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"The Journey is the Reward"

When the captain speaks, you listen! Ex England Futsal player Sam Richardson is one of the longest reigning players at Manchester Futsal Club and has worn many different hats over the years.

“It was the end of 2006 when I was first introduced to Futsal. I was studying at Manchester University when I saw a poster about Manchester Futsal advertising for new players. It appealed to me because when I was younger, I loved Brazilian football. My dad got me into watching old Pele videos, at my nana’s house there was VHS tapes of the Brazil football teams in the 70’s and 80’s and the 94 World Cup was the first one I watched properly and followed them. When I saw the poster and the name Futsal, I associated it with Brazilian culture and as I had always preferred small sided football and thought it might be similar, I got in touch. I emailed my interest at the end of the week, and the following Monday was playing my first Futsal game”

The start of Sam’s Futsal career wasn’t quite Futsal in its purest form.

“At the time the team was made up of a lot of people from different countries; We had Brazilian, Italian, Kyrgyzstan, Spanish and Portuguese players who knew futsal. But we were playing our league games outside in the winter, on AstroTurf, in Salford, in the rain…!! However, they all loved the game and bought into idea of the team regardless. And we soon became aware that the national league was starting and so we switched to regular training and playing indoors to pick up the techniques”.

As the club began developing Sam’s role began growing to more than just that of a player.

“It was a natural progression. For example, when Ilya started developing the youth side of the club, I’d just recently completed my coaching badges, so helped him deliver the schools programme. I didn’t take it too seriously at the time, I was just helping out with a couple of sessions and I wasn’t thinking that I was going to do this longer term but then as the sport grew, the club grew, and here I am still years later, coaching regularly, but also helping the club in a number of other roles”

For Sam joining Manchester Futsal Club quickly turned from something that could have just been a hobby or a Monday night game here or there, to a much bigger entity that in itself has come with some obstacles to overcome.

“Futsal has seeped into my life now 100% and although I enjoy it immensely, it does come with some struggles. One difficulty was getting the balance right when I was playing with players that I would also coach and I found getting the balance a struggle at the time, which is why I avoided playing when I covered on an interim basis. With Sergi now in charge, I’ve tried to now focus on being a player and captain and then when I go into coaching it’s a separate environment. Another huge difficulty has been managing the workload of the “off court” stuff, prioritization and focusing, rather than trying to do absolutely everything all the time".

With this Meet The Players series, a lot of the other interviewees have commented about Sam’s role within the club describing him as being a mentor and someone to look up to.

“One of the things that contributed to this was after a period of us consistently challenging at the top and making the league and cup finals, a number of our core players began to move on for various reasons and we essentially came to the end of the squads’ cycle. At the same time, we had an influx of younger players, but they all came in and we needed them to play immediately. They were really young so I kind of had to help them learn how to play the game; they were obviously very capable players with a lot of ability but when your playing against adults you needed to adapt your game to be able to compete and influence games. Passing on the experience to younger players not only helps them individually but helps the club too and I think as you get older you naturally realise the importance of this. I still want to improve and I still want to develop myself as a player and as long as I'm enjoying it, I’ll continue playing”.

When the time does come for hanging up his playing shoes what would be the next step in Futsal for him.

“To continue developing the club in all aspects and try and help the game as a whole; the more kids that are aware of Futsal the bigger pool of players that can then come in and compete to represent Manchester and the club.”

A question that poses somewhat of a challenge to narrow down is when we speak of Sam’s highlights since starting at the club.

“I listened to Simon’s podcast on The Futsal Independent where he was asked what he would go back and do differently with regards to the club, but I think without going through all the experiences you wouldn’t know why you would be doing anything differently and believe it is the process that creates the value. The highlight is the overall journey; it rewards you as an individual and being part of the club and seeing the growth and there have been plenty of great memories both on and off the court”

As we speak about the future we also look back throughout his years of playing Futsal, and what is it that has kept him playing at Manchester.

“Manchester is my city, I don’t even think about it to be honest, I don’t know how long I would play if I was at another place either, I just do it without questioning, it’s intrinsic.

“Away from Futsal, I still like playing small sided football and watching other sports like college basketball, NBA, NFL. Plus the typical stuff like listening to music (Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar) and watching box sets (Black Mirror, The Sopranos, The Wire). I also like listening to podcasts, (Joe Rogan, Sports) and usually end up down rabbit holes learning more, depending on the guests and topics”.

The consensus from the rest of the team and staff at the club is that Sam is a very level headed character and we chat about how he manages to stay so composed.

“I don’t know, I guess it’s just who I am. More recently I’ve been reading and listening to podcasts on stoicism and that resonates with me. If it’s in my control I have room to affect it, and if it’s not in my control then it’s not in my control and there is not much, I can do about it, but that there is also a natural balance between those things that underpins. It works really well for Futsal as there is so many transitions and different phases of play, you have to get on with it, so it’s been a real strength as it helps me make rational decisions on court and keep a clear mind”

Another comment that has been mentioned throughout this series is how playing at Manchester Futsal Club is like being part of a family, but this resonates in a different way for Sam.

“That’s really good to hear that people feel part of a family and even better for others to come in and say, as I’m already kind of woven into the club’s fabric. I think that it’s crucial for the psycho-social aspects too because regardless of whether you’re a child or adult, player, coach or staff involved you want to be part of a positive environment and feel valued, so it’s really important that the club tries it’s best to create that in order for people to enjoy being part of it. On a similar note, I think it is also important to recognise that the next generations are not just our future players but can fulfill all types of roles that will be crucial to push the sport. So, it’s imperative that we take that kind of open approach to anyone who is looking to engage with the club and sport and hope it can continue”

Catch Sam and the rest of the team in action as we head into our last few home games of the season.

This Sunday 14th April Manchester Futsal Club take on Birmingham Futsal Club at the Velodrome, Manchester. For tickets click the link below:

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