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‘These are the moments we dream of as a kid’

Lee Buhagiar, Gibraltar national team

Today, Gibraltar will take on Montenegro in the first competitive futsal match on home turf. The game will represent a childhood dream come true for many of the Gibraltar national futsal team, none more so than Lee Buhagiar. He spoke to Cristina Cavilla.

How did you start out in futsal?
Really, it all came from an ankle injury. I broke two ligaments in my ankle and was recommended by several doctors that the 11 aside pitch would just further promote future injury, and that it would be best to stick to flatter surfaces. I wasn’t ready to quit football so I thought I’d give Futsal a try. Four years later, I’m still here…

Where does your passion for the sport come from?
There is an abundance of passion for anything football related throughout my whole family, especially from my dad and grandfather. They have always been heavily involved in the football scene. However, with regards to Futsal, I think it’s more of an growing passion. Year on year I like it more, and believe that it’ll be a sport with great force in the next 10 years.

What is your training regime like?
Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, the older you get, the harder everything gets. So, I have to really try to keep my fitness levels up. Aside from training with the team I do go for individual runs on a regular basis as Futsal is a lot more demanding fitness wise than its 11 aside equivalent. I like to think I’m one of the fitter ones of the team, even though Andrew Lopez considers himself to be at the top of the pedestal. I’ll let him have that one.

Do you have a personal futsal highlight?
Probably scoring against Switzerland at home in our 2-0 victory is my personal highlight … But I can hand on heart say that regardless of the results this weekend, singing the national anthem as captain of the squad in our first ever hosting match will forever be the highlight of my career.

The sport will be trying to attract more youngsters, what advice would you give to a younger player?
The game of Futsal creates an environment that allows young people to simulate and develop many skills and proficiencies that are transferrable to the 11 aside game. Look at the likes of Brazil, Spain, Portugal, etc… many of their international players all come from a futsal background. I have found that it quickly improves your decision making, encourages creativity, builds confidence on the ball, and overall you get to touch the ball more often. I truly believe that from a young age, kids should only play futsal for faster development, and then at mid-teens decide whether to transfer to 11aside or remain in futsal. It’s the Brazilian way!

What is your preparation for this weekend’s tournament consisted of?
We’ve been given a break on Monday, but will be training every day for the remainder of the week. We will undoubtedly analyse our performances against Switzerland and make improvements where we’ve been weak. We’ll become familiar with Montenegro and Sweden and understand where their weaknesses lie. Futsal is a very tactical sport, so analysis is key!

How special will it be for you to be involved in Gibraltar’s first international held in Gibraltar?
These are the moments we dream of as a kid. As mentioned earlier, regardless of the outcome, it will be my career highlight. I just hope that the Gibraltarian crowd leaves the stadium proud of our performance.

What is your ultimate goal in the sport?
I’d like to think that when my career as a player is over, that won’t be the end of it. Perhaps opening or being part of a futsal academy of some sort for development of the port is something to aim for.

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