Wales only played their first futsal internationals in September but next week they will launch into competitive action.
Richard Gunney led his side in two matches away to Andorra and lost just 2-1 each time to experienced hosts. Now Wales are off to Bulgaria where from Wednesday they will face Greece, then the home nation, and finally Armenia in preliminary round Group D. At stake is a place in a main round section involving Portugal, Serbia and Poland. Gunney spoke to UEFA.com about the matches and building futsal from scratch in Wales.
UEFA.com: Are you looking forward to the preliminary round?
Richard Gunney: It's an exciting opportunity and I'm really pleased. The games are going to be really tough but we're looking forward to the challenge. We're a little bit inexperienced compared to our opponents so they'll have that to their advantage. We don't know about them so we'll be going into the lion's den a little bit.
UEFA.com: How have you prepared?
Gunney: We've just ventured to Cyprus and Andorra to prepare. Fortunately Cardiff City played in Bulgaria for the UEFA Futsal Cup so a handful of players in the squad have been there. So we have a little bit of experience but it's a new venture for most of the squad.
We've had training camps in July and September which laid some good foundations, then another camp in January before heading out to Bulgaria. It will be a good chance to have players for a long period of time and three fixtures – it will be a very stiff challenge but a good opportunity to learn, develop, improve and hopefully be successful.
UEFA.com: How are you developing the club and grassroots games in Wales?
Gunney: We are trying to develop and improve our domestic structure. We have a couple of futsal clubs with futsal only players, but we also have football players who play in the FAW Futsal Cup and we are striving to improve the opportunities for players to play domestic futsal. The squad is inexperienced but they have all played futsal in Wales and some in the English domestic system on a weekly basis. So the squad should be well prepared and we look forward to the challenge.
We've had a positive start to the winter months, around 1,000 grassroots players across Wales have played futsal. We need to create a culture and awareness in Wales at grassroots and senior levels. At senior level there are some exciting opportunities with club competitions in Europe and the national squad playing in UEFA EURO qualifiers. We are gradually making small steps and will try to move things forward as quickly as possible.
UEFA.com: Have you learned anything from other associations that have taken up futsal recently?
Gunney: We've worked closely with the English FA and the Republic of Ireland. Now, as we meet up with other associations, we make contacts and find out as much information about what they do and their structures, to help give us information to improve our structures. We all pull together to move things forward as quickly as possible.
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