Four soccer players from Airdrie will get their kicks on home soil at the 2020 Alberta Winter Games, taking place in Airdrie Feb. 14 to 17.
Airdrie FC players Nolan Cleverley, Robson Massey and Roman Badzgon will all represent their city on the U13 Zone 2 (Big Country) boys’ futsal team, while Blizzard Soccer Club’s Emelia McDermid will compete on the Zone 2 girls’ team.
“I’m really excited – [making this team] is my first major accomplishment for soccer,” said Badzgon, who plays as a goalkeeper.
Popular in South America, futsal is played on a gymnasium floor with a smaller, denser ball that doesn’t bounce as much as a regular soccer ball. The playing field is roughly the same size as a basketball court, and teams field four players and a goalkeeper.
“I like how the futsal ball is harder, so when people shoot it, it’s easier to save,” said Badzgon, a Grade 6 student at Good Shepherd School.
For most of the winter, Badzgon plays boarded indoor soccer for Airdrie FC’s U12 Tier 2 boys’ team. His teammate, Robson Massey, also successfully tried out for the Zone 2 roster.
The 11-year-old midfielder, who has played soccer since he was six years old, said he’s looking forward to learning from other athletes at the Games.
“I’m really excited – it’s going to be such a fun event,” Massey said.
The third local to make the boys’ team is 12-year-old Nolan Cleverley, who suits up for Airdrie FC’s U13 Tier 2 boys’ team. The striker said he’s looking forward to the increased playing time that will come at the tournament.
“I think it’s an honour to even make the team, and it’s a bigger honour to play in Airdrie, where I’m from,” he said, adding his favourite part of the sport is scoring goals.
The host city will not only be represented on the field, but also on the bench; Airdronians Ellisa Podemski and Shelley Armitage are co-coaching the boys’ Zone 2 team, while Ryan Kunn is the assistant coach of the girls’ team.
Kunn said futsal is great for soccer players’ skill development, as they get more touches during a game than the boarded version of indoor soccer that is played in Alberta.
“Futsal requires a lot of possession skills, so you have to be able to get the ball and keep it,” he said. “You can’t use the boards, so there’s less space and time to do your thing. It takes a lot of skill, talent and game knowledge to move the ball into space and deke around defenders.”
He added playing at the Alberta Winter Games in their hometown, in front of their friends and family, will be an exciting opportunity for the four athletes.
“It’s great – they get to show their city pride and we’ve got lots of soccer talent in this city,” he said. “It’s pretty inspiring that kids of their age can do what they do.”
The futsal tournament will run Feb. 15 to 17 at Bert Church High School. For a full schedule, visit bit.ly/2OLljFY