England Women’s Deaf Futsal squad has been named ahead of their opening match of the World Deaf Futsal Championship in Sao Paulo this week.
London Helvecia’s Emma Brown, Faye Williams and Lucindha Lawson feature in the nine-person squad who will step out for England’s first group game against Kenya on Friday.
Lawson is no stranger to the international stage, having first competed at the European Deaf Futsal Championships in Sofia, in 2014, but the defender has come a long way since then.
She said: “We proudly returned [from Sofia] with bronze medals, but I wasn’t in the top five, not even as a substitute.
“From that day forward I relentlessly pushed myself to improve.
“I’m incredibly proud and honoured to represent England and wear a 3 Lions shirt again.
“The hard work has paid off, but the journey continues.”
The tournament comes just ten months after the Football Association, in consultation with players, made the decision to switch from the traditional 11-a-side football format.
This prioritises regular international opportunities for players to perform on the world stage, and mirrors the focus of other nations well-respected in deaf futsal formats.
Head coach Chris Day said: “This is our first tournament back with futsal. For a lot of our players this is their first World Champs.
“Travelling to countries that are naturalised in futsal will be a challenge, but for us this is an opportunity to see where we sit in the world game.
“We can ask questions: Who do we need to compete with?
“What does it take to be the world’s best?”
England look to build on the success of last month’s double-header against Spain in Seville, where they recorded a 6-2 win over the former world champions.
Day has 20 years of coaching experience, having previously worked with the England team and Para Lions on talent identification, and still coaches his son’s football side Montpelier Villa.
Day even scouted a young Faye Williams, part of this year’s World Championship squad, during a school football tournament almost 12 years ago.
Fostering a two-way relationship between players and coach – founded on clarity of communication – is high on Day’s priority list.
Using court-side TV’s during training to produce a live-transcript of his briefings, the head coach firmly believes in having a shared vision of what the team wants to achieve together.
He said: “I really think about the value of words and making sure what I say is really important.
“I need the players to be able to problem solve in real-time, and since they play without hearing aids on the pitch, the off-the-court training becomes even more important.
“When it comes to coaching, we look for world’s best delivery, in the same way we look for world’s best players.”
This team-centric approach is what helped England make history by winning the Euros last year.
Day added: “We are a modern, creative, risk-taking side. This is something that’s in the DNA of all our English teams.
“With the players, it’s about making them as relaxed as possible – they operate best when they play like when they were younger and first discovered the sport.
“Yes, we’re going to a World Championships. Yes, we’re travelling a long way around the world to compete.
“But, what we really want is for our players to play with passion and a smile on their face.
“It’s about trust in each other and trust in the process, this is the launch pad for the future.”
Futsal resembles a football-basketball hybrid – played on a hard-court indoors in a 5 a-side format – which uses a smaller, heavier ball, in a fast-paced, tight space environment.
The game has its origins in the South American countries of Uruguay and Brazil – making this year’s host venue fitting – and has influenced some of Europe’s most renowned players.
Amongst those is this year’s Ballon d’or winner, Lionel Messi, who had his first taste of competitive sport playing for his hometown futsal team in Rosario, Argentina.
Programmes designed to increase participation for deaf female players at grassroots level continue to be prioritised to ensure longevity for all formats of deaf specific female provision.
Day said: “The FA’s investment into para sport is unprecedented, and the global reach because of social media is incredible now, especially in terms of finding those players and getting the exposure.”
Open trials are being held on 9 December at St George’s Park – where athletes from the mainstream men’s, women’s and para programmes all have equal access – for the England Women’s Deaf Futsal team.
In the upcoming tournament, England are in Group B alongside Japan, Ireland and Kenya.
Eight teams are competing overall, from 10 November to 19 November, and matches will be live streamed across the Football Association’s social media.