. We had a trivia night, a raffle and I set up a GoFundMe page.

One option when I finish school is being part of the women’s team in Port Macquarie but it’s hard to think about it as a career, as there is no money in futsal. Even in soccer, the top Australian women in the world are paid less to win than the men are to lose. That’s hard for people like me, and girls who are younger, who are trying to come into that world. I don’t want to say that it’s all about money but, if I make futsal a career, how am I going to pay rent and buy the expensive kits?

I work hard at school but I don’t put pressure on myself. I’ll finish my HSC but I haven’t done enough units to get an ATAR, which is fine for me as that’s not needed for a lot of things I want to do in life.

I don’t have any set plans. Sport and being fit and active is what I want to turn into a career. One option is that I’ve been accepted into the army – just for a gap year. I’ve done all the assessments, all I need to pass is the physical and that’s probably the easiest bit for me.

My soccer has improved coming back from futsal comps. I play for Mullum Women’s Premier Division team. I also dance and am a volunteer surf lifesaver at Brunswick Heads. I’ve been part of a rescue but haven’t been the one to go out and get the person.

My ancestral lines are from the Kurri Kurri area but, because I’ve lived here my whole life, I identify as a Bundjalung woman. It’s a pretty important part of my identity, through my biological mum. I really enjoy it and I’m not afraid to tell it. I’ve learnt some language but not as much as the kids my other mum teaches at my old primary school do now. I’ve learnt mostly from the songs I’ve heard being part of Deadly Dancers, a corroboree dance group where Indigenous students from schools in our area come together.

You can’t play futsal individually, you have to be part of a team, that’s what I love about it. You have to have such a bond and everyone feels connected.

I love the pace and the speed of futsal. It’s such an exciting sport and it’s good to watch, too.

This week’s highlights…

• Horseracing: Stakes Day

Saturday, 1st race 12.15pm (AEDT), Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

• Soccer: Matildas v Chile

Saturday, 3pm (AEDT), Penrith; Tuesday, 7.30pm (AEDT), Newcastle

• Tennis: Fed Cup final – Czech Republic v United States

Saturday, 11.59pm (AEDT); Sunday, 10pm, O2 Arena, Prague

• Rugby union: Wallabies v Wales

Sunday, 4.20am (AEDT), Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Cricket: Australia v South Africa, 3rd ODI

Sunday, 1.50pm (AEDT), Blundstone Arena, Hobart

• Golf: Australian Open

Thursday–November 18, The Lakes Golf Club, Sydney

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 10, 2018 as "Best futsal forward". Subscribe here.

Vivienne Pearson
is a freelance writer.