Six years ago I, like most people, had never heard of futsal. But a lot has changed since the first time I went to a match and became fascinated by this fast and furious sport.
The tempo, so different from eleven aside football, was refreshing, and I found the technical ability on display exciting. Because there are so few players and such a small pitch, there’s nowhere to hide in futsal.
A lifelong Boro fan, it was also easy for me to support a new team from my hometown, and it helped that so many of the players coming through were either students at Teesside University, or Boro born and bred.
And when Middlesbrough Football Club were relegated, it was the futsal boys who picked me up and gave me something to cheer about.
Then there’s the boys themselves, and the WAGs!
Middlesbrough Futsal Club is a family, dysfunctional at times and not without its tensions, but there’s genuine affection throughout the team, they are a close-knit unit, and they welcomed me into the inner sanctum, no questions asked.
Manager Damon Shaw has the kind of passion for the game that inspires his players to greatness, while the the boys themselves have a combination of talent and desire to prove their critics wrong that, at times, is unbeatable.
As voluntary press officer and friend of the club, I’ve seen the boys win, lose and apparently caused them to draw more times than I can count. I’ve witnessed the injuries and the disappointment of defeat, the sheer determination to come out on top and the pure elation of winning the league and collecting trophies.
I’ve travelled with the team across the country from Sheffield to Swindon, and even accompanied them abroad on trips to Barcelona and Zurich. I’ve shared the banter, the buses, the rooms and the results.
I’ve also become very close to the wives and girlfriends of some of the players. WAGs in any sport tend to get a bad name, but these girls are loyal, protective and clued-up. They know the game inside out and support the team 100%.
Yesterday was not only my final match as the club’s ‘biggest fan’ but manager Damon Shaw’s last match in charge.
Damon has been given a great opportunity to learn more about the game in Spain with a new team – F6 Futsal Vilassar de Mar, while I’m moving away from Middlesbrough to start a new life in Chester.
I have friends at Manchester Futsal Club, but I’m a Boro girl through and through and I don’t switch loyalties easily. I may pop down to the odd match, and check on how my Boro boys are doing with new boss Chris Hodgson at the helm.
And although I’m not closing the futsal book completely, it’s definitely the end of this chapter.
So to all involved with Middlesbrough Futsal Club, past and present – the players, the staff, the WAGs and the fans – thank you for letting me me be a part of it, it’s been amazing!