Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Brunei Town

Against all odds

CNA – “Nice pass!” someone said as a player attempted a goal-assist, even as the ball didn’t end up where it was meant to.

I was at a half-day-long tournament – the Women’s Futsal Crazy League regularly organised by local company D2D Sports, which holds monthly sporting events for organisations.

That kind of shout-out is a shot in the arm common in the sporting world, typically offered by members belonging to the same competitive team, but this particular holler came from a member of the opposing squad, who had been watching from the bench, waiting to be substituted at any point in the 10-minute match.

Futsal matches work like football except on a smaller scale. Each team typically consists of five players, the games are shorter, and matches are played mainly indoors on hardcourts rather than large fields of natural grass.

As futsal courts are smaller, it is also easier, I observed, for onlookers to offer live feedback to the players.

It didn’t seem to matter whether they were teammates or rivals – the women (including supporting spectators) cheered each other on and helped each other up, both literally and figuratively.

Members of the Nighthawks futsal team. PHOTO: CNA
ABOVE & BELOW: The team during a practice session; and the futsal team taking a break. PHOTO: CNA


“The atmosphere at these women’s league tournaments is largely great. The players intermingle and sometimes even hold picnics after the matches.

“Despite them ultimately being competitors, there is a very good sporting spirit among the teams, unlike with the men,” said executive director of D2D Sports Rasvinder Singh.

Shadowing one of the top and longest-participating teams of the futsal league, the Nighthawks, I quickly learnt what he meant. The atmosphere was like that of “Sunday football”, with the different teams greeting each other spontaneously, catching up and cracking up over inside jokes.

It was like meeting at a coffee shop, except they were all women wearing football jerseys.

On the pitch, however, it was, quite literally, a whole new ball game.

Hearing such words from rival teams – especially amid a high-octane match – one could sense it was not simply encouragement but an attempt to discourage a defeatist attitude.

Each team displays a level of mental fortitude, skill and fitness that experts, including Rasvinder, have described as rare in women’s football, especially in the amateur scene.

But for the Nighthawks, futsal is not simply a hobby – it is community. For some, it is a large part of their identity.

Nur Hidayah Mohamed Shah, for example, told CNA Women ahead of the tournament that the team “has always given (her) a sense of identity and fulfilment, and most definitely a sense of community”.

“It’s nice to be around others who share your passion.”

Fardina Nahar, a member of the Nighthawks since 2019, said her time so far with the team has been a “real eye-opener”.

“It is such a great experience to do this with friends who have played for many years. I’ve learnt so much from them and if it was not for their guidance, I would not be the person that I am today,” she said.

Nighthawks’ member Nurshikin Razali, a freelance web designer, also told CNA Women: “I grew up watching men’s football and if you do too, you can easily tell the difference.

“(The men) are competitive, not just against their opponents but also against their teammates. That’s because everyone wants to be credited as the best player; everyone wants the ball,” she said. – Hidayah Salamat