According to the current captain of Nottingham Malaysia’s Futsal Club, Omar El-Shweekh, the team looked like underdogs at the start of their journey, especially when going into IPT Pahang with limited resources and funding for the tournament. The team went into the qualifiers round with only one kind of jersey and not having proper futsal balls. Other teams had equipment and seemed more prepared, but Omar said that this gave them the extra push as they were seen as the underdogs. The team understood that they were playing to catch up with other teams, but they didn’t care as it gave them the freedom to play without any weight on their shoulders.
After the team’s success in Pahang, the training environment changed and the mindset of playing for the team changed as well. Commitment and dedication to reach to a higher level was fueled by their previous success. Subsequently, they brought in a team of coaches to train the team (e.g. head coach, fitness coach, assistant coach and a physiotherapist) for the team which helped the players train better.
The biggest challenge for the team was the change in players every year. Especially with players like Nitro and Justin who were seniors in the team that had later graduated, says Omar. Building up the tactics again from the start to the junior players and the newly imported players was a struggle as it didn’t synchronize the progress of the team collectively. Omar says that it doesn’t help being a university team instead of a club since they would prefer to minimize the constant change in players. However, he feels strongly on having the routine and cycle of exposing players in their Foundation and First Year to the UNM Futsal Team. He believes, this will give them enough experience for the future and by continuing this cycle, it will maintain consistency that the team was been giving,
Competing at a higher athletic level isn’t easy as well, it takes a toll on the players mentally and physically during the training sessions and when playing the futsal games. Additionally, it is a struggle having to do all that whilst trying to balance it with studies for university. According to Michael Smair, the UNM Futsal Goalkeeper, the UNM Coaching Team was very understanding and supportive of the player’s academic duties and allowed them to prioritize and allocate a team for them to compete, but there were challenges when tournaments are close to submission times which leads to commitment levels changing.
Omar said that the management and coaches helped the team with their struggles and problems. As well as contributing to the wellbeing of the players and ensuring everyone who was part of the team was well taken care of; they fought for the team as they were played alongside them.
Through their rise to success, they had to struggle, and experience obstacles and they continue to battle those problems until now. However, that’s what makes this team strong, not just technically and physically but mentally as well. The motivation to play the game and have fun was their driving point to their success not the prizes.