24 October 2022

Gungahlin teens win spots on under 16s Australian futsal team

| Evelyn Karatzas
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Tahi and Ryley

Ryley Perman and Tahi Winikerei will represent Australia on the national futsal team overseas next year. Photo: Carol Winikerei.

Two Gungahlin boys have kicked a goal, scoring the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent Australia in the national futsal team touring Brazil next year.

It’s a far cry from just five years ago, when Karla Perman started up a social futsal team – the Ice Breakers – at the boys’ school, which didn’t have a team.

14-year-old Ryley has been in the team since day one, and 15-year-old Tahi Winikerei joined in 2018.

The Amaroo schoolboys train every Tuesday, with their team of eight, and after years of hard work and training, decided to apply for a position to compete in the 2022 ACT State Futsal Team Tournament in Brisbane.

They made the team and spent three days competing in Brisbane last month. While the team didn’t do as well as they might have hoped, futsal scouts spotted the two boys in action and earlier this month they were offered spots in the under-16s national futsal team.

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Tahi said his mum received the notification by email.

“I was really excited,” he said. “I could not believe it, so I told mum to double-check in case it was a scam or anything.

“I’ll be honest, I did alright in Brisbane but I could have done better. There were better teams and better players in Brisbane, so I didn’t think I’d ever get scouted and I was so shocked, it was just crazy.

“Now I’m just really excited to go to Brazil. It’s my dream to go there and to play for Australia.”

Tahi Winikerei

Tahi Winikerei can’t wait to make his futsal dreams come true. Photo: Carol Winikerei.

Tahi’s mum Carol said she also initially thought the email was a scam.

“We weren’t 100 per cent sure because their team overall didn’t do very well in Brisbane,” she said.

“I actually ended up emailing the person who sent the letter to make sure it was sent to the right person, and she replied saying ‘yes yes this is correct’, so we were pretty shocked and surprised, but it was just so exciting.

“We are so proud of Tahi. We were actually talking about what his goal is and what he wants, as he’s been playing soccer for about five years and futsal the last three to four, but I think now that he’s been selected, he wants to focus more on futsal.

“If they introduce a National Premier League level in futsal here in Canberra, as we currently don’t have one, I think that’s something Tahi will work towards.”

Ryley Perman

Ryley said he was shocked when he heard the news about Brazil. Photo: Karla Perman.

Ryley Perman also thought news of his selection was too good to be true.

The year eight Amaroo School student said he was shocked.

“Mum was the first one to know, she got the email and I thought she was tricking me at first,” Ryley said. “But turns out it was real, and it made me so happy.”

The 14-year-old said he couldn’t wait.

“I’m so excited and a little nervous,” Ryley said. “It’s going to be so good to represent my country and play the sport I love overseas.

“Futsal is one of those sports that’s really fast-paced and on a smaller-sized field which means you have to work extra hard, and it’s just so much fun.”

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Ryley’s mum Karla said she was very proud of him and how far he had come since he started playing soccer at the age of five.

“I’ve always said soccer and sport is his spark, so it’s so nice to see that he’s been picked to go over to Brazil and play the sport he loves,” she said.

Karla said she never dreamed starting a social futsal team would lead to her son being selected to play overseas.

“It was more for the boys to have fun, get outdoors, work as a team and kick a ball around,” she said.

“It’s great to be part of Ryley and Tahi’s journey and I’m learning so much about the rules of footfall.

“Ryley is also becoming a referee, so he’s learning that side of the sport as well. He’s got an idea of how it feels to be a ref, so he can have a bit more understanding when they’re playing.”

An appeal has been launched to help Tahi and Ryley reach their goal of $20,000 to compete in Brazil. You can donate to their GoFundMe here.

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