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Portage College rolls out indoor futsal teams

LAC LA BICHE – What’s Futsal?

The five-on-five indoor soccer game is the next new thing for the Portage College Voyageurs athletics department in a year of new things.

The college fielded its first outdoor soccer teams this year, and soccer program head coach Kika Mukuninwa is continuing the drive with two indoor futsal teams ready to compete against other Alberta colleges and university teams.

The men’s and women’s Voyageurs futsal teams got their first challenge over the weekend with a friendly tournament against members of Lac La Biche’s men’s community soccer team — the Crew — and young athletes on a community women’s squad — LLB Excel.

“The friendly is to help the Voyageurs to get our feet under us,” said Mukuninwa, who is one of the founding members of the current community soccer club — but has stepped away from playing in the last year to take on the role of Voyageurs coach.

As the coach of the Voyageurs soccer program, he’s thankful of the local community players for offering up their efforts for training. But that’s as far as his good will goes, he added with a laugh, as he admitted to having no sentimental attachment to his community soccer days when it comes to who he supports.

“Obviously, I have ties to both sides … but I’ll say I’m cheering for the college team,” Mukuninwa said before Sunday’s series of games in the Portage College gym, “of course no matter which team comes out ahead, it’s a win-win for me.”

The advancement of the soccer program in the community and in the college is something Mukuninwa is excited to see. He says the increase in interest for the sport locally can now lead to higher education and senior level competition.

The weekend’s friendly tournament also has ties to the community’s minor soccer program — something Mukuninwa has also been associated with. The women’s LLB Excel team is made up of the U17 – U19 minor soccer association players.

The young players are training and playing at the college level, said Mukuninwa, getting them ready for collegiate-level sports.

“It’s a great collaboration,” he said, adding that the upcoming futsal season is hoped to draw more interest to the sport from community members looking for a fast-paced sport to come out and watch.

“It’s not like indoor because there are no boards to bounce the ball off, and the indoor pitch is smaller, like inside a basketball court. We use the lines of the court, so because it is a small space, it is fast and the focus is very much on control,” he said.

The game of futsal uses a smaller-than-regulation size soccer ball that is about 30 per cent heavier than a standard soccer ball, so it doesn’t bounce as much. The goal nets are much smaller than outdoor soccer, measuring about two metres wide by two metres high.

“There’s five players, the keeper and four out front. It’s a good sport to watch, as it’s much faster and much more measured as well inside those confined spaces,” he said, After Sunday’s friendly event at Portage College, sports fans will be able to see the Voyageurs men’s and women’s futsal teams at upcoming exhibition games. But right now, as the season starts to unfold, there is no formal schedule for games. While the Voyageurs will be fielding a futsal team, the league in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference, is more of a tournament-based season.

“It’s more exhibition games and they every once in a while there’s a tournament,” said Mukuninwa.

Both Voyageurs futsal teams have tournaments booked early in the new year. One is in Olds and the other is hosted by the Prairie Bible College in Three Hills.

The teams’ coach says he’s looking forward to seeing some different teams than his squads faced in outdoor soccer. With a tight core of players focused on futsal skills, he’s also looking forward to seeing some wins on the scoreboard this season as well.

“We have some phenomenal players who have a great attitude. We have a very strong team. We should be one of the best in the province,” he said.

The college futsal season runs until the middle of March.

The Lac La Biche Minor Soccer Association’s indoor season also fired up this weekend.

Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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