Representing Australia

Radford's Sports Operations Manager, Ms Dianne Wilson, recently showcased her exceptional futsal skills on a global stage at the NSDF Women's Futsal Tournament in Thailand. We asked Ms Wilson what it was like to compete against national teams and to be treated like royalty for a week, plus the impact of her passion for the sport on the thriving futsal community at Radford.

What team did you represent, and in which competition did you participate in Thailand recently?

It’s a little complicated - we competed at the NSDF Women’s Futsal Tournament, which was a tournament for Asian nations. Unfortunately, Australia doesn’t currently have an official national women’s team. Football NSW was invited to represent Australia after winning the nationals in January but declined due to funding reasons. So, Capital Football (ACT) was given a late invitation due to the fact that we were runners up of the nationals. We were considered an ‘unofficial state’. So, for example, we didn’t get a national anthem before games like the other nations did.

How long were you there for, and can you share how your team performed?

We were there for ten days. We lost our first game to Thailand 3-0 and were strangely pleased with the result. Thailand is ranked 11th in the world, and the players are full-time professionals, some with Puma or Nike deals and a lot of social media followers! They were celebrities and the eventual tournament runners up.

We lost our second game 2-1 to Bahrain, which was disappointing and unfortunately knocked us out of the tournament. Luckily, China agreed to play us in a friendly a few days later, which we lost 5-0, but the score didn’t reflect the game - there were a few sore bodies. China played Bahrain in the bronze medal match the following day, which they surprisingly lost, and their coach credited the result to the tough battle against us the previous day.

Japan, ranked tenth in the world, was the tournament champion, and its players looked like they were from another planet with their silky skills and speed! It would be great to see Football Australia invest in futsal – it is a common pathway for many of the world’s top footballing nations, including Brazil and the recent Women’s World Cup Champions, Spain.

Ms Wilson defending a kick from Bahrain.

Can you tell us about your experience in Thailand? Was it a standout moment in your playing career?

It was definitely a highlight playing against national teams! The tournament was played in Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Korat, which is about the same size as Canberra, three-and-a-half hours northeast of Bangkok (no beaches, unfortunately). The Australian Women’s Volleyball team was also in town competing in a tournament, and we were sometimes oddly mistaken for them, which we claimed haha!

The stadium we played in was inside a massive shopping mall, and all the teams stayed at the same hotel where we were treated like absolute queens. It was pretty cool to see the other teams' professionalism and how they conducted themselves off the pitch.

We had two days to be tourists in Bangkok before flying home, and almost all of us immediately had to play outdoor finals.

We’ve heard that you have exceptional skills in kick-ups. What is the record for the longest duration you have kept the ball in the air?

My record is something like 800, but I got bored, so I started to learn some tricks and train in freestyle football. I’ve won a couple of competitions and had some pretty awesome opportunities, such as performing at the A League Women’s Grand Final and, most recently, at an event for Nike Football where I got to keep some merch.

Apart from your time in Thailand, what other moments stand out as highlights in your futsal career?

As the great Cristano Ronaldo once said: “Football takes me many places. Hot places. Cold places” (for those who remember the 2010 World Cup Castrol advert). I often like to tie my futsal/football/freestyle football experiences together because, while they're slightly different forms of the game, they all complement each other and I have been very fortunate to have many amazing experiences. Specifically in futsal, travelling all over the country to play in national championships and, on a couple of occasions, being in the winning team, as well as playing in the old F League. I also got to travel to Spain last year with the Australian Futsal Association as a tour official and was lucky enough to get to play some games too!

Ms Wilson (centre, back) with her Australian teammates and the Chinese players after their friendly match.

What age did you start playing futsal, and what motivated you to begin?

I think I was 12 when I started playing. I went to watch a friend play and was completely hooked.

How does your passion for futsal influence your role at Radford?

It has been pleasing to see the growth of the sport at the school. This season, we will be fielding a record 28 teams, including a record ten girls teams! I have many great resources and am able to upskill our coaches, and, in turn, our players due to my coaching qualifications, knowledge and experience. We are really trying to drive the connection between outdoor and futsal this summer, with many of our football coaches, including NPL coaches, joining the futsal program.