From humble beginnings to mentoring eThekwini City (pictured) in the National Futsal League and being named South African national futsal coach, Chris Naidoo has come full circle in the footballing world.
Safa.net managed to catch up with the 59-year-old coach who talked all things futsal, including his 35 year journey in football, career highlights and where he thinks the game is headed.
Safa.net:Tell us about your futsal journey and your road to becoming national team coach?
Naidoo:I began coaching football from a relatively young age in the Reservoir Hills area, focusing on our youth. I also had a personal gym and encouraged local lads to get involved in physical training. I was actually one of the few Indian professional boxers around and sport was simply in my blood. Mr Reddy, a personal friend and the director of eThekwini City Futsal Club, approached me to coach the team and the rest as they say is history.
Safa.net:Talk us through some of your highlights as eThekwini and national team coach?
Naidoo:In my very first season at eThekwini, I had to turn skilful outdoor players into fully-fledged futsal stars and help them to adapt to the intensity and philosophies of this particular format. We ended third in the first two seasons and eventually won the league and cup double in the third season in 2017, when we went unbeaten. Another highlight was leading the national team to the Four Nations title in Mauritius in March last year where we were also undefeated.
Safa.net:What is on the horizon for the national team and where are we in terms of global standards?
Naidoo:We have a two-legged friendly tie against Egypt in July and they are no pushovers. There are also talks currently happening to try and have matches against the likes of Zambia and Mozambique. However, the most vital event is our home fixture against Mauritius on 21 October, followed by an away leg. This serves as a CAF qualifier for the big tournament in Morocco next January (2020) where World Cup spots will be on the line.
To answer the second part of the question, I have been to the likes Scotland and Brazil for intensive coaching courses and I have to admit that we are a long way behind in world terms sadly. In Africa though, we have the mentally to be number one.
Safa.net:Why is futsal a vital medium in the grand scheme of football and how can it benefit young players?
Naidoo:Futsal is now widely regarded as the ultimate developmental tool. It is a great building block for outdoor soccer in terms of improving control and getting used to intensity due to the time and space constraints in futsal. You have to make quick decisions and the rules are very positive. One has a mere four seconds to release the ball (as a keeper) and take a free kick or corner. Players also have to switch between playing as defenders and strikers. Once a player goes through these rigours indoor, he becomes a top-notch star in the outdoor format. It needs to begin at grassroots level though.
Safa.net:Where do you see futsal headed, both locally as well as globally?
Naidoo:Locally there has been a total mind-shift and understanding, especially from the likes of the South African Football Association (SAFA) and our local coaches. Local coaches are now also requesting information and coaching courses so that this amazing game can be introduced to more youth. There is a major interest now and the time is right to introduce futsal across the country.
Globally the game is growing all the time but in South African terms we need to make the game more professional if we want to compete on the international stage. Sponsors need to come on board. Players need to be recognized as professionals or the game will remain at an amateur level. Currently the sport is played on a semi-professional level. We have the skill and talent to make an impact in Africa and we can be a force in World Futsal.
Source: South Africa Football Association