WITH ALL THE celebrations about the Irish football team making it through to only their second European Championships, I’m surprised there isn’t more commotion about our other national team making it through to their first Euros.
Next week the Irish Footballtennis team will compete in Cyprus in the European finals having done just enough in last year’s World Championships to warrant a place.
A 10th-place finish in our inaugural campaign in Istanbul gave Footballtennis Ireland, not only a claim to be called the 10th best team in the world, but also a taste of international competition. We could get used to playing at this level.
So how did we get here? It was this time last year that the association was born.
Students in the college, we were walking by the tennis courts on the campus of NUI Maynooth and decided to knock the ball around and fell into a game of football tennis.
Later that evening when browsing the internet we discovered there was a world governing body; that there was a world championships coming up; that there was no Irish team; and most importantly that there was free food and accommodation for the participating teams.
We sent an email to the president of FIFTA, the world governing body of Footballtennis and, and to our disbelief, they replied the same evening.
They were delighted to have a western European country involved because most of the countries are from eastern Europe as that is where the sport originated in the 1920s. We only had nine weeks to practice and we didn’t really know what we were doing but we managed to get it together just in time and ended up beating Georgia and India to come 10th in the world.
We’re pretty confident heading into the event. This is thanks to the recruitment of a coach from one of the top Footballtennis countries in the world; Slovakia, Juraj Holkovic. Many comparisons to Trapattoni have been made within our camp but the general consensus is that Holkovic’s style of play is much more attacking and as a result is much more pleasing on the eye.
We’ve trained really hard all year since Istanbul, stretching almost everyday to improve our flexibility, and learning so much from Juraj, so we’ve come a long way and improved greatly. But we know the competition is going to be tough because all the best teams are from Europe so they’re aren’t really any weaker teams as such.
A push for eighth spot is really the team’s most realistic goal but hopes are high that the team can make a habit out of making big upsets as occurred in Istanbul.
So 12 months on, we fly out for our second international tournament and now need all the support we can get.
We applied to the Irish Sports Council for funding and assistance but they said we haven’t be an organisation long enough to warrant funding so they put us in contact with a FAI grassroots developer officer recently. Hopefully they’ll be able to help us promote the sport in the future.
But for now we have no income so if there is anyone out there who would like to sponsor us we would be very grateful.
In the meantime, get your flags out and start spreading the news – there’s another Irish national team to support and we need all the support we can get.
Steven Conway is a member of Ireland’s Footballtennis team, you can visit their website here.