Jewish Futsalroos player Ethan De Melo credits “preparation, belief and confidence” for his team’s crucial 3-2 comeback win over hosts Chinese Taipei on October 9.
That win earned them a spot in the AFC Futsal Asian Cup finals for the first time in eight years, by securing second place in their qualifying pool, behind reigning Asian champions Japan.
The 2024 chapter of the biennial tournament will be held in April in Thailand.
“It’s an incredible achievement for the Futsalroos, and a major stepping stone for futsal in Australia,” De Melo told The AJN on Tuesday.
“Our journey to this point has been a testament to our dedication and resilience, especially considering the limited opportunities we have had to play international futsal, due to limited funding.”
De Melo said the squad knew that, in all likelihood, their match versus Chinese Taipei would determine which of those two teams would advance.
“So our coaching staff invested a significant amount of time studying our opponents, and strategising for all possible circumstances, such as being down a goal, and needing to employ a fifth man power play to stage an urgent comeback.
“As was the case in the game, [after leading early] we were 1-2 down with five minutes to go.
“Indeed, it was our fifth man preparation, coupled with an unwavering belief, that got us back in the game, as we were able to tie the game with less than two minutes to go, and then secure the winner with a goal with just 10 seconds left.”
De Melo also reflected on his personal Futsalroos journey over the last four years, which has had its highs and lows.
In 2019 he was selected in the Futsalroos squad for the first time, when he was just 16.
“As expected, I played very few minutes in a team that was unlucky not to qualify [for that year’s Asian Cup], however it was an unbelievable experience in which I was able to learn from some of the sport’s most accomplished players.”
In 2022, he was selected again in the Futsalroos squad for their Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Vietnam, but was unable to join the team after failing a medical assessment two days before departure, when a heart condition called apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was diagnosed.
“The first doctor who diagnosed my condition said I probably would not be able to play high level sport again, let alone for the national team, which was obviously crushing, however thankfully, that did not prove to be the case.
“Now in 2023, I was able to represent Australia again, and compete as a key player in the squad.”
Upon returning from Chinese Taipei, De Melo – who represented Australia at last year’s Maccabiah Games and in a Maccabi team in the NSW Winter Futsal League – was already back in action for his NSW Futsal Premier League club the Mascot Vipers last Saturday, when their men’s team drew 5-5 with Maccabi Hakoah Futsal Club.